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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OWENS, John Edward, actor, born in Liverpool, England, 4 May, 1824 ; died near Towson, Baltimore County, Maryland, 6 December, 1886. His father, a shoemaker, emigrated to the United States in 1834, and settled in Philadelphia. After attending private school in that city for a few years, the son became a clerk in a wholesale drug-store, and while holding that post made his first appearance on the stage at the old National theatre, Philadelphia, under the management of William E. Burton. From small parts and no pay he rose rapidly to a recognized position and regular salary, he remained in Button's company until 1843, when he quarrelled with his patron and went to Baltimore, where he acted at the Holliday street theatre. The next year he accepted an engagement at Peale's museum in Baltimore, where he remained until 1847, when, meeting Burton, he became reconciled to him. Frank S. Chanfrau was then playing Nose in " A Glance at New York," which was a great success. Burton had the play adapted to suit Philadelphia, and Owens acted the part of Jakey, corresponding to Chanfrau's Mose. The piece had a long run, during which Burton made his first and Owens laid the foundation of his future fortune from his salary of $300 a week. The same play was acted in Baltimore, Owens being the chief attraction as Jakey. In 1849 he became one of the proprietors of the Baltimore museum. In 1853 he sold this interest and opened the Charles street theatre with "Uncle Tom's Cabin," playing the title role. In 1858 he became maria-ger of the Varieties, in New Orleans, and continued there until the civil war, when he returned to Baltimore. As Solon Shingle, which was first played by him in 1864, he achieved his greatest success. It was played in almost every city in the United States and in many English cities. Other favorite parts were Dr. Oilapod, Caleb Plummer, Aminadab Sleek, and Dr. Pangloss. He was also a very clever burlesque artist. " The Live Indian " was written for him, and proved a great success. In 1880 he went to California to play, and, engaging in mining speculations, lost most of his fortune. In 1882 he accepted an engagement of 0300 a week with the Madison square company, and played in "Esmeralda" in many of the larger American cities. At the time of his death he was the owner of the Academy of music, Charleston, South Carolina During the last three or four years of his life his declining health prevented him from appearing on the stage.
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