Jefferson, Joseph, III


Jefferson, Joseph, III
(1829-1905)
   Born in Philadelphia, the son of scene painter and actor Joseph Jefferson II (and grandson of Joseph Jefferson I, a popular Philadelphia actor in the early 18th century), made his first stage appearance as a toddler with T. D. Rice. He toured the United States and Europe with his family before joining Laura Keene's troupe in the 1850s, where he scored personal successes in productions of The Heir-at-Law and Our American Cousin. He acted at the Winter Garden Theatre and toured Australia for four years. In the 1850s, he appeared as Caleb Plummer in Dion Bouci-cault's Dot and won approval as the comic bumpkin Salem Scudder in Boucicault's melodrama, The Octoroon; or, Life in Louisiana.
   In 1859, Jefferson's production of a stage adaptation of Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle failed in the United States, but he had a triumph in a Boucicault adaptation of it in London in 1865. The role of the laconic Dutchman of old New York who falls asleep for 20 years made Jefferson a major star and he played the role frequently (some said incessantly) over the next 40 years. Jefferson's career was dominated by this role, but he also had a significant success playing Bob Acres to Mrs. John Drew's Mrs. Malaprop in his own 1880 version of The Rivals. In 1890, Jefferson published his autobiography, a vivid account of 19th century theatrical life. He succeeded Edwin Booth as president of The Players in 1893. Among his children, four went into theatrical work and one son, Charles Burke Jefferson (1851-1908), was as his stage manager. Despite his identification with Rip Van Winkle, Jefferson reprised Caleb Plummer in Dot for his final stage appearance in 1904.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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