He was dramatic critic for several New York papers from 1859, and he adapted or wrote a number of plays, Under the Gaslight (1867) being his first success. In 1869 he became the manager of the Fifth Avenue Theatre on 24th St. and in 1873 the Fifth Avenue Theatre on 28th. In 1879 he built and opened Daly's Theatre at Broadway and 30th Street in New York, and, in 1893, Daly's Theatre in London.
At the first of these, he gathered a company of players, headed by Ada Rehan, which made for it a high reputation, and for them he adapted plays from foreign sources, and revived Shakespearean comedies in a manner before unknown in America. He took his entire company on tour, visiting England, Germany and France, and some of the best actors on the American stage have owed their training and first successes to him. Among these were Clara Morris, Sara Jewett, John Drew, Jr., Maurice Barrymore, Fanny Davenport, Agnes Ethel, Maude Adams, Mrs. Gilbert, Tyrone Power, Sr., Ada Dyas, Isadora Duncan and many others. Daly's willingness to, as he put it, "stoop to the curb and bestow upon the low, untried actor a chance at greatness" earned him the nickname "Little Man Auggie" among his peers. His play Leah the Forsaken, adapted from the Deborah of Hermann Salomon Mosenthal, was a star vehicle for Margaret Mather.
His Shakespeare productions were often severely criticized by George Bernard Shaw, who was active as a drama critic during those years. Shaw took Daly severely to task for cutting Shakespeare's plays and for presenting them in unorthodox ways. (Shaw was a strong believer in presenting Shakespeare's plays uncut.) Several of Shaw's criticisms of Daly's Shakespeare productions were reprinted in the anthology Shaw on Shakespeare.
Daly was a great book-lover, and his valuable library was dispersed by auction after his death, which occurred in Paris. Besides plays, original and adapted, he wrote Woffington: a Tribute to the Actress and the Woman (1888).
Dora Knowlton Ranous, a onetime actress in the Daly company, published a 1910 memoir of her experiences entitled Diary of a Daly Débutante.
Under the Gaslight (1867) is an example of Daly's mixture of realism and melodrama, seen in the authenticity of his depiction of real locations and in his use of social commentary. The play is famous for introducing the cliched "thrill" device of having the villain tie someone to the railroad tracks—only in this case, it was the hero who was lashed to the tracks, and the heroine who ultimately saved him.
A Flash of Lightning (1868), like Under the Gaslight, is pure melodrama, with water and fire spectacles providing action scenes and special effects for its eager audiences.
Horizon (1871) is an adaptation of a Bret Harte story about the westward expansion of the States; it is an example of the popularity of western drama, coupled with Daly's interest in realism of the local color variety, although it remains melodramatic.
Divorce (1871) and Pique (1875), both adaptations of British novels, demonstrate Daly's attempts to create social comedy, although the plays remain somewhat melodramatic.
- Daly, Joseph Francis (1917) The Life of Augustin Daly, Macmillan, New York
- Augustin Daly; North American Theatre Online
- Rossiter Johnson, Dora Knowlton Ranous, Author — Editor — Translator: A Simple Record of a Noble Life.
- Walter J. Meserve, An Outline History of American Drama, 2nd ed., 1994.
- Under the Gaslight
- Autograph letters signed from Miriam Coles Harris to Augustin Daly (1885) 
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Correspondence of Augustin Daly and Joseph F. Daly and documents serving for memoirs, 1858-1899, held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts