Monday, April 6, 2015

James Nelson Barker, Artillerist And Playwright


The Indian Princess... was written by author James Nelson Barker (1784-1858).  At the outbreak of the War of 1812, he received a commission, fighting mostly on the Canadian frontier, and winning distinction as a Captain of Artillery.

An excerpt from the play:



Powhatan River; wild and picturesque. Ships appear. Barges approach the shore, from which land SMITH, ROLFE, PERCY, WALTER, LARRY, ROBIN, ALICE, &c.

 Jolly comrades, raise the glee,
 Chorus it right cheerily; For the tempest's roar is heard no more,
And gaily we tread the wish'd-for shore:
 Then raise the glee merrily, Chorus it cheerily,
For past are the perils of the blust'ring sea.

From the Theatre History website (link deliberately not included; may have a problem - link added to text was not from the Theatre History site):

James Nelson Barker...was mayor of Philadelphia in 1820. All his plays are on native themes. .... "The Indian Princess," the first of many plays having the Indian maiden Pocahontas for heroine, was produced at the Chestnut Street Theatre April 6, 1808.

Among the manuscripts in the Arthur C. Bining Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

There are also folders of papers from individuals that are not associated with the Customs House, such as army officer James Barker, painter Abbott H. Thayer, and inventor August F. W. Partz.

More about James Nelson Barker's War of 1812 service from the Pennsylvania Center at PSU:

As a precautionary protection measure for Philadelphia in the War of 1812, Fort Mifflin was once again actively manned. Captain James Nelson Barker was appointed commander of the fort on July 16, 1812. Although the fort was prepared to defend Philadelphia, it saw no action during the War of 1812.

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