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James Nelson Barker

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Title: James Nelson Barker  
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James Nelson Barker

James Nelson Barker (June 17, 1784 – March 9, 1858) was an American soldier, playwright, and politician. He rose to the rank of Major in the Army during the War of 1812, wrote ten plays, and served as mayor of Philadelphia.


Barker was born in Philadelphia, the son of John Barker, who also served as a mayor of the city.[1]

In 1814, he was severely wounded in a duel.[1]



  • "The Sisters"
  • "Little Red Riding Hood"


  • Tears and Smiles (1807), comedy.
  • The Embargo; or, What News? (1808), drama. Barker's drama in support of the Embargo Acts and the Jefferson administration provoked riots when it was performed in Philadelphia.
  • The Indian Princess; or, La Belle Sauvage (1808), comedy about the Pocahontas story, with music by John Bray. It has been cited as being the first play to be staged about American Indians by an American playwright, and the first play produced in America to be performed in England, although both claims have been questioned.
  • Marmion; or, The Battle of Flodden Field (1812), a blank-verse dramatization of Sir Walter Scott's poem. It was initially purposefully attributed to English dramatist Thomas Morton, out of fear of disregard for a play by an American. It went on to great success and was staged until as late as 1848.
  • How to Try a Lover (1817), drama. An adaptation of the French picaresque novel La folie espagnole by Charles Pigault-Lebrun (1753–1835). It was not produced until 1836 as The Court of Love.
  • The Armourer's Escape; or, Three Years at Nootka Sound (1817), drama. It was based on the real-life adventures of John Jewitt, who played himself at the premiere.
  • Superstition; or, The Fanatic Father (1824), tragedy. Produced at the Chestnut Street Theatre, 1824 with Mary Ann Duff as Mary.
  • The Spanish Rover (not published or produced)
  • America - a Masque (not published or produced)


  • An oration delivered at Philadelphia Vauxhall Gardens, on the forty-first anniversary of American independence. Published in 1817, Printed by John Binns (Philadelphia)
  • A Sketch of the Primitive Settlements on Delaware River (1827), non-fiction.


  1. ^ a b The Lives of Eminent Philadelphians, Now Deceased: Collected from Original and Authentic Sources, by Henry Simpson, published by W. Brotherhead, 1859.
  • James Nelson Barker Seventeen Eighty Four to Eighteen Fifty Eight, With a Reprint of His Comedy Tears and Smiles, by Paul H. Musser, James Nelson Barker, Published in June 1929, Ams Pr Inc

External links


Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Wharton (Philadelphia)
Mayor of Philadelphia
Succeeded by
Robert Wharton (Philadelphia)

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