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Dion Boucicault (1822-1890)


Dion Boucicault, the son of a French father and an Irish mother, had already earned a considerable reputation in England as a playwright when he came to the United States in 1853. He was an immediate hit on the American stage, writing and starring in a series of extremely successful melodramas that were usually adapted from other works. Among Boucicault’s most popular plays were The Poor of New York (1857), The Octoroon (1859), The Colleen Bawn (1860), and The Shaughraun (1874), as well as the adaptation of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle (1865) that made Joseph Jefferson a star. The most celebrated and successful playwright of his era, Boucicault once wryly observed, “I can spin out these rough-and-tumble dramas as a hen lays eggs.” In addition to his achievements as a dramatist, Boucicault played a major role in ensuring passage in 1856 of the first American copyright law to protect dramatic works.


Mathew Brady Studio (active 18441883)
Albumen silver print
Frederick Hill Meserve Collection
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

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