by Bruce Campbell Adamson


Joseph Jefferson was friends with the first John Drew and had the following to say about in 1889-90:


"It is said that John Brougham, who wrote the domestic dram of "The Irsh Emigrant," and had acted the hero with some success, declared upon seeing John Drew play the part that he would never attempt it again. I have myself a most vivid remembrance of Drew in this character.


 Top Two Photographs John Drew Sr.  lower one "The Irish Emigrant" and the top one is "Handy Dandy"


This gentleman was the father of the present John Drew and the husband of the distinguished actress who now bears his name. He acted a star engagement under my management in Richmond, Virginia, in 1856, appearing in a round of Irish characters with marked success. I saw him in Handy Andy, O'Flanaghan, and the Emigrant, and his entrance in the latter character was one of those simple, bold, and unconventional effects that invariably command recognition from an audience, be they high or low, rich or poor, intelligent or ignorant. A figure passes an open window and pauses for an instant to llok into the room; then a timid knock. "Come in!" The door slowly opens, and upon the threshold stands a half-starved man, hunger in his gaunt form and hollow checks, but kindness and honesty in his gentle eyes. Wat a pathetic sight is this! As the character is developed through the incidents surrounding it, you see always the same man, changed only as h would be by the circumstances through which he passes.

 Joseph Jefferson & Mother 


There is a sincerity in this kind of artistic treatment that wins for it a lasting remembrance in the minds of those who have witnessed it. To do bright and sparkling things that for a moment trick an audience of its applause, though they be entirely out of keeping with the character, is a grave error. With whatever variety a character may betreated, the audience should feel that it is the same man whose different moods are developed by the change of his position in the story. I think it has been generally conceded that since Tyrone Power there has been no Irish comedian equal to John Drew. Power, as a light and brilliant actor, with piercing eyes, elegant carriage, and polished "school," dazzling his audiences like a comet, was undoubtedly unparalleled in his line, but I doubt if he could touch the heart as deeply as did John Drew."

Joseph Jefferson re: John Drew, Sr. as King Lear and


"We were afterwards together in Philadelphia; he played Sir Lucius O'Trigger with me in "The Rivals," Mrs. Drew appearing as Lydia Languish. There was one part that he acted during this brief engagement which made a strong impression upon me and revealed his versatility perhaps more than any other character I had seen him in. It was that of a young English squire, gay and desperate, warm-hearted and profligate, whose condition changed from wealth and station to poverty and almost degradation, from the bowling green of the quiet village to the gambling hell of a great city--these vicissitudes of fortune being brought upon him by his own careless nature, which passed from gay to grave, deeply touched by the misfortunes of others and reckless of his own. Drew's treatment of this character, while it was not widely known, won for him great admiration from his artistic comrades."

In the 1850s in Philadelphia, the John Drew's were at the Arch Theater while Joseph Jefferson wrote: "Wheatley & Drew had a most popular stock company, and the ladies and gentlemen attached to it were undoubtedly the dramatic heroes of the city.

Our company at the Chestnut Street was not quite so capable, but we produced the standard plays with considerable effect, and were thought, by ourselves at least, to be formidable rivals of the other actors. Portrait to side is the Chestnut Theater.