Edward Harrigan

Edward Harrigan (October 26, 1844 – June 6, 1911), sometimes called Ned Harrigan, was an Irish-American actor, singer, dancer, playwright, lyricist and theater producer who, together with Tony Hart (as Harrigan & Hart), formed one of the most celebrated theatrical partnerships of the 19th century. His career began in minstrelsy and variety but progressed to the production of multi-act plays full of singing, dancing and physical comedy, making Harrigan one of the founding fathers of modern American musical theatre.

Harvard Theatre Collection - Edward Harrigan TCS 1.496
Ed Harrigan

Early years

Harrigan was born at Corlear's Hook in Lower Manhattan, New York City. He was one of 13 children, only four of whom lived past infancy. Their father was a Protestant from Newfoundland, and their mother was described as "a Protestant Yankee".[1]

After Harrigan's parents divorced when he was 18, he worked at caulking ships, and his work eventually took him to San Francisco. As a pastime, he wrote new lyrics to existing melodies, and the result found popularity with his fellow workers.[1]


Harrigan made his first stage appearance in 1867 at the Olympic,[1] a San Francisco "melodeon", as that city's variety theaters were then known. A brief partnership with comic Sam Rickey was followed by a fourteen-year stage career with Tony Hart, whom he met in Chicago in 1870. Although Harrigan wrote the lyrics and stage patter, the diminutive Hart's charm and singing talent played a large role in the duo's success.

Harrigan and Hart went in 1871 to Boston, where they had their first big success at John Stetson's Howard Athenaeum.[1] They then moved on to New York, where they first worked with Tony Pastor before beginning a long run at Josh Hart's Theatre Comique. By the mid-1870s they began moving from the variety show toward musical theatre. Harrigan's sketches on the Comique's crowded bill featured comic Irish, German and black characters drawn from everyday life on the streets of New York.[2] Their breakthrough hit was the 1873 song and sketch "The Mulligan Guard", a lampoon of an Irish neighborhood "militia" with music by David Braham, who would become Harrigan's musical director and father in law. It became their signature piece, and they featured it in many of their slapstick skits and plays.[3] In 1876, Harrigan took over the Comique himself, along with Hart and manager Martin Hanley.


By 1878, with The Mulligan Guard Picnic, Harrigan & Hart settled down on Broadway and performed in seventeen of their shows over the next seven years.[4] Though still broad and farcical, these shows featured music that was integrated with a more literary story line, together with the dialogue and dance, and the shows began to resemble modern musical comedy. Harrigan wrote the stories and lyrics, and Braham wrote the music.

Although the plays gradually became longer as more songs, dances, and stage business was added, the tickets remained the same price. Harrigan and Hart's comedy was about everyday people, and so it was fitting that working folk were able to afford to fill up the seats. These shows were very popular, especially with New York's immigrant-based lower and middle classes, who were delighted to see themselves comically (but sympathetically) depicted on stage. The action of the plays took place in downtown Manhattan and concerned real-life problems, such as interracial tensions, political corruption, and gang violence, all mixed with broad, street-smart comedy, puns and ethnic dialects. Harrigan played the politically ambitious Irish saloon owner "Dan Mulligan", and Hart played the African-American washerwoman "Rebecca Allup".

One of Harrigan's most popular plays with the Mulligan Guard Series, the Mulligan Guard's Ball (1880), shows off the smooth juxtaposition of the comedy, musicality, and a healthy dose of humanity that made Harrigan’s plays so distinctive. Full of laughable chaos and "Harrigan hilarity", the Irish militia and Black militia within the act butt heads in a satirical whirlwind of dance, stage violence, and buffoonery.[5] The New York Herald compared the Mulligan series to the Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, and one devotee wrote: "America has produced nothing more national, more distinctly its own, than these plays of the Irish in New York".[5] People spoke of Ned Harrigan as the American Molière.[6]

Although the Theatre Comique was eventually shut down for financial reasons, Harrigan announced in 1881 that they would build a fresh and elegant "New Theatre Comique" several blocks further north on Broadway. The building they renovated was originally the home of the Church of the Messiah but had hosted many other theatres throughout the years.[7] However, this theatre was not to last; it burned to the ground in 1884.[8]

After the theatre collapsed, so did the partnership. Harrigan had married Annie Braham, David's daughter, on November 18, 1876. Their family continued in his footsteps, as son William Harrigan, daughter Nedda Harrigan, and granddaughter Ann Connolly all became Broadway performers. However, Harrigan's habit of hiring relatives soured his partnership with Hart. In May 1885, five months after the fire, Harrigan and Hart appeared on Broadway together for the last time. Hart's health deteriorated, and he died at age 36 in 1891,[3] while Harrigan opened up his Harrigan’s Theatre in 1890 on Herald Square. Twenty-three of his plays achieved runs of more than 100 performances each on Broadway. Harrigan continued writing plays and performing until his last public appearance on March 16, 1910.

