Title: Actor, Stage Director
Birthdate: 1798
Death Date: February 12, 1878
Plot Location: Section 205

Screenshot (2017)

William’s given name was William Frederick Sheridan and was commonly known as Fred. He was the youngest of 21 children, born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland to an Episcopal clergyman and his wife.

At a very early age, Fred developed a strong taste for the stage, an inclination which his father tried hard to suppress. He had plans for this last child to become a minister and sent him to college for that purpose. Fred had other ideas. After two years he dropped out to appear in a play in Dublin.

As one obituary explained it, transposing his middle and last name “was caused by the offense given his father when he took the stage as his profession, which act also resulted in a cutting off of his supplies and a severance from his family and relations.” In the history of show business, of course, this wouldn’t have been the first time an actor changed his name.

As his skills were refined through experience, he made his way to London by 1835. There he attracted some attention, and a door was opened to join another performer in New York, where he appeared in the play “Virginius” at the Park Theatre. He appeared in Philadelphia October 14th 1840 in “The Honeymoon” at the Walnut Street Theatre, and most of his subsequent performances were in Philly. 

As actors often do, Fred transitioned to becoming a director, known then as “stage manager.” He filled that role at the Arch Street Theatre during the Civil War, then from 1865-69 back at the Walnut, followed by five years in New York. He was persuaded to direct at the Chestnut Street Theatre for two years before retiring for good to enjoy the Centennial celebrations of 1876.

Having never married, the treasurer of the Walnut Street Theatre opened his home to him as he declined in health. His death came suddenly from a stroke, and the Actors Order of Friendship handled his funeral and burial in their plot here at Mount Moriah. He was remembered by his colleagues for his giving encouragement and advice to young performers.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

Support the Friends of Mount Moriah

Help us in our mission to restore and maintain the beautiful Mount Moriah Cemetery by donating to our cause or volunteering at one of our clean-up events.