Charles Frederic Brede.

The German drama in English on the Philadelphia stage from 1794 to 1830 online

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Literary, Linguistic and Other Cultural Relations


Germany and America


University of Pennsylvania

(See List at the End of the Book)




FROM 1794 TO 1830











an JStt Wife




The material for this study was collected before 1905 when
the author contributed to the Schiller number of the GERMAN
AMERICAN ANNALS the article "Schiller on the Philadelphia Stage
to the Year 1830." Parts of this larger work appeared in the
GERMAN AMERICAN ANNALS in 1912, and subsequently. It is
a pleasure to note that others have followed in the same field and
have compiled similar material for other cities. The Shakespeare
plays are listed for the sake of comparison, and so to a limited
extent are the plays of French origin. Moreover the repertoire
of the leading Shakespeare actors included a number of German
plays. The reason for the general description of theatre condi
tions in Philadelphia and of the various theatres there is given in
the introductory remarks. What may appear as extraneous ma
terial is included on account of its general bearing on the subject.
Following a general account of the theatre the work is divided
into three periods: the first period, from 1749-1774 followed by
an interregnum from 1774-1782 during the British occupation;
the second period, from 1782-1794, the year of the opening of
the first Chestnut Street Theatre; the third period from 1794-
1830. On page 158 and other places a concluding chapter is re
ferred to, but was omitted and will appear later in a more elabo
rate form in connection with a complete list of all plays at all the
theatres from 1794-1830. Among the many plays listed as of
possible or partial German origin there are no doubt some which
others will be able to identify more definitely, especially with the
help of the clues given here. A list of errata follows; but one
error requires explanation. On pages 52 and 62 it is assumed
that in the English version and American stage version of Les-
sing s Minna von Barnhelm (The Disbanded Officer or th?
Baroness of Bruchsal), the character of the Frenchman, Ricaut
de la Marliniere, is omitted. This is incorrect and misleading.
The character is not omitted altogether but is represented by
Count Belair with a complete change of character in the English
version, and this was still further modified to meet conditions in
this country.*

The works consulted are all mentioned and credit given in
the proper place, but the author wishes to acknowledge his in-

debtedness to G. O. Seilhamer s History of the American Theatre
1732-1797, William B. Wood s Personal Recollections, William
Dunlap s History of the American Theatre, Scott Holland Good-
night s Literature in American Magazines, Walter Selliers Kot-
zebue in England, Ch. Rabany s Kotzebue, Sa Vie et son
Temps and Frederick H. Wilkens Early Influence of German
Literature in America. It was indeed Wilkens work which sug
gested this study to the author. The author desires to express
his appreciation of the courtesies extended to him by the officials
of the Library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the
Free Library of Philadelphia, and especially to Mr. Bunford
Samuel of the Ridgway branch, where most of the material was
collected from former Philadelphia papers.

In gratitude my last word belongs to the late Professor
Marion D. Learned, who as friend and teacher freely gave coun
sel and encouragement.

Charles F. Brede.

*For a full discussion of the English version cf. pp. 14-15, Lessing in Eng
land 1767-1850, von Wilhelm Todt, Heidelberg, 1912. Englische Arbeiten.
Herausgegeben von Levin L. Schiicking, Jena.