Harrigan died in 1911.[5]

Harrigan 'n Hart

In 1985, a musical celebrating the partnership, Harrigan 'N Hart, opened on Broadway. The show has a book by Michael Stewart, lyrics by Peter Walker, and music by Max Showalter is based on the book The Merry Partners by Ely Jacques Kahn, Jr. and material found by Nedda Harrigan Logan. Harry Groener portrayed Harrigan, Mark Hamill (of Star Wars fame) played Hart, and Joe Layton directed. Frank Rich of The New York Times found the show dull and "aimless",[9] and so did audiences, as it closed after 25 previews and four regular performances.[10]


  • 1877: Old Lavender
  • 1878: The Mulligan Guard Picnic
  • 1879: The Mulligan Guards' Ball
  • 1880: The Mulligan Guards' Surprise which included the hit song "Whist! The Bogie Man" words by Harrigan and music by David Braham.
  • 1881: The Major
  • 1882: Squatter Sovereignty
  • 1883: The Mulligans' Silver Wedding
  • 1883: Cordelia's Aspirations
  • 1886: The Leather Patch
  • 1888: Waddy Googan
  • 1890: Reilly and the Four Hundred


  1. ^ a b c d Cullen, p. 484
  2. ^ Chase, p. 365
  3. ^ a b "Tony Hart", Internet Accuracy Project, accessed October 1, 2014
  4. ^ Kenrick, John. "Who's Who in Musicals: Hale-Harris", Musicals101.com
  5. ^ a b c Moody, Richard. Ned Harrigan: From Corlear’s Hook to Herald Square. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Inc., Publishers, 1980.
  6. ^ Cullen, passim
  7. ^ Kahn Jr., E. J. The Merry Partners: The Act and Stage of Harrigan and Hart. New York: Random House, Inc., 1955
  8. ^ Greenleaf, pp. 375–76; and "New Theatre Comique", Internet Broadway Database
  9. ^ Rich, Frank. "Stage: Harrigan 'n Hart Opens at the Longacre", The New York Times, February 1, 1985, accessed October 1, 2014
  10. ^ Harrigan 'n Hart, Internet Broadway Database, accessed October 1, 2014


  • Chase, Gilbert (2000). America's Music: From the Pilgrims to the Present. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-00454-X.
  • Frank Cullen; Florence Hackman; Donald McNeilly (2007). Vaudeville, Old and New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-93853-8.
  • Greenleaf, Jonathan A History of the Churches, of All Denominations, in the City of New York (New York: E. French, 1846)
  • Kahn, E.J. (1955) The Merry Partners: The Age and Stage of Harrigan and Hart (Random House). Biography of Harrigan and Hart.
  • Moody, Richard. (1980) Ned Harrigan - From Corlear's Hook to Herald Square. (Chicago: Nelson Hall)

Further reading

  • Dormon, James H. "Ethnic Cultures of the Mind: The Harrigan-Hart Mosaic." American Studies Fall 1992: 21-40. JSTOR. Web. 8 March. 2013.
  • Finson, Jon W., ed. (1997). Collected Songs, 1873–1896. Music of the United States of America (MUSA) vol. 7. Madison, Wisconsin: A-R Editions.

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Harrigan, Edward" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 17.

1883 in music

Events in the year 1883 in music.

1890 in music

Events in the year 1890 in music.

David Braham

David Braham (1834 – April 11, 1905) was a London-born musical theatre composer most famous for his work with Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart. He has been called "the American Offenbach".

Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical

The Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical is an annual award presented by Drama Desk in recognition of achievements in the theatre among Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions. The awards were established in 1955, with acting awards being given without making distinctions between roles in plays and musicals, or actors and actresses. The new award categories were later created in the 1975 ceremony.

