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This listing is for your choice of any one (1) of these 19th century acting edition paperback plays or all 10 of them together. Select from the drop down menu at checkout. If you would like a combination of 2 to 7 of these titles, please contact me to arrange for a custom order.

(1) Saratoga or Pistols for Seven, 1870, was the first commercially successful play by Bronson Howard (1842-1908), later recognized as the "Dean of American Drama."
A comic drama in Five Acts, Saratoga was originally produced at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York, December 21, 1870, with Fanny Davenport, Clara Morris, Kate Claxton, Mrs. Gilbert and James Lewis in the leading roles. In 1874 Saratoga was successfully adapted for the English stage by Frank Marshall under the title Brighton.
Although the cover of this paperback is badly torn and the back cover is missing, as shown, the text of the play is firm and in good vintage condition!

(2) Led Astray, 1873, a five act comedy by Dion Boucicault (1820-1890), is a typical French love triangle which Boucicault adapted to Irish circumstances. Led Astray has lost its paper cover and has turned corners and some rough edges BUT is still held quite firmly together by its original string binding.
It is No. 372 of French's Standard Drama, 57 pages long, and was evidently owned at one time by an actor named Stephens who wrote his name on the title page and made innumerable marks throughout the copy which, in notes "Season of 1881-82," evidently identifyies the production date of this performance.
On a back open page of this copy there is an eight line poem in the same hand as we see throughout. This poem begins:
" Ah Sir Geof
Our Boys are [crossed out] is a difficult things to handle"
and ends:
"T'will therefore bring success to both Our Boys."
To me the poem refers to the production of this play with Stephens, BUT in 1875 Henry James Byron, an English hack playwright, wrote a play called Our Boys. The poem could refer to this play. Whatever, it is an interesting comment many years ago.

(3) London Assurance, 1841, Boucicault's second play but first produced play, was an astounding success in London and has remained a popular comedy in England and America. It builds upon a stock situation of a young girl forced to marry an old man while in love with his profligate son, the entire play being enlivened by Lady Gay Spanker whose character attracted many actresses.
Boucicault came to America in 1853 and added considerably to American theater with his melodramas, particularly plays such as The Octoroon, his dramatic criticism and his effective lobbying for American dramatic copyright laws.
London Assurance, one of "Dick's Standard Plays," advertised on the front as an "original complete edition," is 26 pages long, listed as "first performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, on Thursday, March 4, 1841." It is pretty ragged around the edges, as you can see, but it is still held together by its original binding.

(4) This Acting Edition of Dion Boucicault's The Poor of New York is a Samuel French publication "As performed at Wallack's Theatre, December, 1857," and is distinctive because it is the version that was first acted in New York.
Dion Boucicault (1820-1890) is best known for his sensational melodramas, but he was also a man of the theater who contributed to American dramatic criticism, helped secure copyright protection for American dramatists and provided many memorable and spectacular plays for American audiences: Rip Van Winkle, The Octoroon and several Irish plays.
This acting edition of The Poor of New York is 45 pages long, newly covered by some neat person after its initial publication and suffering from some tears near its binding throughout much of its pages. Someone has crossed out certain pages and left marks--it is, of course, the copy of some actor in the 19th century following the theater manager's demands. And it is probably about 150 years old, a long time in an actor's hands. Its later binding shows that material indicated on the title page as "to which are added" has been omitted.

(5) The Stage Struck Yankee, 1845, by O. E. Durivage was one of dozens of plays that built upon the peculiarities of the Yankee character and generally had momentary popularity. Durivage, a Boston born actor, was also playwright, journalist and story-teller who appeared on New York stages telling "original Yankee Stories."
Although Durivage had some success with his play. the actor Dan Marble, who dressed much in the fashion of our Uncle Sam, used it as a vehicle during his successful theater career in mid-19th century America. The title of the play explains the plot as Curtis Chunk, a Yankee, falls for an actress named Fanny Magnet but is saved finally by a good old Yankee gal named Jedidah.
This paperback copy of the play is in fine vintage condition--a little browned, one chip out of the cover, but a strong stapled binding. Copy N0. CCXV from French's minor Drama, it was probably printed in the first decade of the 20th century--considering the plays advertised on the cover. But this also suggests the popularity of the play, probably among amateur acting groups.

