The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Astor Place Riot

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ASTOR PLACE RIOT, in American history: a riot on the evening of 10 May 1849, in Astor Place, New York. It was an attempt to drive the English actor, William Charles Macready (q.v.) from the stage, and grew out of a London tour of Edwin Forrest (q.v.), in which he played Virginius and Richelieu with great success till Macready bought the acting rights for himself, though he had personally treated Forrest with kindness. Forrest then essayed Macbeth, but it was unsuited to his style and presence, and he was hissed. He attributed this to Macready's machinations, and when Macready four years later announced ‘Macbeth’ in the Astor Place Opera House, a crowd of Forrest's partisans gathered early in the evening before the theatre, and waiting till the performance had begun, attempted to force a way inside and put a stop to it. The police were powerless and sent for the military; the Seventh Regiment (New York militia) came up, and was assailed by the mob with showers of brickbats and stones. Before the fray was ended, 34 rioters were killed, a great number wounded and 141 of the regiment injured by the missiles. The mob was successful in its purpose, however. Macready had to cancel his engagement, conceal himself in a private house for a couple of days, and then travel secretly to Boston, whence he sailed for England. Consult Barrett, ‘Edwin Forrest ’ (1882).