† - indicates the performance won the Tony Award

‡ - indicates the performance was also nominated for the Tony Award

Four Eleven Forty Four

"Four Eleven Forty-Four", or "4-11-44" is a phrase that has been used repeatedly in popular music and as a reference to numbers allegedly chosen by poor African Americans for the purpose of gambling on lotteries. It was a well-known phrase in the 19th and early 20th century in the United States.

Garrick Theatre (New York City)

The Garrick Theatre was a 910-seat theatre built in 1890 and located on 67 West 35th Street New York. Designed by Francis Hatch Kimball, it was commissioned by Edward Harrigan, who also managed the theatre, originally named Harrigan's Theatre, until 1895. Richard Mansfield took over from Harrigan, renaming it the Garrick. Charles Frohman assumed management from 1896 until 1915. The Shuberts bought it in 1916 and leased it to Otto Kahn, who named it Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, after a theatre in Paris of the same name. Kahn later gave it to the Theatre Guild and it resumed the name Garrick Theatre in 1919. The Shuberts resumed management in 1925 and the theatre closed as a playhouse in 1929. After a short run of burlesque, the building was demolished in 1932.

Harrigan 'N Hart

Harrigan 'N Hart is a musical with a book by Michael Stewart, lyrics by Peter Walker, and music by Max Showalter. The show is based on the book The Merry Partners by Ely Jacques Kahn, Jr. and material found by Nedda Harrigan Logan.The show opened at the Longacre Theatre on January 31, 1985, and closed on February 3, 1985, after four performances (but had 25 previews).

Harrigan (song)

"Harrigan" is a song written by George M. Cohan for the short-lived 1908 Broadway musical Fifty Miles from Boston when it was introduced by James C. Marlowe. It celebrates, and to some extent mocks, his own Irish heritage. It is also an affectionate homage to Edward Harrigan, a previous great Irish American contributor to American musical theater.

The song was performed by James Cagney and Joan Leslie in the 1942 film Yankee Doodle Dandy, a biopic of Cohan's life. In that film it was portrayed as an early work of Cohan's that he was shopping around. In real life, by 1907 he had already scored some major Broadway hits and had little need to try to sell individual songs to producers.

Contemporary Irish-American singer Billy Murray made a very popular recording of the song for Victor Records (catalog No. 5197) in 1907. In his version, the answer "Harrigan!" to each question is shouted by a background group. Edward Meeker was another who enjoyed success with his recording of the song in 1907.

Harrigan (surname)

Harrigan is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Bill Harrigan, Australian rugby league football referee

David Xavier Harrigan (1948–2000), singer, actor, and painter known as Tomata du Plenty

Duncan Harrigan (born 1921), Scottish footballer

Edward Harrigan (1845–1911), American playwright, lyricist, actor and theater owner

John Harrigan (fl. 1990s), actor, writer and filmmaker

Matt Harrigan, American actor, producer, and writer

Nedda Harrigan (ca. 1900-1989), American actress, daughter of Edward ("Ned") Harrigan

Tahesia Harrigan (born 1982), British Virgin Islands sprinter

William Harrigan (1893–1966), American actor, son of Edward ("Ned") Harrigan

Jolly Roving Tar

Jolly Roving Tar is a traditional Newfoundland folk song. In its 19th-century version, the song relates the story of Susan, lamenting the wanderings of her beloved "tar", or sailor, William, who is at sea, and deciding to follow him in her father's boat. The title is also applied to the folk song* "Get up, Jack! John, sit down!", a reel of unknown provenance in which some, but not all, versions includes the line, "Come along, come along, my jolly brave tars, there's lots of grog in the jars."

There is a song called "Get-Up Jack, John Sit-Down" with words by Edward Harrigan (1844 - 1911) and music by Dave Braham (1838 - 1905). It is from their music hall show "Old Lavender," produced in circa 1885. A digital image of the score is available on the Library of Congress Website.

List of composers of musicals

This is a list of notable composers of musicals.