For role read role wherever found. For Petruchio read Petrucchio.
Page 9, place comma after 1828. Page 12, coffe read coffee. Page 13, place
comma after Chapman. Page 15, Manfredt = Manfredi. Page 32, were
was. Page 34, Wools = Woods. Page 35, Westrag = Westray. Page 37,
Mms. D. = Mme. Page 39, 1828 = before 1826. Page 44, Thearicals =
Theatricals. Page 47, sentimnet = sentiment. Page 49, Royal Tyler =
Royall T. Page 56, place comma after Morton. Page 59, from French
from the French. Page 62, 1809 = 1808. Note 16, 1796 = 1786. Page 63,
thro = through. Page 73, Note 41 read For a discussion of the English
version of Lovers Vows cf. Sellier, p. 10. Pages 76, 79 and 121, Morry =
Merry. Page 87, Richard II = Richard III. Page 94, La Foret Noire = La
Foret Noire. Page 96, 1812 = 1802. Page no, place comma after Imogen.
Page 114, 1913 = 1813. Page 116, place semicolon after French. Page 121,
Richard II = Richard III. Page 127, last line, performance = first per
formance. Page 129, thus == this. Page 131, line 19, place semicolon after
title role. Page 138, 1820-1821 = 1821-1822, and add cf. Olympic 1817-1818.
Page 139, leave out (Dimond). Page 158, in regard to concluding chapter
see Preface. Page 164, season ^ seasons. Page 166, place comma after
January 22. Page 183, Birth Day Birthday. Page 186, serious diffi
culty a serious difficulty. Page 186, after Horse and the Widow change
period to comma. Page 192, 1807 = 1809. Page 196, either =
neither. Page 200, after Evenden place comma instead of dash. On last
line place comma after January 29. To Shakespeare plays add Corio-
lanus, January 29, and read fourteen performances of twelve different plays.
Page 204, These were = There were, Bandetti = Banditti. Page 210, as
recitation a recitation. Page 216, Line between Note 248 and 249 transfer
to follow line 4. Page 221, an Englishman that an Englishman who.
Page 226, The Tort of Friendship = The Test of Friendship. Page 228,
La Motte Fouque = Fouque. Page 228, Note 266 with translations to =
translations of. Page 235, as in the Museum, omit as; and one the value
on the value. Page 241, matinee = matinee. Fonque = Fouque. Page 253,
To these must be adder = added. Page 262, Steinfust = Steinfurt. Page
262, Note 306, Der Kosak und der Frei willige = Freiwillige. Page 269,
Fille mal Gardee = Gardee. Page 285 and page 290, Louisa, Pothe = Louisa
Rothe. Page 288, Notes 319 and 320, for Jackson Collection read Clothier
Collection. Page 294, From you rock s = yon.




During the last decade of the eighteenth century and the first
quarter of the nineteenth, German plays in translation were fre
quently performed on the English stage in America. The the
atres of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other
cities not only supplemented their repertoire with German plays,
but some seasons were dominated by such plays, and the German
drama became a subject of discussion in American cities as well
as in England.

To establish definitely the exact conditions, to gather from
the files of the newspapers the announcements of the plays, and
in many cases including the casts, to search for criticisms, to
learn the attitude of the public as well as also of the actors them
selves toward these German plays and toward German cultural
elements in general, in short to measure the width, depth and
force of one of the numerous cultural streams, which are min
gling in the ebb and flow of American life and tending to produce
a cultural level differing from that of any one of the many
nationalities of the old country, is the task which finds expression
in the following pages.

Down to the time of the Revolution, Philadelphia was the
most important theatrical center in the colonies. After the Revo
lution the opposition to the theatre was maintained longer and
was more persistent than in New York, and so Philadelphia


4 German Drama in English on Philadelphia Stage

receded somewhat as a first center, but still did not lose
its independent place for more than a quarter of a century
afterward, as may be inferred from a remark of Wood, who,
speaking of his retirement as joint manager of the Chestnut
Street Theatre in 1826, says : "Just before our separation a nego
tiation was opened by the powers behind the throne with the New
York theatre, to effect such an arrangement as would have
reduced our theatre to a mere tributary to New York, as it
proved to be some years after." 1

There was no one person in Philadelphia who filled the same
position as William Dunlap did in New York. His plays, trans
lations and adaptations were known and occasionally played, but
as often ignored and English translations or those of Philadel-
phians or other Americans were used instead. Dunlap 2 refers
incidentally in these words to the Philadelphia company: "Mr.
Jefferson 3 engaged himself for Philadelphia where he and his
wife remained in that permanent and highly respectable manner
which seems to have been peculiarly the lot of the performers
of that company." We are therefore justified in considering the
Philadelphia stage as a more or less independent activity at least
for the greater part of the period here covered.

The first German play on any stage in America was Lessing s
Minna von Barnhelm, performed in Charleston, S. C, February
1 8, 1795, the first on any New York stage was Schiller s R duber,
played May 14, 1795, and the first on any Philadelphia stage
Minna von Barnhelm, which was played under the title of The
Disbanded Officer; or, the Baroness of Bruchsal, June 17, 1796,
and was an English adaptation by Johnstone. 4 . . .

This date, 1796, should be the point of departure for this
study, if it concerned only the actual German plays performed
on the Philadelphia stage, but as it aims to be a study of cultural

1 William B. Wood, Personal Recollections, Philadelphia, 1855, p. 333.

3 A History of the American Theatre, William Dunlap, New York,
1832, p. 315. The time referred to is 1808.

3 1858, Grandfather of J. Jefferson, 1829-1905.

