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What we don't know about EJ Phillips  (and John Nickinson)

We know a whole lot more than we used to.  With the growing availability of digital newspapers, online PhD dissertations and other sources we keep learning more.  I haven’t fully explored ancestry.com [available for free at many public libraries] or US census records.  I’ve done a little recently with Canadian censuses.  And some things will remain unknowable, but worth some creative speculation about.  What would you be interested in knowing or speculating about?

How EJP cared for her children has always been a concern, but careful examination of her account books makes it clear where they were [Indianapolis with the Fays, and Suffern NY with the Zavistowskis primarily] with EJP recording their board and pocket money from 1867-1875. It can’t have been easy for them or her.  I do wonder if she ever regretted having chosen a more adventurous, if difficult life over staying in Canada. But she seems to have increasingly worked with better and better known theatrical colleagues after John Nickinson’s death and while never a star, had a much more distinguished career than we originally realized.

Canadian Immigration to the US and the Civil War  What was it like for EJ Phillips and John Nickinson to move from Canada in  1862/63 to Cincinnati a border state? Was their move purely an economic decision?

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_in_the_American_Civil_War    https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/american-civil-war/  Canada was officially neutral.  Many newspapers supported the South. 

The Revolution was America’s first civil war. About a third of the American colonists wanted nothing to do with what Adams, Jefferson and the others were selling. With every British military defeat, more of those loyal to the Crown left or were driven out. Some fled to Britain while others went south, but most escaped to what remained of British North America... Shortly after the U.S. Civil War began in April 1861, Britain declared itself neutral. The Canadian and Maritime governments dutifully echoed that official line and informed their citizens that it was against the law to support North or South, and for individuals to join in the fight.... Business people enjoyed more commerce with Northern than Southern industry. Canadians travelling to Britain often went by way of New York and Boston. Despite such familiarity, however, public and popular opinion of the North and South was divided, volatile and multi-dimensional. It was coloured by class, ethnicity, religion, ideology and region. ... The Toronto Leader was pro-South, while the Toronto Globe was pro-North. The Montreal Gazette was pro-South, while the Montreal Witness was pro-North. The reporting and editorial stances of 84 Canadian papers revealed themselves to be obviously pro-South, with only 33 pro-North and eight neutral. A report of the Confederate victory in the war’s first battle elicited a spontaneous cheer in Canada’s legislature. ...many young Canadians and Maritimers left home to fight. Those who did fought overwhelmingly in Union ranks.Blood and Daring: How Canada Fought the American Civil War and Forged a Nation, John Boyko, Knopf Canada, 2013 http://nationalpost.com/opinion/john-boyko-canadians-for-the-confederacy

Library and Archives Canada, Influence of the American Civil War https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/politics-government/canadian-confederation/Pages/influence-american-civil-war.aspx

Some colleagues such as Ben deBar and Maggie Mitchell were Southern sympathizers.  Other such as Lawrence Barrett served in the Union Army.

Shakespearean roles -- missing 4 plays and 5 roles
EJ Phillips (1830-1904) played 31 roles in 19 Shakespearean plays.  We know of 15 plays and 26 roles, and would like to figure out the remaining 4 plays and 5 roles.
When and where did EJP perform the following plays by Shakespeare? As You Like It, Comedy of Errors, Coriolanus, King John, Merchant of Venice, Richard III, Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night.

When did EJP first come to New York?
Her account books indicate she performed at the Olympic Theatre in New York in Sept 1872 for two weeks.  Did she accompany John Nickinson when he was playing at Laura Keene’s in May and June of 1862 or Washington hall Harlem in August 1862? Perhaps she did because she responded to a request for her impression of Laura Keene by saying that her acquaintance with her was slight but she had seen her act.  Laura Keene died in 1873 and gave up her New York theatre in 1863 because of her poor health, but toured for much of the next ten years.  [Isabella Nickinson Walcot had been a protégé of Laura Keene’s in New York in 1862-1863.]

When exactly was EJP in James Wallack’s Rosedale?  When was she part of Augustin Daly’s company?
The book Marie Burrough’s Stage Celebrities says she was in it, as does an obituary? And the New York Times performance was reviewed in 1881. Odell? Says something about only EJP and Maude Harrison dressing up to the Daly standard, but I’m unclear on when this was.

Did Albert of Hattie ever meet any of their half siblings?
We have a mysterious April 12 1900 letter from Eliza Nickinson Peters on Sunshine of Paradise Alley letterhead, which had been attached to one from Mrs. Peters to her brother reading "Mrs. Peters who plays the widow (her creation) has asked me as a special favor, she has a brother there [where?], Nickinson, and I believe they don't speak as they pass by.  This is her way of showing him that she is still on earth."    An April 15 1900 letter from EJ Phillips mentioning her "Saw by [Middletown newspaper] Mercury that you are to have a play at the Casino [Theater] on Tuesday next in which Mrs. Charles Peters played in here [Philadelphia] at the Park a few weeks ago. Was born 1834. Guess she is with it still for the play belongs to Denman Thompson who was a member of your father's company for several years and he still is grateful for the kindnesses he received then from the "Governor" and has frequently given employment to members of the family who requested it -- since he has been a star-manager. ... Strange how things come about.  I have not seen Mrs. Peters since she was married and that was in 1854 [Sept], I think, and became a widow not later than 1866 [1870] & now you will see her after so many years.  She has a son Fred and a daughter, Maud, living, that is all I know of.  Both were on the stage.

