Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HAMBLIN, Thomas Sowerby, actor, born in Pentonville, near London, England, 14 May, 1800; died in New York city, 8 January, 1853. His parents intended him for a business career, but he became a supernumerary and occasional dancer in the Adelphi theatre in London. At the age of nineteen Hamblin joined the corps of Sadlers Wells theatre, and at twenty became engaged at Drury Lane. On the termination of his London engagement he performed as a leading tragedian in Bath, Brighton, and Hublin. At this time he married Elizabeth Blanchard, and soon afterward, with his wife, came to the United States. They appeared at the New York Park theatre in "Hamlet," followed by "The Stranger, .... Macbeth," and "The Honeymoon," and afterward visited the principal cities of the Union. In 1830 Hamblin, in connection with James H. Hackett, leased the first Bowery theatre, and, after brief joint management, acquired the entire control. At that time the Bowery was the largest and handsomest structure of the kind in this country. After a prosperous career it was destroyed by fire on 16 September, 1836. Hamblin was only partly insured, and a heavy loser. He then visited London, and appeared as Hamlet, Othello, Coriolanus, Rolla and Virginius, but without success. He leased the newly erected second Bowery theatre in 1837, and conducted it on the old plan with his former success until 1845, when it was again burned. He accepted the management of the third Bowery theatre in 1847, and in 1848 leased the Park theatre, and for several months conducted it in connection with the Bowery. On 16 December of the same year this house also was destroyed by fire, making the fourth theatre burned under his management. His loss on this occasion amounted to about $17,000. Thereafter he conducted the Bowcry theatre alone until the day of his death. With him the historic career of the New York Bowery theatre began and ended. Hamblin was prompt, liberal, and popular, and noted as a helper of worthy aspirants. An important feature of his management was the frequent representation of tragedies and standard dramas. The elder Booth, Forrest, Cooper, and himself were occasionally cast for characters in the same play. Sudden attacks of asthma rendered his performances unequal, but in his best days he fell little short of the popularity of Forrest and the elder Booth. He was tall and strikingly majestic, and the public knew him familiarly as "handsome Tom Hamblin."--Hamblin's fourth wife came to the United States with her first husband, a physician named Shaw, and appeared at the New York Park theatre, 28 February, 1836, in "The Wife." In 1839 she became a member of the Bowery theatre company, and ten years later was married to the manager. As Mrs. Shaw she was one of the most beautiful actresses of her day. In forcible roles, like Lady Macbeth and Queen Katharine, she was excelled by Miss Kernble and Miss Cushman, but as Desdemona and Ophelia it was generally admitted that Mrs. Hamblin was superior to all other performers.
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