* Early Influence of German Literature in America, Frederick H. Wil-
kens. Americana Germanica, Vol. Ill, N. 2, 1899, p. in. Cf. G. O. Seil-
hamer, History of the American Theatre, 1732-1797, Philadelphia, 1891. Cf.,
also U. S. Gazette, Philadelphia, 1796.

German Drama in English on Philadelphia Stage 5

influences, direct and indirect, a review of the theatre from its
beginning is necessary, including a brief history of the various
companies, the opposition they encountered, an account of the
general conditions under which the plays were given, the atti
tude of Germans toward the theatre and the extent of their
participation as actors or in any other capacity, such as leaders
or members of the orchestra, even though the results may prove
to be mostly of a negative character. The present investigation
will extend to the season of 1829-1830 for all the theatres in

A General Account of the Theatre in Philadelphia to 1794.

The first regular organized company played in New York
in 1732 and was probably made up of professionals and ama
teurs, but had no direct effect on the subsequent development of
the American stage. In 1749 Addison s Cato was performed in
Philadelphia. 5 Of the early English strollers some records exist
of the Murray and Kean Co. in 1749-1750; in Philadelphia they
played in a warehouse belonging to Wm. Plumstead in King or
Water Street between Pine and Lombard, the house is mentioned
as still standing in 1849. Fourteen plays and eight farces are
known to have been produced in New York before the arrival
of the Hallams in 1752, and the repertoire of this Murray
and Kean Co. shows the English stage at this time dominated
by plays of Centlivre, Dryden, Farquhar, Addison, Otway, Cib-
ber, Garrick, Fielding, Lillo and Congreve. There is only one
direct translation from a foreign author, The Distressed Mother,
translated by Philips from Racine s Andromache. This remained
a favorite piece on the American stage for a long time. Lillo s
George Barnwell (1731) was among those plays and continued
to hold the stage beyond the limit of our period.

The Pilgrims had their "Mayflower," the Germans of Penn-
styvania their "Concord" and the Hallams their "Charming
Sally." Early in May, 1752, the ship "Charming Sally," captain
Lee, set sail from England for America and carried as passen-

8 John Smith s Mss. Journal, Sixth Month, 1749.

6 German Drama in English on Philadelphia Stage

gers the Hallams and their company, known afterwards as the
American Company. Their repertoire did not materially differ
from the one of the preceding strollers and consisted naturally
of the pieces most popular on the London stage at the time and
many of them continued to be played from 1752 to the time of
the revolution. 6 The original Philadelphia company, the Murray
and Kean Company, disbanded after the New York season of
1751 and reorganized in Virginia in 1752. The American com
pany continued under the management of Hallam until his death,
and later under that of Douglass, who had married Hallam s
widow. His theatrical empire extended from Williamsburg, Va.,
to Newport, R. I. Overtures came from Philadelphia, then the
first city of the land, with the suggestion that Mr. Hallam apply
to Governor Hamilton for permission to open a theatre
and that the application should be for liberty to play for a
few nights. Notwithstanding petitions for the prohibition of
"profane stage plays" permission was given for 24 plays with
after-pieces "on condition that they offered nothing indecent and
immoral, performed one night for the poor of the city, and gave
security for all debts and contracts. Once within the walls they
extended the boundary of their contest, not without opposition,
until the whole city submitted to the invaders, and they became
peaceable and good citizens, no longer living in sufferance or
obliged to give bonds for their good behaviour." 7 The number
of the plays was extended to 30, three each week for ten weeks,
beginning with Fair Penitent (Rowe) and Miss in her Teens
(Garrick), on April 15 to July, 1754. The theatre was now called
the "New Theatre" but was the same building occupied in 1749-
1750 by the Murray and Kean Company, namely, the warehouse
mentioned above. In 1759 Douglass opened a second theatre in
Philadelphia at the southwest corner of Vernon and South in
Southern Liberties "Society Hill," which Dunlap mentions as be
ing an ordinary wooden building afterwards changed into three
dwelling houses. Up to this time the drama in Philadelphia had
found a home only in temporary structures. In 1766 a building

Seilhamer I., p. 29.
T Dunlap, p. 15.

