Colenda Digital Repository

History of the Philadelphia Stage, Between the Years 1749 and 1855. By Charles Durang. Volume 1. 1749 to 1818. Arranged and illustrated by Thompson Westcott, 1868

Durang, Charles; Westcott, Thompson, 1820-1888
Volume I includes the first 55 chapters (I to LV) of the first series, published in the Sunday Dispatch from May 7, 1854 (Vol. VII, No. 1) to May 20, 1855 (Vol. VIII, No. 3), for a total of 118 pages of text. Because Charles Durang was born in 1794, he could not rely on personal recollections for the description of most of the events that took place in this period. Possibly also for this reason, this scrapbook is the one that covers the widest chronological span, from 1749 to 1818, with only 61 pages of text devoted to the years up to 1800. The portion of Durang’s history included in the scrapbook mentions the first instances of theatrical performances in Philadelphia (including those of the Hallam Company – later renamed American Company), and discusses the vicissitudes of the theaters that were opened in the city during those decades, including the Society Hill Theatre, the Southwark Theatre, the Northern Liberty Theatre, the Chestnut Street Theatre, the Apollo Street Theatre, and the Olympic Theatre (later renamed Walnut Street Theatre). Theatrical seasons are described in full detail by Durang, especially after the mid 1790s, following the opening of the Chestnut Street Theatre. A whole chapter (XXV) provides a history of the circus in Philadelphia, and the next chapters also include references to theatrical performances, concerts, and other forms of live entertainment that took place in circuses and outdoor locations, including Ricketts Circus and the Vauxhall Gardens. References to the contemporary theatrical life in England and in other American cities (New York City, Boston, Baltimore, and Annapolis, among others) can also be found in the text. The volume contains engravings and drawings of theatrical institutions such as the Southwark Theatre, the Chestnut Street Theatre (destroyed by fire in 1820), the Ricketts Amphitheatre, the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden (London), the Richmond Theatre (Richmond, VA), and the Old Federal Street Theatre (Boston). The scrapbook is also embellished with a conspicuous number of portraits of actresses, actors, and other theatrical figures, such as William Shakespeare, Daniel Terry, Anna Marcella Lydall , Sarah Siddons, Charles Macklin, Henry Mossop, Spranger Barry, Thomas Sheridan, Thomas King, James William Dodd, Elizabeth Singer Rowe, John Bannister, William Parsons, John Moody, Susannah Maria Cibber, Ann Street, Robert Bensley, Isabella Mattocks, Charles Macklin, John Philip Kemble, Robert Bensley, Jane Powell, John Henderson, Elizabeth Yates, Thomas Holcroft, Charlotte Melmoth, Elizabeth Barry, Frances Abbington, Mary Ann Wrighten, Maria Theresa Bland, Colley Cibber, William Dimond, Fanny Fleming, Thomas Hull, Thomas Cooke, Maria Duncan, John Bernard, Samuel Phelps, and Edmund Kean, among others. A few autographs letters, some written by Charles Durang himself, are also included. Finally, a small collection of playbills, mostly from the 1820s, was inserted in the final part of the scrapbook. Most notably, the collection features the playbill of the play Douglas; or, The Noble Shepherd (performed at the Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, on November 27th, 1820), which saw the first appearance on stage of actor Edwin Forrest. A list of the portraits included in the volume is located at the beginning of the scrapbook, while a general index is placed at the end.
Physical Description:
v. 1 of 6
Geographic Subject:
United States -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia
Finding aid:
Physical Location:
Ms. Coll. 1316
Thompson Westcott scrapbooks of Charles Durang's history of Philadelphia theater between the years 1749 and 1855