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Hodgkinson's Last Years: At the Charleston Theatre, 1803–05

  • Billy J. Harbin
Extract

When John Hodgkinson made his American debut at Philadelphia's Southwark Theatre on 26 September 1792, he was hailed as “superior to any other actor” who had yet appeared in the United States. For some ten years thereafter, Hodgkinson remained the unrivalled leading performer of the Old American Company in all the principal theatrical centers in America. In New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, the actor and his wife, Frances Brett Hodgkinson, dominated the bills of the troupe managed initially by Lewis Hallam and John Henry. They eventually became, in 1800, the highest paid performers in American stage history up to that time. (Hodgkinson received $70 weekly, his wife, $50. In comparison, Mr. and Mrs. Hallam, whose combined salary was second highest, received $50.)

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Notes

1 Federal Gazette, 2 November 1792.

2 Dunlap, William, History of the American Theatre (New York, reprinted 1963), II, 141.

3 In brief, the managerial history of the Old American Company between 1792–1805 is as follows: Hallam and Henry were co-managers until 1794, when Hodgkinson bought Henry's shares; in 1796 Dunlap purchased one-quarter of the management from Hodgkinson, and the trio of Hallam, Hodgkinson, and Dunlap, guided the company for two years; in 1798 Hallam sold his managerial interests, leaving Hodgkinson and Dunlap in control; in 1799 Hodgkinson withdrew as manager, and thereafter acted under Dunlap, whose sole management of the Park Theatre went bankrupt in 1805. Perhaps it is needless to point out that the financial arrangements among the managers were far more complex than this brief summary reveals.

4 Dunlap, , History, I, 189; Harbin, Billy J., “The Career of John Hodgkinson in the American Theatre,” (diss. Ind. Univ., 1970), pp. 194210; New York Evening Post, 6 February 1803.

5 Curtis, Julia, “The Charleston Theatre: 1793–1833,” ETJ, XXIII (03 1971), 112. The article includes an illustration of the building's exterior, recently discovered by Professor Curtis.

6 Charleston Courier, 8 November 1803; hereafter cited as CC.

7 City Gazette, 13 February 1793.

8 Curtis, Mary Julia, “The Early Charleston Stage: 1703–1798,” (diss. Ind. Univ., 1968), pp. 416426.

9 CC, 10 February, 4 April, 14 December 1804; 4 March, 1 April 1805.

10 Patrick, J. Max, Savannah's Pioneer Theatre: From Its Origins to 1810 (Athens, Ga., 1953), pp. 5961; Dunlap, , History, I, 238.

11 CC, 8, 9, 11 November 1803.

12 Carpenter, S. Cullen, “Sketch of the Life of the Late Mr. John Hodgkinson,” The Mirror of Taste and Dramatic Censor, I (March, April, May, June, 1810).

13 CC, 12 November 1803.

14 CC, 15 December 1803.

15 CC, 16 December 1803.

16 CC, 15 December 1803.

17 Odell, George C. D., Annals of the New York Stage (New York, 1927), II, 274.

18 Patrick, pp. 17–23.

19 Patrick, pp. 59–67.

20 Columbian Museum and Savannah Advertiser, 11 January 1804, quoted in Patrick, p. 64.

21 CC, 1 February 1804.

22 CC, 13 February 1804.

23 CC, 13 February 1804.

24 CC, 29 February 1804.

25 CC, 29 February 1804.

26 CC, 19 April 1804.

27 CC, 4 February 1804.

28 CC, 13 February 1804.

29 CC, 8 May 1804.

30 See Dunlap, William, History of the American Theatre and George O. Seilhamer, History of the American Theatre (New York, reprinted 1968).

31 Odell, II, 212.

32 CC, 4 October 1805.

33 Odell, II, 227–274.

34 CC, 15 November 1804.

35 CC, 28 November 1804.

36 CC, 1 December 1804.

37 CC, 14 December 1804.

38 CC, 14 December 1804.

39 CC, 1 December 1804.

40 CC, 1 December 1804.

41 CC, 1 December 1804.

42 CC, 20 December 1804.

43 CC, 25 December 1804.

44 CC, February 1805.

45 CC, 1 April 1805.

46 Reasons for the company's very brief stay in Savannah are unknown. During the engagement, Hodgkinson presented eleven plays; all were new to Savannah's audiences and represented the popular drama of the time, such as Lillo's George Barnwell, Hoare's No Song, No Supper, and Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Patrick's study of the Savannah Theatre provides no answer to the problem. (Patrick, J. Max, Savannah's Pioneer Theatre, From Its Origins to 1810 [Athens, Ga., 1953] p. 69).

47 CC, 11 February 1805.

48 CC, 4 March 1805.

49 CC, 7 March 1805.

50 CC, 4 March 1805.

51 CC, 4 March 1805.

52 CC, 3 May 1805.

53 CC, 31 May 1805.

54 CC, 4 October 1805.

55 Dunlap, History, II, 223.

56 Ibid., II, 228.

57 Willard, George O., History of the Providence Stage (Providence, 1891), p. 33.

58 CC, 28 September, 4 October 1805.

59 CC, 28 September, 4 October 1805; Dunlap, , History, II, 228229.

60 CC, 25 and 28 September, 4 October 1805.

61 CC, 25 September 1805.

62 CC, 25 September 1805.

63 Dunlap, , History II, 230.

64 CC, 4 October 1805.

65 CC, 4 October 1805.

66 CC, 4 October 1805.

67 Dunlap, , History, II, 190.

68 CC, 15 November 1805.

69 CC, 27 November 1805.

70 CC, 25 December 1805.

71 CC, 13 December 1805.

72 Charleston, Times, 31 March 1806.

73 CC, 6 December 1805.

* Billy J. Harbin is Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech & Theatre, Indiana University Southeast.

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Theatre Survey
  • ISSN: 0040-5574
  • EISSN: 1475-4533
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