We know a fair amount about the Nickinson daughters of the first marriage. They were all on the stage at various times, including after Charlotte, Eliza and Virginia were widowed and needed to support their families. We do have photos of each daughter, but none of John Jr.  EJ Phillips read the New York Clipper and was aware of some of their activities, and at times they were in Philadelphia or New York together in the 1870s and later.  What did they think of her? 

When did John Nickinson come to Canada? 
We know he was there by 1830 and had enlisted in the British Army at 15 in 1823, and was promoted to sergeant in 1825, but not much else.  We know his father was a Chelsea Pensioner [retired to the Royal Chelsea Hospital in London, where I went as a researcher to the National Army Museum in the 1970s.  Middletown had Army medals from the Napoleonic and Peninsular Wars [Cape of Good Hope 1795, Talavera 18099, Fuentes Donor 1811 Salamanca 1812, Vittoria 1813, Pyrenees 1813, Nivele 1813, Orthes 1814, mainly in Spain and Portugal].  John Nickinson seems to have been an absentee father on a number of occasions – perhaps his dad was too.   

Did John Nickinson have any siblings?
His father was Richard Nickinson but haven’t found a birth or death date.  His mother was Mary but have no maiden name or dates. Haven’t found any siblings. Presumably once John came to Canada he never returned to England [unlike EJP’s father Thomas Phillips].

Did John Nickinson ever see any of his grandchildren?  Did he go to any of his daughter’s weddings?
Charlotte Nickinson Morrison had four children two of them appeared in the 1861 Canadian census, aged 1 and 2 I think.  John Nickinson was certainly in Toronto when she married in 1858, but EJP was about to have their first child. Eliza Nickinson Peters married in 1854 in New York and had Fred Peters in 1860.  [Her daughter Maud was born in 1868] Virginia Nickinson Marlowe was married in 1857 at Niagara Falls and had Jessie Isabel Dearling Marlowe the first of her three daughters in 1861 in New York. [Virginia Eliza was born in 1865 and Ethel in 1871 and both of these died young.] Isabella Nickinson Walcot married in New York in May 1863, and had no children.  John Jr seems not to have married or had children.  So it seems possible that John Nickinson didn’t go to his daughter’s weddings and unlikely that he saw much, if anything of his grandchildren.  We know that there were some Morrison descendants living in Toronto and Edison NJ [but not apparently very interested in their ancestors according to theatre historian Mary Shortt.] Only Jessie Marlowe Voight is known to have married.  Fred Peters seems not to have married and Maud Peters married a Nicaraguan man and became Mathilde Deshon [and acted some.]  We do know that only child EP Nickinson has many descendants as do Jack Dolman and Melanie Dolman Seymour. 

Jessie Marlowe Voight has a letter in the Folger Shakespeare Library, written to William Winter after an 80th birthday tribute to him at the Century Theatre New York on March 14 1916.
The Tribute occurred on the afternoon of March 14, 1916, at the Century Theatre, NYC. Approximately 250 signatories (autographs reproduced photographically) were represented in the souvenir publication; (these included Thomas Edison and Theodore Roosevelt, among other eminent persons.) The entertainment portion of the tribute featured a "Temple Dance" by Ruth St. Denis and scenes from Shakespeare performed by leading actors, including Annie Russell, Walter Hampden, Crystal Herne, James O'Neill, Louis Calvert, James K. Hackett, Henrietta Crosman, Rose Goghlan, Jane Cowl, Blanche Bates, Viola Allen, and many others. https://www.oldimprints.com/pages/books/53315/miscellaneous-testimonial-tribute-program/the-william-winter-testimonial

Did John and Mary Ann Talbot Nickinson have any other children who died young? 
Given infant mortality in those days it seems possible that he sired more than eight children. Census records for various people record live births as well as living children.  But not everyone shows up in censuses every ten years.

Were Mary Ann Talbot Nickinson and John ever divorced? What did she do after she left Toronto?
Sue Spencer found that the Canadian marriage records for the likely time were lost in a fire so we’ll never know for sure.  EJP is buried as a Nickinson in Philadelphia, but with no headstone.  Mary Ann Talbot Nickinson seems to have died in New York in 1877 and her death certificate lists here as a widow, but who was going to dispute that? She seems to have been born in 1806, which made her 1-2 years older than John, born in 1808. She was from Limerick Ireland, according to an interview with Eliza Nickinson Peters in Donahoe’s magazine 1905 The article also says the Nickinson children were sent to a Catholic school on Mulberry St in New York but were sent home when the nuns learned their father was an actor. Eliza later converted to Catholicism and Lived in Yorkville New York. https://books.google.com/books?id=qgjZAAAAMAAJ&dq=%22sunshine+of+paradise+alley%22+peters&source=gbs_navlinks_s

We know that Hattie or her daughter Melanie was not interested in a portrait of John Nickinson because of the effect he had on her mother [or grandmother]. 

John Nickinson may have been an alcoholic.  He certainly seemed to have had a drinking problem See RUM and drinking http://maryglenchitty.com/rum.htm  We do know that EJP didn’t drink.

Last revised March 31 2018

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