Born Feb. 20, 1829, in Philadelphia; died Apr. 23, 1905, in Palm Beach, Fla. American actor.
Jefferson learned to act from his father, Joseph Jefferson, and a troupe of actors that toured the country. Around 1850 he organized his own troupe, touring Western Europe in 1856 and performing successfully in New York in 1857. His portrayal of Asa Trenchard in Taylor’s Our American Cousin brought him wide popularity. Although Jefferson was primarily a comic actor, he also demonstrated an ability for dramatic acting. His character portrayals were humanistic; he strove to convey the hero’s best characteristics. It was his performance in the title role in Rip Van Winkle (1860), a play based on Irving’s short story, that established the character as an American national folk hero. His other roles included Bob Acres in Sheridan’s The Rivals, and Caleb Plummer in Dickens’ The Cricket on the Hearth. There were other famous actors in Jefferson’s family (Joseph Jefferson, 1804-42), but their significance and influence upon the development of American theater was negligible.
WORKSRip Van Winkle: The Autobiography. New York. [1950.]
REFERENCEWinter, W. Life and Art ofJ. Jefferson. New York-London, 1894.
K. A. GLADYSHEVA