Ann Maria Thorne

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Ann Maria Thorne, more widely known as Mrs. French (née Mestayer; 1813 Philadelphia – 20 June 1881 Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York)[1] was an early American concert singer and actress from Philadelphia. As "Mrs. French," she was among the most famous singers in America during the 1820s.


According to an 1896 publication, Annals of Music in Philadelphia and History of the Musical Fund Society, another singer, Mrs. Burke, had been the most famous American singer until she was outrivaled by Mrs. French.[2] Mrs. French had studied music with Benjamin Carr, an early American composer, music publisher, and music teacher from Philadelphia. She also studied with a Henri-Noel Gilles (1778–1834), a French-born and musically educated guitarist, oboist, and composer of Philadelphia.[3] She first appeared as a child in Philadelphia at the Chestnut Street Theatre.

Several early nineteenth century American composers and publishers dedicated works to her. Moreover, her performance of works was used to advertise sheet music. For example, the cover pages of several compositions by James P. Aykroyd—published by George E. Blake—advertise that Mrs. French as a singer of the works.


Thorne was born Ann Maria Mestayer in a family of well-known American actors that included her parents, grandparents, siblings, husband, and children. Her parents, John Mestayer and Maria (née French; 1786–1860), were well-known Philadelphia stage and circus professionals. She married young, and before marriage, took a stage surname of "Mrs. French", borrowing her mother's maiden name.[4] In December 1830, in Richmond, Virginia, Mestayer married Charles Robert Thorne (1814–1893), an actor.[5][6][7] She and Charles had four sons and a daughter:

  1. Neil Thorne
  2. Thomas Thorne
  3. Charles Robert Thorne, Jr. (1840–1883), actor
  4. Edwin F. Thorne (1845–1897)
  5. Emily Thorne (1850–1912), actress

A maternal aunt of Thorne, Rosalie Pelby (née French; 1792–1855) was an actress married to William Pelby (1793–1850), who, in Boston, in 1927, became the manager of the Tremont Theatre, and in 1932, built the Warren Street Theatre, and in 1936, built, founded, and managed the National Theatre.

Selected theatres and stock companies[edit]


  1. ^ "Amusement Notes". The Daily Globe. St. Paul, Minnesota. June 26, 1881. p. 4.
  2. ^ Goepp, Philip H., ed. (1896). Annals of Music in Philadelphia and History of the Musical Fund Society from its Organization in 1820 to the Year 1858. Compiled by Louis C. Madeira. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company. OCLC 12204855.
  3. ^ "Concert" (PDF). New York Evening Post. March 30, 1818. p. 3.
  4. ^ Pasko, Wesley Washington (1890). "Old New York: A Journal Relating to the History and Antiquities of New York City". 1 of 2. New York: W. W. Pasko: 125.
  5. ^ Winter, William (1889). Brief Chronicles. New York: reprint, Lenox Hill Publishing and Distributing Corp., 1970. p. 282.
  6. ^ Bordman, Martin; Hischak, Thomas S. (2004). "Charlies Robert Thorne". The Oxford Companion to American Theatre. Oxford University Press. p. 614.
  7. ^ "Death of a Veteran Actor, The Long Career on the Stage of Charles Robert Thorne". The New York Times. December 14, 1893.