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Ione Burke


Dion Boucicault's favorite leading lady, Ione Burke played most of the romantic interest roles in the playwright's productions during the early 1870s--"The Shaughraun," "Struggle for Life," "Colleen Bawn," "London Assurance." Burke's greatest non-Boucicault role was that of Evangeline in the original 1874 production of Edward Rice's famous early musical extravaganza. A cousin of actor Joseph Jefferson, she first played in the United States in the Great Union Burlesque at Laura Keane's Theater in 1861 and enjoyed a healthy number of female juvenile roles throughout the Civil War era.

In 1865 she crossed the Atlantic, fell in love with Richard Burke, a young officer, and married. His family disowned them, so Richard sold his commission and departed with Ione for America in 1869. She immediately secured employment at Niblo's Garden playing the title role in "Little Em'ly." Because of Richard's incompetence in business, Ione became the sole support of the family. Their financial situation remained unstable until Ione Burke was hired by Lester Wallach to be the female lead of the 5th Avenue Theatre in New York City in 1872. When Richard's parents relented and welcomed him and Ione back into their good graces in 1876, they suddenly left America and Ione's career on the Broadway stage ceased.

NOTES: "A Real Life Romance," Hartford Daily Courant (Aug 5, 1876), 2. David S. Shields/ALS