William J. Le Moyne

William J. Le Moyne (1831–1905) was an American actor who is credited with playing Deacon Perry in the first stage adaption of Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin.

William J. Le Moyne
20 KB
Circa 1890s
Born(1831-04-29)April 29, 1831
DiedNovember 6, 1905(1905-11-06) (aged 74)
Other namesW. J. LeMoyne
OccupationStage Actor
Years active1852–1901

Early careerEdit

William J. Le Moyne (sometimes spelled Lemoyne or LeMoyne) was born on April 29, 1831, in Boston, Massachusetts,[1][2] where he began performing in amateur theater productions at around the age of fifteen.[3] Le Moyne may have briefly supported himself as a silversmith[4] before his professional stage debut on May 10, 1852, at Portland, Maine, playing an officer in The Lady of Lyons, a romantic drama by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.[5] Later that year Le Moyne joined the repertory company at Peale's Museum in Troy, New York, as a $6 a-week 'utility man' (bit player) that was later increased to $8 after he demonstrated an ability to play 'old man roles'. The company was largely made up of friends and family of its manager, George C. Howard and is remember for staging the first production of Uncle Tom's Cabin on September 27, 1852, at Peale's Museum.[6] The play was an immediate hit and had a run of one hundred performances, remarkable at the time for a community the size of Troy. Le Moyne's tour with Uncle Tom's Cabin the following year paved the way for his one-day becoming an actor of national standing.

Military ServiceEdit

At the outbreak of the American Civil War Le Moyne enlisted as a first lieutenant with Company B of the 28th Massachusetts Volunteers under the command of fellow actor Lawrence Barrett. At some point Barrett resigned and Le Moyne assumed command only to witness over half his men killed or wounded in a string of Northern defeats in South Carolina and Virginia. In September 1862, Le Moyne himself was severely wounded during the Battle of South Mountain and was unable to return to military service. He was later granted by congress a retroactive promotion to the rank of captain dating back to the point he assumed command of company B.[7]


In 1863 Le Moyne returned to the stage where he remained active until the dawn of the twentieth century. He appeared in a number of plays based on the works of Charles Dickens playing such characters as Fagin, Captain Cuttle, Uriah Heep, Squeers, Plummer, Dick Swiveller and Caleb. In Shakespeare's Hamlet Le Moyne is said[who?] to have played every major male role except that of the prince himself. Over his career Le Moyne performed with companies headed by legendary actors Edwin Booth, Edwin Forrest and Charles Fletcher(or possibly Charles Fechter), and in producer Daniel Frohman's Lyceum Theatre Company.[8] Heart trouble forced Le Moyne to retire from the stage in 1901 after supporting James K. Hackett in Don Caesar's Return.

Mrs. Sarah Cowell Le Moyne (ca. 1900)


His first marriage to actress Sarah Le Moyne ended in divorce in 1886 or 87. He married his second wife, actress Sarah Emma Cowell, in June 1888 [9] and remained with her until the end of his life. Sarah, who was an accomplished actress and reader at the time of their marriage, went on to have a successful Broadway career under her married name.

William J. Le Moyne - Self Portrait in Watercolor (ca. 1880)- Courtesy Mary Chitty - Life and Times of Actress E.J. Phillips


Le Moyne was an eclectic collector whose house was adorned with paintings of Chinese actors, old plaques, a variety of smoking pipes, an idol from a Chinese temple, antique children's shoes, artifacts from several ancient American and Asian cultures and works by contemporary American artists. He had also gathered a large assortment of horseshoes, his favorite being one he found in New York City on Thirteenth Street one Friday with seven nails still attached. Le Moyne's most valuable collection would come from a lifelong passion for obtaining old and rare books. Offstage Le Moyne was also known as a painter in the medium of watercolor.[10]


William J. Lemoyne died after several years of declining health on November 6, 1905, at a friend's residence in Inwood-on-the-Hudson[11] (now Inwood), a neighborhood on the northern shore of Manhattan Island.


1852 Lady of Lyons First Officer
1852 Ingomar Friar Lawrence, Sir Oliver Surface, Eugene Delorme and Polydore
1852 Uncle Tom's Cabin Deacon Perry
1891 Old Heads and Young Hearts Jesse Rule
1887 The Wife (play) Major Homer Q. Putnam
1872 The Provoked Husband John Moody
1889 London Assurance Sir Harcourt Courtly
1872 Article 47 Old Simon
1872 Road to Ruin Silky
1872 The Inconstant Caius
1882 Manhood (play) Peter Sharpley
1885 Saints and Sinners Deacon Samuel Hoggard
1883 The Rajah Joseph Jeckyll
1883 Sealed Instructions Mons Cervais
1889 The Charity Ball Ex-Judge Peter Gurney Knox
1888 Sweet Lavender Barrister Dick Phenyl
1891 Lady Bountiful Rederick Heron
1895 The Case of Rebellious Susan Admiral Darby
1895 The Private Secretary Lord Blayver
1886 Jim, the Penman Baron Hartfeldt
1896 The Benefit of the Doubt Fletcher Portwood
1872 Divorce Detective Burritt
1892 Squire Kate Gaffer Kingsley
1886 Our Society Reginald Rae
1898 Catherine M. Vallon
1900 The Choir Invisible Rev. James Moore
1900 Naughty Anthony Adam Budd
1898 The Moth and the Flame Mr. Dawson
1897 The Coat of many Colors Florian Walboys
1898 Tess of the D'Urbervilles John Durbeyfeld
1897 Roaring Dick and Co. Mr. Pontifax
1900 Don Caesar's Return Marquis of Gonzalo


  1. ^ Players of the present, Volume 1 By John Bouvé Clapp, Edwin Francis Edgett
  2. ^ The National cyclopedia of American biography, Volume 5, 1894
  3. ^ Players of the present, Volume 1 By John Bouvé Clapp, Edwin Francis Edgett
  4. ^ 1850 US Census records
  5. ^ answere.com
  6. ^ Troy, NY: A Collar City History By Don Rittner.
  7. ^ Famous American actors of to-day By Charles Edgar Lewis Wingate 1896
  8. ^ A History of the New York Stage From the First Performance in 1732 to 1901, vol. III, by Thomas Allston Brown, 1903
  9. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (Volume 13). James T White & Company. 1906.
  10. ^ Famous American actors of to-day By Charles Edgar Lewis Wingate 1896
  11. ^ The New York Times –November 7, 1905