Francis Wilson (actor)

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Francis Wilson
Harvard Theatre Collection - Francis Wilson TCS 1.1136 - cropped.jpg
Born(1854-02-07)February 7, 1854
DiedOctober 7, 1935(1935-10-07) (aged 81)
  • Stage actor
  • producer
  • writer[1]
Spouse(s)Mira Barrie
Edna Bruns[2]
1st President of the Actors' Equity Association
In office
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byJohn Emerson

Francis Wilson (February 7, 1854 – October 7, 1935) was an American actor.


Poster for the comic opera Half a King (1896)
Actors' Equity president Francis Wilson (right) on parade with other leaders during the 1919 strike seeking recognition of the association as a labor union

Wilson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[3] He began his career in a minstrel show with Haverly's United Mastodon Minstrels, but by 1878 was playing at the Chestnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, and the next year appeared in M'liss with Annie Pixley. After several years in regular comedy, he took up some comic opera, appearing with the McCaull Comic Opera Company and making a great success in Erminie (1886). In 1889, leaving New York's Casino Theatre, he made his appearance as a star in The Oolah. Plays in which he starred subsequently include The Merry Monarch (1890); The Lion Tamer (1891); The Little Corporal (1898); The Little Father of the Wilderness (1905); 'nd The Bachelor's Baby (1909), which he also wrote. He also appeared in several productions of Rip Van Winkle. He formed his own theatre company in 1899.

He was the author of Joseph Jefferson: Reminiscences of a Fellow Player (1906), The Eugene Field I Knew (1898), Francis Wilson's Life of Himself (1924), and John Wilkes Booth: Fact and Fiction of Lincoln's Assassination (1929), written with information from his close friend Edwin Booth.

Wilson wrote several plays, of which The Bachelor's Baby was the most successful. He was the founding president of the Actors' Equity Association.


Wilson's first wife was Mira Barrie with whom he had two daughters. Their older daughter was Frances Wilson Huard, who became a French baroness, and wrote memoirs of her life in France during World War I. After her death he married Edna Bruns (1879–1960) with whom he had a son and daughter.[4][5][6]

Francis Wilson Playhouse[edit]

Francis Wilson Playhouse is the successor to the Clearwater Players, organized in 1930 as a community theater which presented productions in ad hoc venues around Clearwater, Florida for several years. In 1935, the first president of Actors Equity, Francis Wilson, a winter resident in Clearwater, convinced a friend, Mary Curtis Bok (later Zimbalist,) to contribute $5,000 for the construction of a permanent home for the Clearwater Players.

Mrs. Bok agreed to the contribution on the condition that the Theater would be named after Francis Wilson, who at that time was the premier actor of the New York stage. The bronze plaque of Mary Bok over the fireplace in the lobby is the only thanks she would accept.

The City of Clearwater leased the land the theater currently sits on for a term of 99 years for the rental sum of $1.00 per year, and the theater was built in 1936.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Francis Wilson's Life of Himself, Houghton Mifflin Company (1924)
  2. ^ Francis Wilson's Life of Himself, Houghton Mifflin Company (1924)
  3. ^ "WILSON, Francis". The International Who's Who in the World. 1912. p. 1105.
  4. ^ Great Stars of the American Stage, Profile #28 by Daniel Blum c.1952, 2nd printing 1954
  5. ^ New York Times, July 25, 1960 - - Print Headline: "MRS. EDNA WILSON, FORMER STAGE STAR"
  6. ^ Birth date August 17, 1879, St. Charles, MO. Died July 23, 1960, New York, New York. Family Records of granddaughter, Margalo Ashley-Farrand


External links[edit]