Joseph Jefferson in his most famous role Rip Van Winkle. This is how the world will always remember him.
This book was put out by his family shortly after his death...It is a remarkable book full of pictures of a great career
He was one of the first stars of stage to make records. He made few for Berliner in the 1890's and then in 1903 made a few for the Columbia Phonograph Company. Today his recordings are exceedingly rare. This Columbia recording is from a scene from Rip Van Winkle. I found this record in 1981. It was in a collection of new dealer stock records. It looks like it is new, even though it was made 100 years ago.
Jefferson was also quite an artist, his pictures were always well received and still collected today.
These are pictures of Jefferson playing his most famous role in England in 1865...
He also played in Our American Cousin, but was not in it the night Lincoln saw the play and was assassinated
He was one of the greats of the 19th century. He was up there with the Booths. He played all over the world from his first moments on stage in 1837 till his last performance in Paterson, New Jersey in 1904. He was one of the co founders of the famous Players Club in New York. The first president of the Players Club was Edwin Booth, and the second President was Jefferson. I was at the Players Club a few years ago and when inside I saw a massive portrait of Jefferson and I gushed on about his and my hosts were so happy I knew of him.
He was great friends with the high and mighty and the common folks as well. He would often go hunting with President Grover Cleveland, and would be a great adviser to Admiral Dewey.
He performed all over the world, and was loved by many in the world. Today his name is really not known save for a few in the theater world. Tony Randall told me when I met and recorded him that he named one of his children after him. I thought that was a wonderful tribute to Jefferson. Randall also said that he had a complete collection of his (Jefferson's) recordings.
Jefferson was most famous for his role of Rip Van Winkle. He played that role for over 50 years and it was his signature. He even played that role for his last performance in 1904, in Paterson, New Jersey.
Jefferson's career went back to 1837, when he first appeared on stage. He would be on stage for 67 years after that playing all over the world. For Kings, Queens, Presidents, and other great persons of that age.
He was one the first great stage persons who allowed their voice to be recorded for commercial recordings. I find it most fascinating to listen to his records now and think that it belongs to someone who's voice has been still for over 100 years.
He was great friends with President Grover Cleveland. They would often write to each other and keep each other informed of the others activities..One on the theaters stage and the other on the world's stage.
He was quite an artist, and several of his painting were on display at the 1893 Columbian exhibition in Chicago.
When time ran out on his great and productive life, it was a life well spent and well enjoyed. His children followed in his footsteps but none seems to have the luster that was his.
Today fully more than a century after his death he remains with us in early photographs, films, and those remarkable recordings. He was one of the greats and you should all learn more about this remarkable artist.
I bet it was great time had at the Players Club when Jefferson and Booth were there and enjoying the company of each others genius. It was a different age. An interesting age long before the mass entertainments became the rage.
Yet he is one of the rare ones who's career spanned from an age where there were people who remembered George Washington, to the 20th century and making records of his voice...Quite a career.