German Drama in English on Philadelphia Stage 7

was erected for the purpose in Southwark, on South above
Fourth, by Douglass, which remained the only theatre in Phila
delphia until 1792, when the Chestnut Street house was erected
for Wignell and Reinagle. This South street building was of
wood with little or no ornament and in 1855 was used as a dis
tillery, having the sign Y. P. M., i. e., Young s Pure Malt. 8 The
revolutionary struggle put an end for a time to all theatrical
performances, the Provincial Congress, assembled in Philadel
phia, having in 1774 recommended a suspension of all public
amusements, and agreed to discountenance every species of ex
travagance and dissipation, gaming, cockfighting, exhibition of
shows, plays and other expensive diversions and entertainments.
The season at Charleston was the last work by the American
Company before the Revolution, and the last performance by pro
fessional players in Philadelphia took place at the Southwark in
September of 1774. A company of English players would
hardly be considered enthusiastic supporters of the American
cause. The theatres closed and the players went to the West
Indies. During the periods of the British occupation of Boston,
New York and Philadelphia, British officers formed Thespian
Corps." In Boston Fanueil Hall was used by them as a theatre,
in Philadelphia they used the Southwark theatre.

The year 1782 marks the beginning of the drama under
the Republic, but the returning actors could not proceed at once
to northern cities, but played for several years in Baltimore 10
and Annapolis. Pennsylvania had adopted the recommendation
of Congress of 1778 and passed a law prohibiting the theatre
altogether. This law was still in force in 1782 and was not
repealed till March 2, 1789. The theatre in Southwark opened
on March 9, 1789, for the first time since the Revolution under
State authority. From 1782 to 1789 the theatre in Philadelphia
was under the ban, and such plays as were given under difficulties
and in disguise will be mentioned later. The theatre in 1789

8 Wood, p. 91.

9 Seilhamer II.

10 "Which was not only the home of actors and actresses, but it was the
only city that produced them." Seilhamer II.

8 German Drama in English on Philadelphia Stage

is spoken of by an eye witness of the opening night as "pre
senting to the admiring eyes of Americans a spectacle which,
for the style of its embellishment, far excelled anything known
before, beyond all comparison superior in scenery, decorations,
dresses and general splendor to that exhibited by Douglass; the
theatre became a place of fashionable resort, and managers were
successful beyond their most sanguine expectations." 11

In consequence of a quarrel between the managers, Wignell
succeeded in forming a partnership with Reinagle, a musician of
the company, and made plans for a new theatre. Wignell went
to England for players and returned in 1793, the year of the
yellow fever, so that the opening in Philadelphia had to be post
poned, and the company began in Annapolis. This new theatre
was situated on the north side of Chestnut above Sixth and be
came known as the "New Theatre," the name previously applied
to the first structure used by the Hallams in 1752. The South-
wark theatre now came to be known as the "Old Theatre." The
Chestnut street theatre was opened February 17, 1794, with the
opera, The Castle of Andalusia, 12 and "the inhabitants alternately
crowded both houses to survey the contest and judge between
them. In comedy and opera the palm was generally given to the
Old ; but the unrivalled powers of Mrs. Merry gave to the New
the prize in tragedy." 13 The "New Theatre" had another attrac
tion in the ballet dancing of Mr. Byrne and Mr. Wm. Francis
from England. 14 The season of 1794 from September 22
to December 4, was the last season of the old company at the
Southwark, this house having been in use 28 years. It was
never permanently occupied after this, but was used from time
to time by strolling companies and also for summer seasons by
members of the Chestnut street company. 15 Hallam and the
old company yielded the field of Philadelphia to the new
company and withdrew to New York and finally sold out to

11 Mirror of Taste and Dramatic Censor II, p. 101.
"Dunlap, p. 115.
13 Mirror of Taste II, p. 104.

"Not the Francis of the Douglass company before the revolution. Cf.
Seilhamer I, p. 123.
15 Dunlap, p. 89.

