Jefferson, Joseph,1829–1905, American actor. He was the foremost of an old and distinguished family of English and American actors. Jefferson began his stage career as a child actor, and when the family's fortunes declined, joined them as one of a group of strolling players traveling throughout the Midwest. His fame came with his creation of the role of Rip Van Winkle in a dramatization of Washington IrvingIrving, Washington,
1783–1859, American author and diplomat, b. New York City. Irving was one of the first Americans to be recognized abroad as a man of letters, and he was a literary idol at home.
..... Click the link for more information. 's story, first in 1859 and later in 1865 as revised by Dion BoucicaultBoucicault, Dion
, 1822?–1890, Anglo-Irish dramatist and actor. At 19 he had success with his play London Assurance at Covent Garden, London. In 1853 he went to the United States with his wife, Agnes Robertson, an actress who was the adopted daughter of Charles Kean.
..... Click the link for more information. . He performed the second version almost exclusively until 1880. He skillfully mixed humor with pathos, infusing the character with human tenderness and dignity, heightening the "fairy-tale" elements of the play, and ultimately creating the 19th-century's most popular male character. Almost as famous was his interpretation of Bob Acres in The Rivals, a part he played hundreds of times. He was one of the first star actors in America to establish his own road company; the earlier practice was to depend for support on local stock companies. Jefferson was also a landscape painter and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1893 he succeeded Edwin BoothBooth, 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 Booth, serving his theatrical apprenticeship, he appeared in New York City (1857) and
..... Click the link for more information. as president of the Players' Club, thus becoming the recognized dean of his profession. He retired in 1904.
See his autobiography, ed. by A. S. Downer (1964); biographies by G. Malvern (1945), A. W. Bloom (2000), and B. McArthur (2007); W. Winter, The Jeffersons (1881, repr. 1969).
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Jefferson, Joseph(1829–1905) actor; born in Philadelphia. Third in a line of that name, he was part of an old theater family. Following his debut at age four mimicking Thomas D. Rice, singer of "Jim Crow," he had a career that spanned 71 years. He became America's preeminent comedian, describing his own profile as "pure nutcracker type." In 1856 he visited Europe, then returned to join Laura Keene's company where he played Dr. Pangloss in The Heir-at-Law and Asa Trenchard in Our American Cousin. His greatest success was his own version of Rip Van Winkle, a role he played solely between 1865 and 1880. In fact, there were critics who said that all of his characterizations were identical with his Rip Van Winkle. He succeeded Edwin Booth as president of the Players in 1893. His last performance was in 1904 in Cricket on the Hearth, after which he lectured widely and published his autobiography. Four of his sons continued the family tradition as actors.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.