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1850: Publishing; arts and music; popular entertainment; architecture; theatre.

The extremes to which the public would go in its adulation of popular entertainers, especially when urged on by clever promotion, was nowhere better shown than in connection with the American tour of Jenny Lind, called the "Swedish Nightingale." Miss Lind was brought to the U.S. in 1850 by master showman and promoter Phineas T. Barnum. On her arrival 30,000 people surrounded her New York City hotel, hoping to see the coloratura soprano. Tickets for her Sept. 11 debut at Castle Garden Theater were auctioned at $225. Boston topped that with a $625 bid when she sang there. Miss Lind gave 95 concerts around the country from 1850 to 1852, for which she received $17,675. Barnum made a fortune.

Louis Moreau Gottschalk, American pianist and composer, toured the French provinces, Switzerland, and Savoy and was widely acclaimed.

Harper's Monthly Magazine began its notable career in New York City. It promised "to place within the reach of the great mass of American people the unbounded treasures of the periodical literature." Most of the contributions were serializations of the novels of Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, and George Eliot. In most cases Harper's paid its authors more than the English publishers did.

The Scarlet Letter, a classic American novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, was a best seller from the beginning. Four thousand copies were sold in the first ten days; the second printing immediately sold out. Its daring subject matter accounted in part for its immediate success.

White-Jacket by Herman Melville was published. In this partly autobiographical novel, Melville, who had spent 15 months on a U.S. man-of-war (1843-1844), gave his readers a striking set of characters and a realistic picture of the daily and often frightening activities in the Navy at mid-century.

Representative Men by Ralph Waldo Emerson was published. It was a collection of lectures he had given on Plato, Swedenborg, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Napoleon, Goethe and others. Emerson set forth his view of the roles played by great men. He believed that man was not the victim of his environment but had creative powers within him to change things and live his own life.

William Sidney Mount was at his peak as a painter of the life and landscapes of his hometown, Setauket, and of Suffolk County on eastern Long Island, N.Y. Dancing on the Barn Floor, Raffling for the Goose, and Bargaining for a Horse were among his many paintings. Mount was also a fine portrait artist.

Washington Crossing the Delaware was painted in Dusseldorf, Germany, by Emanuel Leutze, an American historical and portrait painter residing abroad. Gen. Washington stands in a theatrical, unseamanlike pose in the boat; the Delaware R. is really the Rhine R. as seen from the artist's window. But in this and other U.S. historical subjects, such as Westward the Course of Empire, the gigantic mural on the wall of the west staircase of the House of Representatives, Leutze communicated the fortitude and courage of American national heroes and contributed significantly, if not realistically, to people's conceptions of American history.

George Washington Lafayette Fox, the celebrated clown and pantomimist, made his New York City debut. Fox achieved his greatest fame in Humpty Dumpty (1868), which he performed 1268 times in New York. His travesty of Hamlet delighted audiences, as well as the great tragedian Edwin Booth.

Far western newspaper publishing saw the first issues of the Weekly Oregonian in Portland, Ore., and of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah. The latter was a publication of the Mormon Church.

Mar. 18

The Oath of Office by Charles James Cannon, a romantic tragedy set in the fifteenth century, was given its first performance.

July 22

New York Fireman and Bond Street Heiress by S.D. Johnson opened. The play exemplified the type of drama that contrasted the lives of rich and poor, a theme coming into vogue. A Philadelphia play of this year was entitled Democracy and Aristocracy.

Aug. 19

William Davidge, the celebrated English comedian, made his American debut at the Broadway Theater, New York City, as Sir Peter Teazle in Sheridan's The School for Scandal. Davidge became noted for Shakespearean low-comedy roles, such as Dogberry, Touchstone, and Holofernes. He later played Dick Deadeye in H. M. S. Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Sept. 27

The great American actor Edwin Booth made his New York City debut at age 16 as Wilford in the play The Iron Chest at the National Theater. His acting debut had been at the Boston Museum on Sept. 10, 1849, when he played the role of Tressel in Colley Cibber's version of Richard III. His first major role also came at the National Theater, when he took over the role of Richard III in 1851 after his father, Junius Brutus Booth, became ill.

Dec. 3

A new theater, Brougham's Lyceum (later Wallack's Theater), opened in New York City. Private boxes were $5, orchestra stalls $1, dress circle and parquet 50 cents, and family circle 25 cents.
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Author:Carruth, Gorton
Publication:Encyclopedia of American Facts & Dates, 9th ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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