See also List of musicals by composer

McNamara's Band

"McNamara's Band" (originally "MacNamara's Band") is a popular song composed in 1889 by Shamus O'Connor (music) and John J. Stamford (lyrics). Stamford was then the manager of the Alhambra Theatre in Belfast and the song was written expressly for the theater's owner, the Irish-American music hall veteran William J. "Billy" Ashcroft. Ashcroft, often referred to as "The Solid Man" for his association with the Edward Harrigan song "Muldoon, the Solid Man," had earlier in his career in the U.S. performed a blackface routine called "The Lively [or 'Musical'] Moke," which interspersed comic song and dance with brief performances on multiple instruments. "McNamara's Band" gave him scope for a similar Irish "character song."Irish music hall historians Watters and Murtagh described Ashcroft's performance of the routine: "Here 'McNamara' breaks into a dancing quick-step March up and down the Stage, his nimble fingers snatching up one instrument after another, blowing the bassoon, tootling the flute, beating the drum with the knob of his baton - A One-Man Band." Modern listeners associate the song with the version recorded on December 6, 1945 by Bing Crosby, with a set of lyrics credited to "The Three Jesters." Released on Decca Records in early 1946, the song became a Top Ten hit for Crosby. It remains one of his most popular songs and is often sung on St. Patrick's Day. A slightly earlier recording of this song appeared in the 1945 film The Way to the Stars. Stanley Holloway leads the crowd in a pub close to a Royal Air Force base during in World War II.

It has been claimed that the song was inspired by an actual band, the St Mary's Fife and Drum Band, formed in Limerick in 1885. In the late 19th century the band featured four brothers, Patrick, John, Michael and Thomas McNamara, and became famous for playing shows all across Ireland. In the early 20th century Patrick and Thomas emigrated to the United States and formed the "McNamara's Band" with Patrick "Patsy" Salmon, another Limerick emigre. After Salmon left the group Patrick and Thomas formed "McNamara's Trio" with Thomas on piccolo, Patrick on violin and Patrick's daughter, Eileen, on the piano. The trio recorded and released several songs for Vocalion Records.

Neil Burgess

Neil Burgess (1846, Boston, Massachusetts – 1910) was an American Vaudevillian comedian who specialized in female impersonation of elderly "widders".

Solid Muldoon

The Solid Muldoon was a supposedly prehistoric "petrified human body" unearthed in 1877, at a spot now known as Muldoon Hill, near Beulah, Colorado. The figure enjoyed a brief tour of the United States before it was revealed to be a hoax. It was said to have been named after wrestler William Muldoon, whose nickname was "The Solid Man". This nickname was itself a reference to a comic song called "Muldoon, the Solid Man", written by Edward Harrigan.

The Leather Patch

The Leather Patch is an 1886 comedic play by Edward Harrigan with songs by David Braham. It debuted at Harrigan's Park Theatre in New York City on February 15, 1886 and ran through May.

The Major (play)

The Major is an 1881 comedic play produced by Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart.

It debuted to a full house at the new Theatre Comique on Broadway in New York City on August 29, 1881. Songs contributed by David Braham include Major Gilfeather, as well as Miranda, When We Are Made One, Veteran's Guards' Cadets, Clara Jenkins' Tea, and 4-11-44. It ran for over 150 performances, closing on January 7, 1882, the longest of any Harrigan and Hart production to that time.The play was revived in March 1885 at the Fourteenth Street Theatre.

The Rare Old Mountain Dew

"The Rare Old Mountain Dew" is an Irish folk song dating from 1882.

Tony Hart (theater)

Tony Hart, born Anthony J. Cannon (July 25, 1855 – November 4, 1891), was an American actor, comedian and singer. He is best known for working with Edward Harrigan in the late 19th century comedy team of Harrigan & Hart.

He met Harrigan in 1870. The two became a fixture at the Theatre Comique in New York City by the mid-1870s performing in Harrigan's farcical sketches. The slight and short Hart usually portrayed the female roles in their comic sketches and plays.

Their breakthrough hit was the 1873 song and sketch "The Mulligan Guard", a lampoon of an Irish neighborhood "militia" with music by David Braham. It became their signature piece, and they featured it in many of their slapstick skits and plays. The team's last Broadway performance was in May 1885. Hart's health and financial condition both deteriorated, and he died at the age of 36.

William Harrigan

William Harrigan (March 27, 1894 – February 1, 1966) was an American actor who played standard roles in Hollywood during the thirties and forties. He also originated the role of the captain in the Broadway hit Mister Roberts. Harrigan was the son of actor Edward Harrigan and the grandson of composer David Braham. Harrigan was also the brother-in-law of director/playwright Joshua Logan. Harrigan was born in New York City.

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