William J. Florence

Born - July 26, 1831

William Jermyn Conlin (b July 26, 1831, Albany, N.Y., U.S. – d. Nov. 19, 1891, Philadelphia), better known by his stage name William J. Florence, was a U.S. actor, songwriter, and popular playwright. He was one of the most popular actors of his day. (He never went by the name of Bernard Conlin as incorrectly published in various references.) Florence was one of a select number of Americans to win the ribbon of the French Societe Histoire Dramatique. He was also co-founder with Walter M. Fleming in the creation of the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America.

Born of Irish parents and reared on the Lower East Side of New York City, Florence worked at various jobs before becoming a call boy at the Old Bowery Theater. While working to support his widowed mother and her seven younger children, he rehearsed plays at night, and in 1850 he began to do dialect impersonations. In 1853 he married Malvina Pray, and thereafter the two generally appeared together on the stage — he usually as an Irishman and she as a Yankee.

William J. Conlin was very fond of Florence, Italy, where he had an apartment for his trips abroad, and adopted the city for his stage name. At some point after he became famous under this name, he secured the legal right to it as well.

Florence’s first success was in A Row at the Lyceum (1851); following this, he established his reputation as Captain Cuttle in Dombey and Son, Bob Brierly in The Ticket-of-Leave Man, and Sir Lucius O’Trigger in The Rivals. His last appearance was as Zekiel Homespun in a production of Heir-at-Law.

Literature McKay and Wingate, Famous American Actors of To-Day (New York, 1896)
Matthews and Hutton, Actors and Actresses of Great Britain and the United States (New York, 1886)
Winter, The Wallet of Time (New York, 1913)
[edit] References a b c "Florence passes away", New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-10-26.