Today in Theatre History: THE HALLAMS ARRIVE IN AMERICA–June 2, 1752

Greyhound_Charming_Sally

This dog has nothing to do with the article. But when I googled “Charming Sally,” this photo came up, so I thought I’d use it anyway since there are no illustrations of the Hallam’s original ship or of the Hallam’s arrival in Williamsburg in 1752. I’m sure it’s a very nice dog, though.

Today in theatre history–June 2–is the anniversary of the arrival in North America of the Hallam Troupe from London.  Escaping the economic turmoil that was ravaging England at the time–putting severe pressure on the smaller theatre companies–the Hallams decided to give the New World a try.  So in the spring of 1752 they left Portsmouth, bound for the Caribbean.  After changing ships in Jamaica, they boarded a small coastal sloop called “The Charming Sally” and made their way up the eastern seaboard, landing in Williamsburg, VA, on this very day, June 2, 1752.  Their arrival marked the first time a genuinely professional company of players appeared in the British North American colonies.  While there were earlier cases of single performers (not to mention the Staggs who were actors indentured to Mr. Levingston of Williamsburg in 1716), the Hallams were the first actual commercial venture of professional players attempting to make a living touring in what would become the United States.  And despite some troubles along the way, including occasional wars here and there and strong anti-theatrical sentiment among a certain percentage of the population, the Hallams made a go of it and formed the basis of the first successful professional theatre company ever in the U.S.  The son, Lewis Hallam, Jr., would continue to perform and work as a leading actor and manager of the Park Theatre in New York City until his death in 1808.

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