Cornelia Frances Jefferson

Cornelia Frances Jefferson

Cornelia Frances Jefferson (née Cornelia Frances Thomas, b. 1 Oct 1796, New York, San Domingo; d. 1849) was a famous early-American singer and prolific comic actress. She was known widely in her younger years as Mrs. Burke, which was the surname from her first marriage to Thomas Burke.[1][2]

Growing up

Cornelia’s mother died when she was very young. Her father, who had been raised in affluence, lost everything and was very poor. He finally found employment in the service of Alexander Placide, ancestor of the family of famous actors bearing that name. Placide was then manager of the Charleston Theatre in Charleston, South Carolina. That theatre was her schoolhouse. In it she grew to womanhood, acting and singing, and according to Ireland, "she possessed a fair share of ability as a comic actress, with a pleasing face and person, and an exquisite voice which, in power, sweetness and purity, was unapproached by anybody."[3]


First marriage

In 1816, she married Thomas Burke (d. 6 June 1825, Baltimore), an Irish comedian who died June 6, 1825. She and Thomas had one son, Charles Saint Thomas Burke (1822–1854), deriving the name of "Saint" from his godfather.[4] He was known in his early days as "Master Burke."

Second marriage

Then, on July 27, 1826, in Philadelphia, she married Joseph Jefferson (b. Philadelphia).[5] She and Joseph had four children. Two died at a very early age, the other two were Joseph Jefferson (b. 20 Feb. 1829) and Cornelia (b. 1 Oct 1935, Baltimore). [6]


  1. ^ Notable Names in the American Theatre, James T. White & Co., Clifton, NJ (1976); earlier edition published as The Biographical Encyclopaedia and Who's Who of the American Theatre; 'Necrology' section begins on page 343; this book often alphabetizes by titles of address, e.g., Dr., Mrs., and Sir.
  2. ^ The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, Third edition, edited by Phyllis Hartnoll, Oxford University Press (1967)
  3. ^ Robert L. Sherman , Chicago Stage, Its Records and Achievements, Volume One, 1834 to 1871
  4. ^ William Winter, Life and art of Joseph Jefferson, MacMillan and Co., New York (1894)
  5. ^ At and After the Play: Jefferson and Rip Van Winkle, Lippincott's Magazine, Vol. 24, pg. 65 (article is from pps 57-75) (1879)
  6. ^ William Glasgow Bruce Carson, Managers in distress: the St. Louis stage, 1840-1844, pg. 125, published by Willian G. B. Carson (1949)

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