German Drama in English on Philadelphia Stage 9

Wm. Dunlap, to whom Wilkens 16 has done full justice. It is
of interest to note Dunlap s opinion of Wignell and the company
in Philadelphia. "Wignell s talents and influence laid the founda
tion of that theatrical establishment in Philadelphia which flour
ished for many years more uniformly and with actors of more
general estimation as citizens and artists than the rival institution
in New York, which continued for some time longer to be called
the Old American Company. " 17

From 1794 on for some years the Chestnut street theatre
was practically the only theatre in Philadelphia and continued
under the original management of Wignell and Reinagle, main
taining its early policy even after the death of Wignell. Mr.
Wignell died the latter part of February, 1803, in the midst of
a very successful season, and after an interval of a week, during
which the theatre remained closed as a tribute of respect to Mr.
Wignell s memory, 18 the theatre opened again under the manage
ment of Mrs. Wignell and Reinagle with the assistance of Messrs.
Warren and Wood as acting managers. Wood 19 remarks that
the labors of the stage management fell to his share. In 1809
Wood with the help of friends purchased one-half of Warren s
interest in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington theatres
and assumed practically the complete active management in
1810. He withdrew from the management in 1826 but con
tinued for some time as a member of the Chestnut street com
pany. Later we find him for a short period manager of the
Arch street theatre, 20 built in 1828 during its first season, and
still later appearing now and then at all the existing theatres. He
retired permanently from the stage on the occasion of the Fare
well Benefit tendered him by his friends and admirers, Wednes
day, November 18, 1846, at the Walnut street theatre. 21 After
the retirement of Wood, Warren assumed the sole management
and Cowell, formerly of the Walnut, became stage manager.

"Wilkens, p. in and ff.

17 Dunlap.

18 Aurora, 1803.

19 Wood, p. 104.

20 P. 352, where Wood mistakingly gives date 1827.

21 P. 470.

io German Drama in English on Philadelphia Stage

With the season of 1828 ended the activity of William Warren as
a manager and it is impossible not to feel the pathos of his simple
announcement which appeared in the papers on December 29,
1828 : "On the first day of January the Theatre, Chestnut Street
will be placed under the Management of Messrs. Pratt and
Wemyss, who have become the leasers thereof and I shall have
withdrawn from those relations with the public, which have ex
isted for more than thirty-two years." 22 What the people gen
erally thought of him may well be summed up in the statement
which appeared on the day of his benefit, December 30, 1828:
"During a residence of nearly half a century in our city Mr.
Warren has become extensively and advantageously known, his
liberality toward public charities and in cases of public calam
ities is a matter of notoriety, and in the relation of neighbor and
friend he has won the respect of all who are acquainted with
him." 23 The plays for the evening of his benefit were the Merry
IVives of Windsor and the Romantic Drama Illusion, and in
this connection appeared the announcement of an address
by Mr. Warren, with the added remark that he would speak in
the costume of Falstaff in order not to keep the audience waiting.
The pathos of all this becomes clearer when we read Wood s 24
words : "And Warren himself found that his recent friends, who
had got possession of everything he had, were now his insatiable
and remorseless creditors. His fate, poor fellow, was very
hard." It is therefore not surprising if Wood thought that the
drama was "at sixes and sevens . . . permanence belonged
now to nothing except failure, disorder and bankruptcy, the vital
ity of the theatre neither was or can be destroyed, but its action
was irregular, spasmodic and disordered." Warren remained
however a member of the company a short time as actor and
when Mr. and Mrs. Wood returned to the Walnut street theatre
in May, 1829, Mr. Warren "now grown feeble and dispirited
and with all his plans defeated, and his former amateur friends
now represented by the sheriff in their place" was also engaged

"Philadelphia Gazette, 1828.
"Philadelphia Gazette, 1828.
"Wood, p. 353-

German Drama in English on Philadelphia Stage 1 1

as a regular actor, later, at the Arch and again at the Chestnut,
where he appeared for the last time in Philadelphia in the charac
ter of "Sir Robert Bramble" of The Poor Gentleman and "linger
ing in declining health and spirits in Baltimore he gave up life,
clouded towards its close by many afflictions and cares." 25 The
Wemyss and Pratt management was of short duration and on
July 10, 1829, the "New Theatre," Chestnut Street, was offered
again for lease. 26 It was opened again in October, 1829, under
the management of Mr. Rowbotham and the season of 1829-
1830 closed on March 21. A summer season under the manage
ment of Lewis T. Pratt followed in April lasting till July 21.

The theatre on Chestnut street was known from the begin
ning as the "New Theatre," but from 1814 different names ap

Online LibraryCharles Frederic BredeThe German drama in English on the Philadelphia stage from 1794 to 1830 → online text (page 1 of 27)