(6) Minority characters were a staple in 19th century American drama--Yankee, Negro, Irish, German, etc. From "The Variety Stage" Dot Madrimonial Advertisement, by McDermott & Trumble, a Dutch Sketch featuring the Dutch-German character. was published in 1875 by the Happy Hour Company. I know nothing about this play other than what you find by reading it; however, a hack playwright by the name of Egbert W. Fowler wrote a play called A Matrimonial Advertisement, and the Dutch sketch above may very well have been a burlesque of Fowler's work. Such sketches were popular on the vaudeville stage. Boucicault's very successful The Octoroon was quickly burlesqued as The Moctoroom.

(7) Captain Kyd, or The Wizard of the Sea, 1839, was written by Joseph Stevens Jones (1809-1877), the son of a Boston sea captain, an actor, a popular and prolific playwright and a Doctor of Medicine (Harvard College 1843) who lectured on anatomy and physiology. Advertised as "the celebrated Dr. Jones" during his career as playwright and theater manager (Tremont Theatre, National Theatre in Boston), Jones wrote more than sixty plays.
According to the record on the flyleaf of this copy, Captain Kyd was first produced in Boston in 1839 and kept the stage until the 1860s which is a long time for slight farces of this type. 19th century theaters, especially the lesser theaters, relied heavily on rapidly changing repertoires.
This copy of Captain Kyd is at least 150 years old and needs rather careful handling, as it is quite fragile--thin paper very old, string binding that is hard to find and loosening pages. BUT it remains a relic of several theater generations past in America. And Dr. Jones had a fine reputation.

(8) This late 19th century Acting Edition of Our Jim is a rare book among the works of Egbert W. Fowler (d 1901 ?) whose poetry is still listed as available by Barnes & Noble.
The play is a "four act comedy" about a farm family in southern Ohio in 1861 as it sends a son into the American Civil War. Family pride is diminished as the son is falsely accused of stealing money, but everything is cleared in the final act, as villainy is exposed and the son returns to his family and sweetheart - without an arm but honest and thankful.
The essence of the drama is shown in the labeled synopsis.
Act I "My country, "tis of thee."
Act II "The Girl I left behind me."
Act III "From Atlanta to the sea"
Act IV "When Johnny comes marching home"
This copy is firm in the body of this 44 page paperback which is securely stapled; the front and back covers are detached and ragged at the edges, as shown; the text shows wear only through browning by its 110 plus years.
The play is valuable for its interpretation of the Civil War period and as representative of a persistent interest in the Civil War. In this instance the War is largely used as a background for the more popular moral thesis of the late 19th century.

(9) The Three Hats has no distinction that I know, other than it is an example of the great late 19th century publications of the Ames' Publishing Co. out of Clyde, Ohio. Ames himself was a hack playwright of numerous plays, too many to count. But I guess that he made money something like the modern Tim Kelly whose name you have probably never heard but perhaps the most productive playwright of the 20th century.

(10) Frog Opera with Pollywog Chorus, 1873, by Charles T. Miller, is "A burletta founded upon the nursery tale and the old song of 'A Frog He Would a Wooing Go.' "

All of these acting editions are fragile and need to be handled carefully. They are all rare pieces of American theater and drama history, and are rapidly disappearing. I have kept them for years, and hate to think of them being thrown on the fire by some estate agent.

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Acting editions of ten 19th century American plays, some historically important, some not.


  • Vintage item from the 1800s
  • Material: paperback book
  • Only ships within United States.
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