Part of the American History & Genealogy Project


Biography of Ira Frederick Aldridge

Ira Frederick Aldridge was born in Bel Air, Maryland, in 1804. About the year 1826 he became the "valet" of the celebrated actor, Edmund Keene. Aldridge soon discovered that he would like to be an actor, and Keene encouraged him. During the latter part of the thirties, in company with Mr. Keene, he left the country for Europe where a magnificent career awaited him. "The Black Roscius," as he was called, created such a furor as a tragedian, that he was frequently carried from the theatres where he performed upon the shoulders of his enthusiastic auditors to his hotel. He was loaded down with medals, insignia of the various royal orders, the gifts of Kings and Queens whom he had charmed and delighted by his magnificent impersonations of the characters he assumed.

He performed in the principal cities of Europe, and it is recorded of him that when he played Iago in the city of Moscow, in Russia, a number of students who had witnessed the performance unhitched the horses from the actor's carriage, after the play, and dragged him in triumph to his lodgings.

In Sweden and Germany and England, his name was a household word. He stood in the front rank with the greatest actors of his day, and the nobility of England held him in the same regard and treated him with the same consideration that Americans bestowed upon Keene, or Booth, or any other great actor who had made himself famous.

Ira Aldridge gave no performance in Europe which was not witnessed by one or more members of the royal family of the country he was in. In personal appearance he was very dark in complexion, with a full, round face which was covered with a closely shaven beard. He was nearly six feet in height. He had large lustrous eyes and a resonant voice, which he kept under perfect control. As Aaron, in "Titus Andronicus," and as the Moor, in ''Othello," he established his fame as the most realistic actor who up to that period had ever assumed those roles.

The newspapers of that period showered unstinted praise upon this remarkable colored man, and he was lionized in fashionable society and feted by the nobility; the king of Sweden knighted him, and the Emperor of Russia conferred a decoration upon him. His medals and decorations from other personages were estimated at the time of his death, 1867, to be worth over $250,000.

Aldridge owned nine villas, situated in various parts of Europe, and each of them handsomely furnished. His principal residence was in the city of London, England, where he entertained in a royal manner the legions of friends who sought his company and that of his charming wife, a Swedish baroness, by whom he had three children.

He died in 1867 as Sir Ira Aldridge, K. C. M. and a host of other titles given him at various times.

 Maryland Biographies | Maryland AHGP

Source: Gazetteer of Maryland, by Henry Gannett, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1904.


Please Come Again!!

This page was last updated Thursday, 11-Feb-2016 22:05:28 EST

 Copyright 2011-2018 AHGP - Judy White
The American History and Genealogy Project.
Enjoy the work of our webmasters, provide a link, do not copy their work.