Monadnock Moment No. 005
Era 6: Development of the Industrial United States -
1870 to 1900
Trials and Tribulations of a Native Son
Our native son is a person who many of us have heard of, but few of us know very much about. Our character was born to a farming family in Girard, Pennsylvania in October of 1833. His family moved to Swanzey, New Hampshire in 1847 when he was fourteen years old. He attended school in Swanzey for three winter terms and worked with his father as a carpenter during the summer months.
Our character left home at age seventeen to seek his fortune. He took a job as property boy with a circus in Boston and held several jobs during the next few years, including museum door-man, acrobat, stagehand, and clerk in a dry goods store.
At age twenty-one he went to Toronto and played bit parts on stage for the next fourteen years. Our local boy quit the stage at age thirty-five with the feeling that his career was going nowhere. He returned to the stage three years later, however, never making more than $25 a week. He continued to act until an attack of rheumatism threatened his career.
It was during this illness, lying sick in a Pittsburgh hotel, our native son conceived the idea of a short sketch based upon his boyhood days in New Hampshire. He played the sketch in Pittsburgh; it was well received and became quite popular during the next few years.
In 1885, at the age of 52, our character decided to expand the sketch into a four act play. The new play opened in Boston in April of 1886. The name given to the play was "The Old Homestead." The play's author, our formerly obscure actor, was Swanzey's Denman Thompson. The play, based upon Swanzey acquaintances from Thompson's youth, became one of the most successful in the nation's history and played throughout the United States for the next twenty-five years with Thompson playing the lead role of Uncle Josh. Our obscure actor, Denman Thompson, retired to Swanzey a wealthy playwright, leaving behind a play that continues to delight audiences to the present day.
Back to Top