Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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DRAKE, Samuel, actor, born in England, 15 November 1768; died in Oldham County, Kentucky, 16 October 1854. He may properly be called the pioneer of the drama in the west. It is said that his name was Bryant, but he assumed that of Drake on the stage. In early life he was apprenticed to a printer, but ran away before his term had expired and became an actor. Previous to his coming to the United States he was manager of a country theatre in the west of England. Mr. Drake and his family landed in the United States in 1809 and appeared at the Boston theatre the same year, remaining there until 1813, when they joined the company of John Bernhard at Albany, New York, where Mr. Drake was stage manager. Mrs. Drake died in Albany in 1814, and in the spring of 1815 Mr. Drake and his family went to Kentucky, he having made arrangements for the occupancy of the Frankfort, Lexington, and Louisville theatres. On their way they gave performances in several towns of northwestern New York.
With this company two persons, who afterward became noted in the history of the American drama (Miss Denney and N. M. Ludlow), made their first appearance on the stage. In their journey to Olean, on Allegheny River, the path laid through a wilderness, the men walking most of the way, and the women riding in the wagon that carried their scenery. Arrived at Olean (which then consisted of a few log cabins), Mr. Drake purchased a flatboat, and in this they floated down the Allegheny to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Drake and his company gave the first regular theatrical performance ever given in that town. After their Pittsburgh season they landed at Maysville (then called Limestone), and made the rest of their journey by land to Frankfort, where they opened the theatre that had been built four years before by Noble Luke Usher. Mr. Drake was quite successful during the first ten or twelve years of his Kentucky career, and afterward managed theatres in Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, and Indiana.
His daughter-in-law, Frances Ann Drake, actress, born in Schenectady, New York, 6 November 1797: died in Oldham County, Kentucky, 1 September 1875. Her maiden name was Denney. She made her first appearance on the stage in the spring of 1815 at Cherry Valley, New York, with her future father-in-law's company in the character of Julia in "The Midnight Hour." The first character in tragedy that she acted was hnma in "Adelgitha." At Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she played many important parts, and in Kentucky she became a great favorite. In 1819 she tried her fortune in the northern and eastern theatres, going first to Canada and performing at Montreal and Quebec, then to Boscon, and thence to New York City, where she made her first appearance, 17 April 1820, at the Park theatre in the character of Helen Worret in the comedy of "Man and Wife," in which she gave great satisfaction. She then became a regular member of the Park Company, and, after the burning of that theatre, was with the same company, performing at the Anthony Street theatre, New York, during the season of 1820'1. In 1823 she married Alexander Drake, and in 1824 appeared at the Chatham theatre, New York, as Imogene in "Bertram." Shortly after this she returned to the west with her husband to his father's theatres, occasionally visiting the east during the vacations of her western engagements. Her last appearance in New York was in 1835 at the Park theatre, 22 April as Bianca in " Fazio." Mrs. Drake, after the death of her husband, married George W. Cutter (q. v.); but the match proved unhappy, they separated upon mutual agreement, and she returned to the stage, resuming the name of Drake, and managed theatres in Kentucky and Ohio.
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