The Harry Watkins Diary: Digital Edition

Collection Overview

Hardworking actor, playwright, and stage manager Harry Watkins (1825–94) was a prolific diarist. For fifteen years (1845–60), Watkins regularly recorded the plays he saw, the roles he performed, the books he read, and his impressions of current events. Performing across the United States, Watkins collaborated with preeminent performers and producers, recording his successes and failures as well as his encounters with celebrities such as P. T. Barnum, Junius Brutus Booth, Edwin Forrest, Anna Cora Mowatt, and Lucy Stone. His is the only known diary of substantial length and scope written by a U.S. actor before the Civil War—making Watkins, essentially, the antebellum equivalent of Samuel Pepys.

This searchable digital edition includes the entire uncorrected text of Watkins’s diary, encoded in XML, prepared in accordance with guidelines established by the Text Encoding Initiative ( It is archived by the University of Michigan Library as a companion to the University of Michigan Press volume: A Player and a Gentleman: The Diary of Harry Watkins, Nineteenth-Century US American Actor, eds. Amy E. Hughes and Naomi J. Stubbs (University of Michigan Press, 2018),

Transcribed Diary

Version: 1 (volumes 1-13 of 13), February 8, 2019

Diary Volume 1

Entries from 20 November 1845 to 31 May 1846.

Diary Volume 2

Entries from 01 June 1846 to 10 May 1847.

Diary Volume 3

Entries from 10 May 1847 to 21 February 1849.

Diary Volume 4

Entries from 22 February 1849 to 03 December 1849.

Diary Volume 5

Entries from 03 December 1849 to 24 May 1850.

Diary Volume 6

Entries from 25 May 1850 to 21 December 1850.

Diary Volume 7

Entries from 19 December 1850 to 19 September 1851.

Diary Volume 8

Entries from 19 September 1851 to 29 March 1852.

Diary Volume 9

Entries from March 29, 1852 to September 27, 1852.

Diary Volume 10

Entries from September 27, 1852 to July 21, 1853.

Diary Volume 11

Entries from July 22, 1853 to June 12, 1854.

Diary Volume 12

Entries from June 12, 1854 to May 9, 1855.

Diary Volume 13

Entries from August 19, 1856 to October 22, 1860.

Editorial and Production

Editors: Amy E. Hughes (University of Michigan) and Naomi J. Stubbs (LaGuardia Community College, CUNY)

Technology Director: Scott D. Dexter (Alma College)

Editorial Associate: Shane Breaux

Editorial Assistants: Elijah Akinbamidele, Sara Diaz, Danielle Pace, Christine Snyder, Medeli Tavarez, Esteban Toyos

Interns: Irma Aguirre, Jonathan Caba, Raymond Camacho, Gabriella Lira-Pizano, Oliver Reyes, Guilherme de A. Pedroso, Luciana Pinto, Carlos Ramos, Asha Robinson, Aleksander Ruziyev, Trenton Voegeli, Kelly Williams, Cathelyne Yacinthe

Acquiring Editor: LeAnn Fields (Senior Executive Editor, University of Michigan Press)

Production Staff: Kat Hagedorn, Lauren Havens, Jeremy Morse, Chris Powell (all University of Michigan Library)

Advisory Board: Sarah Bay-Cheng (Bowdoin College), Christopher Brick (Eleanor Roosevelt Papers), John W. Frick (Emeritus, University of Virginia), Barbara Wallace Grossman (Tufts University), Beth Luey (Association for Documentary Editing), David Mayer (Emeritus, Manchester University)

For More Information

Selected, corrected, and annotated excerpts from the Harry Watkins Diary are available in the published volume: A Player and a Gentleman: The Diary of Harry Watkins, Nineteenth-Century US American Actor, eds. Amy E. Hughes and Naomi J. Stubbs (University of Michigan Press, 2018)

An untranscribed digital facsimile of the Harry Watkins Diary at Houghton Library, Harvard University:

This project was made possible through the generosity of the City University of New York (Collaborative Incentive Research Grant and PSC-CUNY Research Award programs), National Endowment for the Humanities, American Antiquarian Society, Harvard Theatre Collection (Houghton Library, Harvard University), Society for Theatre Research, Association for Documentary Editing, New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, Leonard and Claire Tow Faculty Travel Fund (Brooklyn College, CUNY), LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)’s Department of English, and the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation.

Downloadable Data

XML-encoded transcripts of the diary volumes are available for download. Right-click to save a zip file.