Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HILL, Uriah C., musician, born in New York city about 1802; died in Paterson, New Jersey, in September, 1875. In early life he played the violin in different bands in New York. Having been engaged as leader of the Sacred music society, he brought out Handel's "Messiah" in St. Paul's chapel, 18 November, 1831. This was the first performance of an entire oratorio in New York. The "Messiah" was repeated on 31 January and 2 February, 1832. With the same society he brought out Neukomm's "David" and Mendelssohn's " St. Paul." Meanwhile, in 1836, he had been abroad studying the violin under Spohr at Cassel. In 1842 he began energetically to form an orchestral society in New York. He enlisted several musicians in the project, and with others called a meeting for 2 April, 1842, when the New York philharmonic society was formed. Hill was one of its alternate conductors during its first seven seasons. He invented a piano in which he substituted tuning-forks for wire strings, and which he claimed would never get out of tune. He exhibited it, but without success, in New York and London. Later he passed several years in Cincinnati, and afterward removed to Paterson, New Jersey Through unfortunate domestic relations and bad speculations he became financially embarrassed and despondent, and committed suicide.--His brother, George Handel, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 9 October, 1809; died in Saratoga, New York, 27 September, 1849, was educated in Taunton, Massachusetts, and at the age of sixteen found employment with a watchmaker and jeweller in New York city. He occasionally volunteered as a supernumerary in the Chatham street theatre, joined a travelling company of comedians, gave entertainments as a flute-player, comic singer, and story-teller, and subsequently as a lecturer. His earliest engagement as a stock actor was at the Arch street theatre, Philadelphia. In 1828 Hill married, and for a year or two kept a country store in Leroy, New York But being unsuccessful he joined the company in the Albany theatre, and then lectured in the middle and southern states. The small Yankee part in Samuel Woodworth's drama of "The Forest Rose" arrested his attention, and determined him to make that specialty his particular study. He appeared in this play for the first time at the Arch street theatre. The character of Jonathan was by him amplified and enlivened with comic stories to make it prominent. Hill's debut at the Park theatre, New York, raised him at once to the dignity of a star performer, and secured him engagements throughout the Union. Among his dramas were "Caspar Hauser," "The Green Mountain Boys," "A Wife for a Day," "The Yankee Pedler," and "The Knight of the Golden Fleece," all ephemeral, but skilfully measured to the artist's capability. In 1836 "Yankee " Hill, as he was called, performed at Drury Lane and the Olympic theatres, London, and in other large cities of England, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, returning home in the year following. His second visit to Europe was in 1838, when he appeared at the Adelphi theatre, London, and gave entertainments in Paris. In 1839 he returned to the United States, and soon found that his attraction was on the wane, the old plays worn out, and he had nothing new to offer. In this manner Hill was retired to second-class play-houses and less profitable engagements. He began the study of dentistry, but lacked the nerve and endurance, and abandoned the effort to make that his profession. In 1847 Hill retired to Batavia, New York, playing only occasionally in monologue entertainments. Hill's down-east stories were exceedingly droll, and were recited in a manner highly original. In the delineation of the typical, artificial stage-Yankee, who talks through his nose, drives sharp bargains, and slyly outwits his fellow-man, this actor was unequalled. His range was narrow, but the ease, quaintness, and finish of his manner disarmed criticism.
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