Booth, Edwin

Booth, Edwin,

1833–93, one of the first great American actors and the most famous of his era, b. "Tudor Hall," near Bel Air, Md. After years of touring with his father, Junius Brutus BoothBooth, Junius Brutus,
1796–1852, Anglo-American actor. After experience in the provinces, he appeared at Covent Garden. In 1817, with his portrayal of Richard III, he established himself as a rival of Edmund Kean.
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, serving his theatrical apprenticeship, he appeared in New York City (1857) and later toured (1861–63) England. By his mid-20s, Booth was at the pinnacle of the acting profession. On returning to New York he leased the Winter Garden Theatre, where in 1864 he presented his famous 100-night run of Hamlet. He was celebrated for his realistic style, which broke with the declamatory acting that preceded it, and for his identification with the characters he portrayed, many of them from the Shakespearean repertoire. His productions at the Winter Garden terminated in 1865, when his brother John Wilkes BoothBooth, John Wilkes
, 1838–65, American actor, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, b. near Bel Air, Md.; son of Junius Brutus Booth and brother of Edwin Booth. He made his stage debut at the age of 17 in Baltimore.
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 assassinated President Lincoln. The ensuing scandal forced Edwin Booth to retire, but he returned to the Winter Garden in 1866. When it burned down, he built Booth's Theatre, New York (1869). He again toured England in 1880–82; his last appearance was in 1891.


See his letters, ed. by D. J. Watermeier (1971); recollections by his daughter E. B. Grossman (1894, repr. 1969); biographies by E. Ruggles (1953), W. Winter (1893, repr. 1968), and R. Lockridge (1932, repr. 1971); C. H. Shattuck, The Hamlet of Edwin Booth (1969); N. Titone, My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth (2010).

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And there have been tales of personal intrigue, such as Sarah Bernhardt getting stuck in the club's elevator in 1911 (the lift is now called, a plaque on the wall announces, the "Sarah Bernhardt room"), or the mysterious thief who stole miniatures of Junius Booth, Edwin's father, and a few of the club's paintings from the Writing Room in 1970.