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About American Drama 1714–1915

Containing more than 1,500 dramatic works from the colonial period to the beginning of the twentieth century, American Drama 1714–1915 is the largest electronic collection of American dramatic writing of its kind. It provides literary researchers and historians with a comprehensive survey of American dramaturgy from its origins up to the era of sensational melodrama and manners comedy exemplified by the work of such playwrights as David Belasco, Clyde Fitch and William Vaughn Moody.

Early landmark texts represented in the collection include Robert Hunter's satire Androboros (1714), the earliest printed American play, and Thomas Godfrey's tragedy The Prince of Parthia (1765), the first American play professionally performed on an American stage. Highlights from the nineteenth century include George Aiken's stage adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin, one of the most popular dramatic works of its period both in America and Europe, The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom (1857) by William Wells Brown, and The Octoroon (1859), widely recognised as Dion Boucicault's most important American-themed play.

American Drama 1714–1915 provides exhaustive coverage of the printed record of African American drama to 1915, allowing users to cross-search plays by Ira Aldridge, William Wells Brown, F. B. Coffin, Will Marion Cook, Paul Laurence Dunbar, W. E. B. Du Bois, Pauline E. Hopkins, Jesse Shipp and Katherine Davis Chapman Tillman with the complete canon of American drama.

Frequently-studied plays by major dramatists are placed in the context provided by the dramatic writings of lesser-known contemporaries and canonical authors not primarily remembered for their dramatic works, such as Louisa May Alcott and Emma Lazarus.

Offering coverage of American dramatic writing in all its diversity, American Drama 1714–1915 includes:

  • Sensational melodramas, including The Stranglers of Paris (1881) by David Belasco and Under the Gaslight (1867) by Augustin Daly
  • Farces, including the 1913 Broadway hit Seven Keys to Baldpate by George M. Cohan, What Happened to Jones (1897) and Why Smith Left Home (1899) by George H. Broadhurst, The Garroters (1885) by William Dean Howells and A Texas Steer (1890) by Charles H. Hoyt
  • Naturalist and realist drama, for example Margaret Fleming (1890) by James A. Herne and The Easiest Way (1909) by Eugene Walter
  • Social and domestic satires and comedies, notably The Climbers (1901) by Clyde Fitch, The Henrietta (1887) by Bronson Howard, The New York Idea (1906) by Langdon Mitchell and early works by Rachel Crothers
  • Frontier plays such as David Belasco's The Girl of the Golden West (1905), My Partner (1879) by Bartley Campbell, Augustin Daly's Horizon (1871), and Davy Crockett (1872) by Frank Murdoch
  • Civil War drama, including two versions of The Color Guard by A. R. Calhoun, Secret Service (1895) by William Gillette, Shenandoah (1897) by Bronson Howard and Alabama (1890) by Augustus Thomas
  • Early Little Theatre Movement plays such as Suppressed Desires (1915) by Susan Glaspell and Overtones (1915) by Alice Gerstenberg
  • Verse drama, notably The Gladiator (1831), Oralloosa (1831) and The Broker of Bogota (1834) by Robert Montgomery Bird, The Masque of Judgment and The Fire-Bringer by William Vaughn Moody, Brutus; or, The Fall of Tarquin (1819) by John Howard Payne, Fortune and Men's Eyes (1900) by Josephine Preston Peabody and Joseph and His Brethren, The Judgement of Solomon, and The Origin of the Feast of Purim by Royall Tyler
  • Eighteenth-century dialogues and rhetorical exercises on moral or political themes, such as An Exercise, Containing a Dialogue and Ode on the Accession of His Present Gracious Majesty, George III (1762) by Jacob Duché and A Dialogue Between the Ghost of General Montgomery Just Arrived from the Elysian Fields and an American Delegate, in a Wood Near Philadelphia (1776) by Thomas Paine
  • Temperance plays and dialogues such as Drifting Apart (1888) by James A. Herne and Thomas Ritchie's Moderation; Or I Can Take It or Leave It Alone (1869)
  • Minstrel shows, including, for example, works by Frank Dumont and "Jes Lak White Fo'ks" (1900) by Will Marion Cook and Paul Lawrence Dunbar
  • Adaptations of Shakespeare and other European dramatists by such authors as Augustin Daly and William Dunlap

Numerous other genres are represented in the collection.

Concise information on the literary and theatrical context of the plays in American Drama 1714–1915 is provided by newly-commissioned author biographies. Plays are also cross-searchable according to a range of criteria, including genre, date and place of first performance and the nationality and ethnicity of the author.

Editorial Policy

Three editorial advisors have assisted in the compilation of the title list: Don B. Wilmeth, former Chair of the Department of Theatre, Speech and Dance at Brown University, Gary Richardson, Professor of English at Mercer University, and Ronald Wainscott, Professor of History, Theory and Literature and Interim Chair at Indiana University.

American Drama 1714–1915 draws upon a range of bibliographic sources:

  • Frank Pierce Hill, American Plays Printed, 1714–1830 (Stanford University Press, 1900)
  • The Bibliography of American Literature (9 vols, Yale University Press, 1955–1991)
  • Don B. Wilmeth with Tice L. Miller, Cambridge Guide to American Theatre, rev. edn (Cambridge University Press, 1996)
  • The Cambridge History of American Theatre, ed. Don B. Wilmeth and Christopher Bigsby (3 vols, Cambridge University Press, 1998–2000)
  • Don L. Hixon and Don A. Hennessee, Nineteenth-Century American Drama: A Finding Guide (Scarecrow Press, 1977)
  • Arthur Hobson Quinn, A History of the American Drama From the Beginning to the Civil War (Harper & Brothers, 1927)
  • Amelia H. Kritzer, Plays by Early American Women, 1775–1850 (University of Michigan Press, 1995)
  • Gwenn Davis, Drama by Women to 1900: A Bibliography of American and British Writers (Mansell, 1992)
  • Esther Spring Arata, Black American Playwrights: 1800 to the present: A Bibliography (Scarecrow Press, 1976)

Published and printed works listed in these sources have been included in the database.

Each text is reproduced in full, including any accompanying text by the author, plus relevant supplementary matter such as dramatis personae and any illustrations that are integral to the text. Other front and back matter may have been omitted. In all cases, the edition used is stated in full in the Bibliographic Details display, along with details of what has been included or omitted from the printed volume.


American Drama 1714–1915 incorporates material reproduced from the following collections: Birmingham Central Library, The British Library, The John Hay Library, Brown University, The New York Public Library, Northwestern University Library, The University of Chicago Library, The University of Iowa Libraries and The University of Michigan. Many of the plays included in American Drama 1714–1915 survive in only a handful of printed copies. ProQuest is pleased to acknowledge the assistance of representatives from these libraries, without which the collection could not have been assembled.

Every effort has been made to obtain permission from the copyright holders of works included in American Drama 1714–1915. ProQuest would be grateful for further information concerning any author for whom we have been unable to trace a copyright holder.