Under the Gaslight

New Bedford / Hathaway's Theatre / 1908


Under the Gaslight was a melodrama written by the great Augustin Daly and first seen at the
Worrell Sisters' New York Theatre in 1867. It was popular enough to be revived three more times on
Broadway; in 1868 at the same theatre, in 1869 at the Olympic, and in 1929 at the Bowery. It was also
a staple for stock companies across the nation.

The plot concerns Laura Cortlandt, who is jilted by her lover, Capt. Trafford when he discovers she
is only an adopted by Cortlandt and actually of low birth. Laura runs away, shamed, but is found and
taken to court, where the evil Byke claims she is his child and is given custody of her. He tries to
take her away but is stopped by an old soldier and Trafford. In the fight Byke throws Laura into a river,
where she swims to shore and returns to her adopted family.

The thwarted Byke then decides to rob Laura's family. The soldier overhears his plans but Byke catches him
and ties him to the railroad tracks, knowing an express train will pass by shortly. Laura happens on the
wretched man and saves him just before the train appears, becoming a heroine and marrying her beloved Trafford.

The famous railroad track scene was said to have been borrowed by Daly from an 1865 English play, The Engineer.
Although Daly was able to patent the effect, it soon became a staple of cheap melodrama and later of early films.


(Actual program measures 5 1/2"x 8")


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