Augustin Daly 1838-1899

Born Plymouth, North Carolina


Having produced his first play when he was only seventeen, Daly spent his entire adult life in the world of the theater. While others preceded him in establishing New York as a venue for reputable drama, Daly was influential not only in elevating standards for theatrical production, but also in reshaping important elements associated with it. His innovative work as a director – in rethinking methods of acting and in reimagining stage scenery and lighting – helped make American theater modern. Daly’s commitment to more naturalistic performances amidst realistic settings represented a sea change in American drama. While Daly recruited theatrical stars to appear from time to time, he relied most often on his own stock company. Figures like John Drew and Ada Rehan became household names under his direction. Ben-Yusuf admired Daly, describing him in a later essay as “one of the most interesting men I have known.”

Platinum print, 1898
Portrait Photograph Series, Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library