Advertisement

An American Antebellum Child-Actor Contract: Alfred Stewart and the Shift from Craft Apprentice to Wage Laborer

  • Shauna Vey
Chapter
  • 119 Downloads
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)

Abstract

On July 27, 1857, Mrs. Hannah Stewart of Cincinnati, Ohio, signed a contract with Robert G. Marsh of New York binding her son Alfred to perform for two years with a theatrical troupe Marsh managed. This was an economically pivotal time for boy workers in all walks of life as traditional apprenticeships mutated into cash wage jobs. The Marsh-Stewart arrangement encompasses elements of both the traditional craft apprenticeship and its successor, the wage job. The case of Alfred Stewart illustrates how the US antebellum theater aligned with contemporaneous industries in treating child performers less like artists and craftsmen and more like laborers. The contract illuminates the dissolution of apprenticeship as the dominant path to an adult acting career.

Keywords

Child Actor Child Worker Original Contract Habeas Corpus Apprenticeship System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 8.
    See W. J. Rorabaugh, The Craft Apprentice: From Franklin to the Machine Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986);Google Scholar
  2. Nina E. Lerman, “Preparing for the Duties and Practical Business of Life: Technological Knowledge and Social Structure in Mid-19th-Century Philadelphia,” Technology and Culture 38:1 (January 1997): 31–59;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brian P. Luskey, ““What Is My Prospects?”: The Contours of Mercantile Apprenticeship, Ambition, and Advancement in the Early American Economy,” The Business History Review 78:4 (Winter 2004): 665–702;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Richard D. Stott, Workers in the Metropolis: Class, Ethnicity, and Youth in Antebellum New York City (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990);Google Scholar
  5. Ian Quimby, Apprenticeship in Colonial Philadelphia (New York: Garland, 1985; reprint of MA thesis, University of Delaware, 1963).Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Edel Lamb, Performing Childhood in the Early Modern Theatre: The Children’s Playing Companies (1599–1613) (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 57, 56.Google Scholar
  7. Andrew Gurr asserts that arrangements were not so formal, The Shakespearean Stage 1574–1642, 4th ed., (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 113–14.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Robert J. Myers and Joyce Brodowski, “Rewriting the Hallams: Research in 18th Century British and American Theatre,” Theatre Survey 41:1 (May 2000), 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. See also Don B. Wilmeth with Tice Miller, Cambridge Guide to American Theatre (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 182.Google Scholar
  10. 19.
    Laurence Senelick, The Age and Stage of George L. Fox, 1825–1877 (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1988), passim.Google Scholar
  11. 20.
    Cordelia Howard Macdonald and George P. Howard, “Memoirs of the Original Little Eva,” Educational Theatre Journal 8:4. (December 1956), 281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 21.
    See also Heather M. McMahon, “Profit, Purity, and Perversity: Nineteenth-Century Child Prodigies Kate and Ellen Bateman,” (PhD diss., Indiana University, 2003);Google Scholar
  13. Robert Samuel Badal, “Kate and Ellen Bateman: A Study in Precocity” (PhD, diss., Northwestern University, 1971).Google Scholar
  14. 31.
    Senelick, Age and Stage, 63. An adult member of the same company earned $18 perweek. As a young actor in 1842, Cordelia’s father had been paid $8 perweek (18). For actors’ salaries after 1880, see Benjamin McArthur, Actors and American Culture, 1880–1920 (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1984). There is no comparable study for the antebellum period.Google Scholar
  15. 36.
    North American, December 31, 1847 vol. LXV, issue 16205, advertisement p3 col 5; [Philadelphia] Public Ledger, February 26, 1848, vol. XXIV, issue 133 p2; J. S. Dalrymple, The Naiad Queen, lists “Mr. Marsh” as Sir Rupert in Burton’s 1848 production. George Odell, Annals of the New York Stage (New York: Columbia University Press, 1927), vol. V, 596; vol. VI, 140, 191, 229.Google Scholar
  16. Thomas Allston Brown, A History of the New York Stage from the First Performance in 1732 to 1901 (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1903), 306, 308, 311, Google Books, accessed July 17, 2010.Google Scholar
  17. 42.
    On Spaulding, see John S. Kendall, The Golden Age of the New Orleans Theatre (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1952), 477–79;Google Scholar
  18. David Carlyon, “Spaulding and Spicy Rice,” chapter 6 of Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You’ve Never Heard of (New York: Public Affairs, 2001).Google Scholar
  19. 49.
    Kurt Gänzl, Lydia Thompson Queen of Burlesque (New York: Routledge, 2002), 84.Google Scholar
  20. 58.
    A study of twentieth-century child actors noted issues that arise when parents function as agents or business managers. Mothers who acted in dual capacities were later evaluated by their adult children as less caring and more over-controlling. SeeLisa J. Rapport and Matthew Meleen, “Childhood Celebrity, Parental Attachment, and Adult Adjustment: The Young Performers Study,” Journal of Personality Assessment 70:3 (June 1998): 484–504, esp. 499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 60.
    See Benjamin McArthur, “ ‘Forbid Them Not’: Child Actor Labor Laws and Political Activism in the Theatre,” Theatre Survey 36:2 (1995): 63–80,CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. and Shauna Vey, “Good Intentions and Fearsome Prejudice: New York’s 1876 Act to Prevent and Punish Wrongs to Children,” Theatre Survey 42:1 (May 2001): 53–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 63.
    James H. McTeague, Before Stanislavski: American professional acting schools and acting theory, 1875–1925 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  24. 65.
    David Belasco, Theatre Through its Stage Door, 1919, reissued, ed. Louis V. Defoe (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1969), 132.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gillian Arrighi and Victor Emeljanow 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shauna Vey

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations