March 26, 2021

Plumstead's Warehouse, the Southwark Theatre, and the New Theatre - Blog Post and Bibliography for Episode 2

Plumstead's Warehouse, the Southwark Theatre, and the New Theatre - Blog Post and Bibliography for Episode 2

As promised, here is an image of the Old Theatre, or the Southwark Theatre, which stood for many years on Cedar Street (now South Street) in Philadelphia. It caught fire in 1821, and was mostly destroyed, but it was somewhat rebuilt and used and a warehouse and a brewery. It lasted, in fact, to 1913, when it was finally torn down (see photo below).

 Southwark Theatre 1913

Plumstead's Warehouse, which acted as the FIRST theater within Philadelphia proper in 1749, is thought to be depicted here, on the right of the group of three buildings, in this detail of a drawing of Philadelphia in the mid-18th Century:

 Plumstead's Warehouse


The interior of Wignell and Reinagle's New Theatre, as pictured in New York Magazine, April 1794. (Courtesy the Library Company of Philadelphia). The motto on the banner above the stage, held by a Cupid beneath an American eagle, was "The Eagle Suffers the Little Birds to Sing". A quote from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, this was a reference to a lifting of the legal restrictions by the Federal Government on the performance of plays.

Interior of the Chestnut Street Theatre April 1794

Selected Bibliography for this Episode:

Davis, Andrew, America's Longest Run: a History of the Walnut Street Theatre, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014, pp. 8–22.

Dunlap, William, History of the American Theatre, J. & J. Harper, 1832, pp. 1-277. Digitized 2009 and available via Google Books.

Durang, Charles, History of the Philadelphia Stage, Between the Years 1749 and 1855.  Volume 1: 1749 to 1818. Arranged and illustrated by Thompson Westcott, 1868. (Available online courtesy Penn Library, Colenda Digital Repository.)

Houchin, John, H., "The Struggle for Virtue: Professional Theatre in 18th Century Philadelphia," Theatre History Studies 19 (June 1999).

Johnson, Odai, London in a Box: Englishness and Theatre in Revolutionary America,  University of Iowa Press, 2017.

Mease, James, The Picture of Philadelphia: Giving an Account of its Origin, Increase and Improvements in Arts, Sciences, Commerce and Revenue, Philadelphia, 1811. Digitized 2008 and available via Google Books.

Quinn, Arthur Hobson.
A History of American Drama, from the Beginning to the Civil War, Harper & Brothers, 1923, pp. 1–135.

Philadelphia: a 300-Year History, R. Weigley ed., W.W. Norton & Company, 1982, pp. 1–207.

Pollock, Thomas Clark. The Philadelphia Theatre in the Eighteenth Century ... Together with the Day Book of the Same Period, Greenwood, 1968.

Watson, John F., Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania in the Old Times, Vol. I, 1850, pp. 471-474. Digitized by the Internet Archives in 2008.