James Edward Murdoch


James Edward Murdoch, a renown actor and educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 25 January, 1811. He learned the trade of a bookbinder with his father, but on 13 October, 1829, appeared at Arch street theatre, Philadelphia, as Frederick in Kotzebue's play of "Lover's Vows," afterward acting for many years in most of the large cities of the United States. In 1832, when he was emerging as an important actor, he mistakenly took arsenic for medicine and was a semi-invalid thereafter.

In 1840 Murdoch became stage-manager at Chestnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, and in the following year temporarily withdrew from the stage to lecture on Shakespeare and teach elocution. In 1845 Murdoch returned to the drama, beginning an engagement at the Park theatre in New York City as Hamlet, and then visiting other cities, Canada, and California, in 1856 he performed at the Haymarket theatre, London, with moderate success, and in 1857 and 1858 he settled on a farm near Lebanon, Ohio.

During the civil war he nursed sick and wounded National soldiers in hospitals, gave readings from the poems of Thomas Buchanan Read and others for the benefit of the United States sanitary commission, and became a volunteer aide on the staff of General William S. Rosecrans.

Murdoch came out of retirement in 1861 to entertain and perform benefits for the American Civil War wounded. His last appearance was at a dramatic festival in Cincinnati in 1883. Among his most popular roles were Mirabell (in William Congreve's Way of the World and Mercutio and Orlando in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It).


Murdoch, J. (1880,1969) The Stage; or, recollections of actors and acting from an experience of fifty years: A series of dramatic sketches, with an appendix. NY: B. Blom.

Murdoch, J. (1857) Orthophony; or the cultivation of the voice, in elocution: A manual of elementary exercises, adapted to Dr Rush's "Philosophy of the human voice," and the system of vocal culture introduced by Mr. James E. Murdoch; Designed as an introduction to Russell's "American Elocutionist"; with a supplement on purity of tone, by G. J. Webb, Prof. Boston Academy of Music and by William Russell, 12th ed. Boston: Ticknor and Fields [1st ed. 1846].

Murdoch,J. (1864). Patriotism in poetry and prose: being selected passages from lectures and patriotic readings by James E. Murdoch. Also, poems by Thomas Buchanan Read, George H. Baker, Francis De Haes Janvier, and other American authors, commemorative of the gallant deeds of our noble defenders on land and sea. Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott & Co.

Murdoch, J. (1883). A plea for spoken language. An essay upon comparative elocution, condensed from lectures delivered throughout the United States. New York, Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co.

Murdoch, J. (1884). Analytic elocution: Containing studies, theoretical and practical of expressive speech, NY: Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co.