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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Williamson, James Cassius

< The Dictionary of Australasian Biography

Williamson, James Cassius, was born in Mercer, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., on August 26th, 1845. Up to 1871 Mr. Williamson worked hard as a humble member of Wallack's Theatre, New York. In that year he accepted an engagement as principal comedian in the California Theatre, San Francisco, and in 1873 married Miss Maggie Moore, a member of the company. In 1875 began the Australian career of this talented couple, at the Theatre Royal, Melbourne, under the management of Messrs. Coppin, Harwood, Stewart & Co. While "starring" during this celebrated Australian engagement, Mr. Williamson showed his general capacity as a comedian and character actor, and his performance of Dion Boucicault's Kerry was regarded as an artistic triumph by the critics and playgoing public of Melbourne and Sydney. Mr. and Mrs. Williamson, animated by their success in Australia, took Struck Oil to London, and played it for one hundred nights at the Adelphi Theatre, and then "starred" for two years in their native America. In 1879 they returned to Australia, and in 1882 Mr. Williamson joined Mr. Arthur Garner and Mr. Musgrove in forming their powerful managerial combination. Since then Mr. Williamson has appeared in the dual capacity of actor and manager, and has made more than one business trip to England and America. He and his partners have spared no expense or trouble in introducing dramatic and operatic novelties, and in securing first-class actors and singers for their various theatres. The expenditure involved in such an undertaking would probably astound the English no less than the colonial public. The managerial "trio" has recently broken up by the retirement of Mr. Musgrove, a nephew of the late William Saurin Lyster. But they have displayed unequalled enterprise for the past eight years in the importation of so many London plays and operas—including the whole range of Gilbert and Sullivan opera—and of performers such as Miss Geneviève Ward and Mr. W. H. Vernon, Mr. Charles Warner, Mr. J. L. Toole and Company, Miss Nellie Farren, Mr. Fred Leslie, and the Gaiety Company, and others too numerous to specify; while Mr. Williamson is now promising his patrons a visit from Madame Sarah Bernhardt, and had already purchased, before its London production, Sir Arthur Sullivan's Ivanhoe. In other words, the dramatic and operatic amusements of Australia have been placed by this firm fairly on a level with those of London, Paris and New York—a fact further emphasised by the erection of the palatial Princess's Theatre in Spring Street, facing the Houses of Parliament, which is fitted with every modern contrivance of comfort and luxury, including a "movable roof" for the summer season.