John E. Owens: Nineteenth Century American Actor and Manager
John E. Owens (1823-1886), one of the wealthiest, most popular comic actors in America, refined the stage yankee and won critical and popular acclaim for his eccentric characters and tender, evocative portrayals of garrulous old men. His most famous role was Solon Shingle in J.S. Jones' The People's Lawyer, which he played over 2000 times, earning over $250,000 from it alone. As a manager, Owens had an eye for a hit, and he produced, directed, and performed in several of the nation's most successful productions of the 1850s and 1860s.
This biography chronicles his childhood and apprenticeship with William Burton, his early lead roles, his first efforts at management, and his marriage to Mary C. Stevens. It then discusses how he developed the roles of Solon Shingle and Caleb Plummer that brought him so much fame, the broadening of his audience and refining of his craft around the time of the Civil War, his performances in the West and expansion of his repertoire, his new ways of touring, and the loss and recovery of his audiences amid the rise of Joseph Jefferson. It ends with a discussion of his theatrical success, financial loss and exhaustion with acting and managing, and his illness and death.
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John E Owens 18231886 Photograph by Sarony ii
Owens as Paul Pry
2Baltimore Management and Marriage 18481855
Owens as Dr Ollapod in The Poor Gentleman From a painting by DAlmaine
The Baltimore Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts at the time of Owens management 1850
Aigburth Vale in 1868
Aigburth Vale today
Owens as Major Wellington Deboots in Everybodys Friend
4Wartime Touring 18611865
15 Mr and Mrs John E Owens c 1865
5Into the West 18651872
Owens as Dr Pangloss in The Heir at Law
3Solon Shingle and Caleb Plummer 18551861
Four views of Owens as Solon Shingle in The Peoples Lawyer
Owens as John Unit in Self
Owens as Joshua Butterby in Victims
Owens as Caleb Plummer and Charlotte Thompson as Dot in Dot
acting actor Aigburth Vale American appeared artist audiences Baltimore Sun Boston Post Boucicault Broadway Broadway Theatre Brooklyn Daily Eagle Burton Caleb Plummer career character Charles Charleston Cincinnati Daily Commercial comedian comedy comic Corrie crowded houses Dion Dion Boucicault drama eccentric engagement Everybody's Friend facial farce favorable Forty Winks Harry Ransom Humanities Humanities Research Center humor Jakey John Owens John Sleeper Clarke laugh laughter Live Indian London manager Museum musical night November opened Opera House Orleans Daily Picayune Orleans Times Picayune Owens played Pangloss pathos Paul Pry People's Lawyer Performing Arts Collection Philadelphia Inquirer Philadelphia Public Ledger piece Playbills popular Ransom Humanities Research received rehearsal repertoire returned role Roppolo script season Sept Silsbee Solon Shingle Spirit stage star stock company Street Theatre success Texas at Austin theatrical tour traveled University of Texas week William Yankee York