New York Obituaries - 1864 - James William Wallack

Mr. James William Wallack, the proprietor of the well-known theatre that bears his name, died at his residence in this city on Sunday last, the 25th of December. He had nearly rounded the allotted period of three score years and ten, having been born in London, England in 1795. For several years Mr. Wallack had suffered from inflammatory rheumatism. It was not without apprehension that many of these attacks were witnessed by his relatives and friends. His demise, indeed, has often been anticipated, but a constitution of great strength and a vitality of remarkable alertness, enabled him to bear ills under which others would have fallen. Death is always a surprise, and it seems strange now that the well-dressed, gallant, genial and courtly gentleman whom we have known so well is gone. We do not exaggerate a common sentiment of regret when we say that no event of recent occurrence has occasioned a more profound expression of sorrow.

Mr. Wallack's professional career has been marked by every phase of success. Commenced at a very early age, it led him to association with Kean, Booth, Elliston and other eminent men. Rising with opportunities that youth, study and ambition presented to him, he speedily became a favorite with the British public. He made his first appearance in America at the Park Theatre, Sep 1818. and was at once successful. For many years subsequently he divided his time between the two countries. It would be difficult to say in which he was most esteemed, but his own preference seemed to be for the United States. In 1836 he opened the National Theatre in this city, and remained the manager of it until the establishment was destroyed byfire three years later. A long interval was thereafter passed in fulfilling profitable "star" engagements here and in England. In the year 1851 Mr. Wallack finally determined to make New York his headquarters. At that time there was but a single theatre at his disposition - the "Lyceum." Although this establishment was in bad odor with the public, it quickly assumed a leading position under Mr. Wallack's able management. The stock company which the "Veteran" assembled around him was of unsurpassed excellence; the scenery and costumes were for the first time, carefully attended to, and the success of the enterprise, owing to these circumstances, was emphatic and immediate. From Broome street Mr. Wallack migrated (1861) up-town. The reputation of the present establishment extends through the entire country, but it is only right to add that it belongs, in large measure, to Mr. John Lester Wallack, whose long experience, under his father's tuition, has rendered him a worthy successor to that gentleman's deserved fame as a manager.

Mr. Wallack's merits as an actor have been indorsed by so many publics and so many pens, that it is unnecessary further to refer to them. It is proper, however, to add that he was the first of the new school rather than the last of the old. In such plays as the "Rent Day" and "Don Caesar de Bazan" he was without an equal, while in the "Merchant of Venice" and "As You Like It." he was remarkable, not for the conventionalities of his style, but for the innovations which he introduced in the parts he played in those pieces.

Source: NY Times, Tuesday, Dec 27, 1864