Birthdate: February 3, 1834
Death Date: October 28, 1877
Plot Location: Section 203, Lot 37
Edwin Adams was born in Medford, Massachusetts in 1834. Although he did not come from a theatrical family, he chose to pursue the dramatic profession at an early age. He first appeared on stage at the National Theatre in Boston and in September of 1854, at age 21, he made his first appearance in Philadelphia at the Chestnut Street Theatre. In 1858 he began performing at the Richmond Theatre in the Virginia capital. There he became a well known leading man and a favorite of theatre goers. During this time he also met his wife, Mary, who was a member of the Richmond theatre troupe.
Edwin achieved his first success in New York in 1863 with a performance at Niblo’s Garden Theatre. The venue provided both indoor and outdoor entertainment and amusement for wealthy New Yorkers. It was here that Edwin launched a long, storied New York career, drawing full houses wherever he performed.
The name John Wilkes Booth is immediately recognized as the assassin of President Lincoln, but his occupation was an actor, just like his father and his more famous brother, Edwin Booth. Edwin is considered by many as the greatest American actor of the 19th century. When he opened his self-named theater on 23rd St. and 6th Ave. in New York in 1869 he engaged Edwin Adams as a “stock star,” performing in many productions there and at other theaters in New York until 1875.
Another member of Booth’s acting company was John McCullough, the more celebrated of the pair, but the two became close friends. In fact, after Edwin died it was John who provided this inscription on his stone, a line from Shakespeare: His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, “This was a man.” It was the same verse later found on John’s monument, also located here at Mount Moriah. Read about John’s Notable life here.
In July 1876 Edwin and Mary traveled to Australia where he was billed as one of the first attractions at the newly opened Academy of Music in Melbourne. After a few performances, his health failed, leading some newspapers to prematurely report his death, as this clipping from January 1877 reveals.
However, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and returned home October 4 from San Francisco. Over the next two weeks his fellow actors gave benefit performances on his behalf in New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
The remaining weeks of his life were spent at the home of Mary’s uncle, Daniel Gardner, who was a well known circus and minstrel performer. Edwin bid farewell to his devoted wife on the morning of October 28, 1877 and died just a few hours later. His funeral was held at the Episcopal Church of St. James. Burial was in a lot owned by the Actor’s Order of Friendship of which he was a member. They released a resolution that expressed their admiration, a feeling his fans demonstrated at his burial here in Section 203.
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