The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.

II. The Early Drama, 1756–1860

§ 9. Beginning of the Creative Period

There are several reasons why the year 1825 forms a convenient point of departure in the development of the drama. Up to about 1822, largely through the excellence of the company at the Chestnut Street Theatre where Jefferson, Warren, and wood formed a ttriumvirate in comedy, Philadelphia had been the theatrical metropolis. Then the growing importance of the port of New York brought an increasing number of foreign actors to that city and made it important for an actor to begin his career there. The year 1825–6, according to Ireland, was remarkable in the history of the New York stage, since it witnessed the first attempt to establish Italian opera with a fully organized company, the beginning of Hackett’s career as a comedian, and the combination of Placide, Hilson, Barnes, and Miss Kelly in comedy at the Park Theatre. Most important, this year marked the real beginning of Edwin Forrest’s career, both in Philadelphia and in New York.

The very prominence of New York and its proximity to Europe, however much they added to its theatrical prestige, hindered the development of the drama. The succession of English actors who were brought over as “stars” resulted in little encouragement to native writers, while in Philadelphia, under the encouragement of Edwin Forrest and others, a group of dramatists arose whose work became widely known both at home and abroad. For the year 1829–30 Durang lists nine plays by American writers, among them Pocahontas by George Washington Custis and John Kerr’s first draft of Rip Van Winkle.