Samuel Houghton Cowell (5 April 1820 – 11 March 1864) was an actor and singer of comical songs.
Born in London, he was the son of Joseph Cowell, a British actor who brought him to the United States in 1822. He worked as a child actor in the United States, having first appeared there aged nine in Boston as Crack in The Turnpike Gate, a play by Thomas Knight, in which he sang a duet with his father 'When off in curricle we go'. Thereafter he appeared at many major theatres in America, hailed as 'the young American Roscius'. He also appeared in Shakespeare plays, notably in the Comedy of Errors playing one of twin brothers, with his father playing the other.
At the age of 20 he returned to Britain, first to Edinburgh where he became a successful actor working for his uncle W. H. Murray, who managed the Theatre Royal and the Adelphi there. He also succeeded as a comic singer in entr'actes. Later as his career developed he became primarily a music hall artist, performing comical songs and burlesques in London song and supper rooms. Songs that he made famous included The Ratcatcher's Daughter and Villikins and his Dinah.
Cowell became extremely popular and successful, and is credited with establishing the music hall, a new form of entertainment. He also appeared twice before Queen Victoria at her court theatricals. In 1860 he returned to America to tour, but at about this period his health, previously robust, began to break down. He developed consumption after his return to London in 1862. His failing health made it impossible for him to continue performing and in 1863 he was declared bankrupt. He moved with his family to Blandford Forum, Dorset, to recuperate.
- J. W. Ebsworth, ‘Cowell, Samuel Houghton (1820–1864)’, rev. Nilanjana Banerji, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- Don B. Wilmeth (2007-09-13), The Cambridge guide to American theatre, ISBN 9780521835381
- Obituary:New York Times, 3 April 1863
- The Times(London, England), 27 July 1863, p.11
- Samuel Houghton Stackwood Cowell, buried 15 March 1864
- Emilie Marguerite Ebsworth Cowell: The Cowells in America; Being the Diary of Mrs. Sam Cowell during Her Husband’s Concert Tour in the Years 1860-1861 M. Wilson Disher (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1934