David Douglass





David Douglass,, actor, born in England about 1720; died in Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies. 
 

Mr. Douglass was a gentleman by birth and fortune, who had emigrated to Jamaica about 1750. Hither Lewis Hallam had transported his company after he found that the colonies could not yield a sufficient harvest in return for his labor, and here he formed a partnership with Mr. Douglass, who, after the death of Lewis Hallam, married his widow, and with her and the rest of the company visited the continent in 1758, where he established theatres successively in New York, Philadelphia, Newport, Perth Amboy, and Charleston, South Carolina, and between these localities he continued to travel, acting and superintending his company till congress closed the theatres by an act passed 24 October 1774. After this he returned to Jamaica, and was appointed a judge. 

 

In early life he had been a printer, and on his return he became a partner in a thriving printing establishment, and received a valuable contract from the government. He accumulated a fortune of £25,000.

 

His wife, an actress, born in England ; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1773. 

 

In her own country Mrs. Douglass had been an eminent actress at Goodman's Field's Theatre, London, as Mrs. Hallam, and was the leading actress of that threatre at the time of Garrick's first success. She came to America with her first husband, Lewis Hallam, in 1752, and made her first American appearance at Williamsburg. Virginia, 5 September 1752, as Portia in the "Merchant of Venice." She first appeared in New York at the theatre in Nassau Street, 17 September 1753, as Lucinda in "The Conscious Lovers." She had fine talents, and her favorite parts were the pathetic. 

 

Mr. Dunlap says: "In his youth he had heard the old ladies of Perth Amboy speak almost in raptures of her beauty and grace, and especially of her pathos in her representation of Jane Shore." She retired from the stage in 1769.

 

Appletons Encyclopedia

 

From Wikipedia -

 

David Douglass (1720-1786), was a British-American stage actor and theatre manager. He was the managing director of the Old American Company between 1758 and 1779.

 

 David Douglass was a member of the British Theatre Company of John Moody, which became the first permanent theater company in Jamaica when they came to Kingston in 1746; they were given their first permanent playhouse in 'New Theatre' or King's Store on Harbour Street seven years later. Douglass became the manager of the company in 1749.

 

He married Sarah Hallam Douglass, the director of the Old American Company, and took over as manager with his stepson Lewis Hallam Jr. as co-manager. He accompanied the Company when they returned to the Thirteen Colonies from Jamaica. Douglass had his limitations: Alexander Graydon described him as "rather a decent than shining actor".

 

However, he was a capable manager and he gave North America its first Falstaff and King John. In 1774, the Old American Company returned to Jamaica. When they returned to Jamaica, the old building, having been in disuse for many years, was no longer regarded sufficient. The Old American Company under Douglass successfully asked the colonial government for a new theater building, and the Kingston Theatre was inaugurated on the Parade area in 1775. They had great success in Jamaica.

 

David Douglass served in the office of 'Master of the Revels', responsible of the representational festivities of the Governor, in 1779–80.  David Douglass remained in Jamaica when the Company returned to the United States in 1785.

 

Supplementary information:

 

Douglass probably had a working set of drawings of English-style houses which he consulted. He personally oversaw the construction of nine theatres. Douglass had built two temporary theatres in New York - on Cruger's Wharf and on Beekman Street - but his third New York theatre, the John Street Theatre, was the city's first permanent playhouse. The John Street Theatre was modelled after Douglass's own Southwark Theatre (1) in Philadelphia (the first permanent theatre in the United States), which was itself modelled on the theatres of London.

 

Douglass founded the Jamaica Mercury and the Kingston Advertiser. These papers evolved into the Royal Gazette. In 1779 Douglas was made the Master of Revels, which made him a sort of Minister for Culture on the island.

 

David had been appointed a Judge.

 

Aikman and Douglass were made Jamaica's official government printers.

 

Douglass married Miss May Peters in April 1778, and together they had two children. At his death on August 9, 1789, of a "Complaint of ye Bowels." Mary Peters, apparently quite young, young enough to be the Mary Douglass playing Juliet in Jamaica in 1775.

 

David Douglass had earned the distinction of being "a Gentleman." His fortune was estimated at 25,000 pds.

 

 He is buried in Jamaica.  Mentioned in his will were a David and Mary Douglass who would appear to be by this second marriage.

 

 

Also from Wikipedia:-

Sarah Hallam Douglass (d. Philadelphia, 1773) was an English-born American stage actress and theatre director. She was known as Mrs Lewis Hallam and Sarah Hallam.

 

The details of her birth including her last name are unknown. She was an actor married to Lewis Hallam, with whom she travelled to America to perform in his company in May 1752 on board the Charming Sally. They left a daughter behind and she became the leading British actress Isabella Mattocks. They arrived in Yorkton on 2 June and by 16 June they were advertising in Williamsburg. This was the first permanent theater company in North America.

 

Sarah Hallam Douglass, along with the other female members of the troupe, was thus among the first professional leading lady in North America. She performed principal female roles until she gradually left them to Margaret Cheer and Nancy Hallam in the mid 1760s. Her spouse died in Jamaica, where the company had gone to perform.[1] After the death of Lewis Hallam she married David Douglass, with whom she formed the American Company in 1758.

 

Her son by Lewis, Lewis Hallam, Jr. became an actor in his mother and step father's company.

 

There is speculation that she had a son, James, by David Douglas who became a theatre troupe leader in America and Canada.

 

Sarah Hallam Douglass's death had been reported on several occasions, in 1773, 1774, 1775. Seilhamer, , History of the American Theatre, 1:339Google Scholar, accepted the report of John North, custodian of the Southwark Theatre, that she died in Philadelphia in 1774 and was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery. No records at the Presbyterian Historical Society confirm this. The notice in the Jamaica Gazette, 1 July 1775, announced the production of Romeo and Juliet with Mrs. Douglass as Lady Capulet. Isaac Reed, Notitia Dramatica, 283r, reported that she died in Jamaica in April 1777. “In April this year died Mrs. Douglass formerly Mrs. Hallam mother to Mrs. Mattocks at Spanish Town Jamaica.…” The Jamaica newspapers reported the death of a Mrs. Douglass in March 1777, but this person was the wife of James S. Douglass, not David. David Douglass remarried in 1778.

 

Sources:

•  Graydon, Alexander (1846). Littell, John Stockton (ed.). Memoirs of His Own Time. With Reminiscences of the Men and Events of the Revolution.
•  Errol Hill, The Jamaican Stage, 1655–1900: Profile of a Colonial Theatre

 

 

Notes:
1.  The name' perhaps, gives a clue to David Douglass's origins.

 

See also:
The Douglas family of the Standard Theatre

 

This page was last updated on 11 October 2023

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