Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Hallam, William

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HALLAM, William, theatre-manager, b. in England about 1712; d. there about 1758. He was a brother of Admiral Hallam, of the British navy, and became manager of the Goodman's Fields theatre, London. In his competition with Garrick, who managed Drury Lane theatre, he became bankrupt in 1750, and in the same year organized a dramatic company that was sent, under the direction of his brother Lewis, to the North American colonies and the British West Indies. Before the actors sailed they studied twenty-four plays, besides farces and medleys, which in suitable weather were rehearsed on ship-board. They also took with them costumes and scenery. In June, 1754, William Hallam sailed for the North American colonies, landing in Philadelphia. He remained with the comedians about one year, but did not perform. Disposing of his half-interest to his brother Lewis, he returned to England in 1755, where he soon afterward died. — His brother, Lewis, theatre-manager, b. in England about 1714; d. in Jamaica, W. I., in 1756, had been an actor under William's management. On the failure of the London establishment, he took charge of the American enterprise, and, on joint account with William, conducted the actors across the ocean. They arrived at Yorktown, Va., and began their performances in Williamsburg, then the capital of the colony. Here they hired a large wooden structure, which was roughly altered to suit their purposes. It was so near the forest that the players were able to shoot wild-fowl from the windows of the building. Their opening performance was “The Merchant of Venice.” The orchestra was supplied by a single player on the harpsichord. From Williamsburg the troupe travelled to Annapolis and Philadelphia. In 1754 they performed in New York city, under the sole management of Lewis Hallam, and in 1756 went to the British West Indies, where Hallam died. — His wife, b. in London; d. in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1773, was an actress at the Goodman's Fields theatre, and in 1752 came to this country with her husband. After the death of Hallam she married his successor in the management, David Douglas, and retired from the stage in 1769. — Their son, Lewis, b. in England in 1738; d. in Philadelphia, Pa., 1 Nov., 1808, was educated at the grammar-school in Cambridge, to follow a profession, under the patronage of his uncle, the admiral. At the age of fourteen he came with his parents to this country, and made his first appearance on any stage at the theatre in Williamsburg, in a subordinate part. After the death of his father he followed the fortunes of his step-father, Douglas, the new manager. They faced the yellow fever, the Revolution, and the intolerance of New England. In Newport, R. I., the company was permitted only to recite so-called “Moral Dialogues.” One of these was Shakespeare's “Othello.” The play-bills read: “Mr. Douglas will represent Othello, a noble and magnanimous Moor, who loves a young lady named Desdemona, and after he has married her, harbors (as in too many cases) the dreadful passion of jealousy.” “Mr. Hallam will delineate Cassio, a young and thoughtful officer, who is traduced by Mr. Allen (Iago), and, getting drunk, loses his situation and his friends.” As an actor Hallam never rose to eminence; but in the negro character of Mungo, in the play of the “Padlock,” he was seen to advantage. It is laid to his charge that he too frequently indulged in the habit of interpolating profanity to emphasise his language. After the retirement of Douglas, Hallam united with John Henry in the management of the “American company,” and continued playing, with varying success. During their management it was the custom to set aside benefit-nights for popular actors. On such occasions the public was invited to purchase tickets of admission at the lodgings of the beneficiaries. This was deemed a gala occasion by young gallants for personal interviews with popular actresses. Favored patrons were also allowed to visit the performers behind the scenes during the action of the play. At about the same time the “citizens” were requested “to send their servants to the theatre on the opening of the doors, at 4 o'clock, to keep the places they had secured for the evening's performance.” In 1797 Hallam sold out his half-interest in the management to William Dunlap. Mr. and Mrs. Hallam then became salaried actors. Hallam made his final appearance in New York city on 6 June, 1806. He married his first wife in the West Indies. She lived but a short time. After her death Hallam married Miss Tuke in 1791. In her best days the second Mrs. Hallam was a comely woman and a good comedy actress.