Edward Harrigan

Edward Harrigan

Edward Harrigan (October 26, 1844 – June 6, 1911) was an American actor, playwright, theatre manager, and composer. Harrigan and Tony Hart formed the first famous collaboration in American musical theatre.


Life and career

Harrigan was born in New York and of Irish lineage. He made his first acting appearance in San Francisco in 1867, and soon afterwards formed a stage partnership with Tony Hart (1855–1891), whose real name was Anthony Cannon. As "Harrigan and Hart," they had a great success on tour in the presentation of comic types of lower class characters drawn from everyday life on the streets of New York, especially the ethnic neighborhood "militias". Beginning as simple vaudeville sketches, Harrigan gradually worked these up into plays, with occasional songs, set to popular music by David Braham. The titles of these plays indicate their character, The Mulligan Guards, Squatter Sovereignty, A Leather Patch, The O'Regans.


By 1878, with The Mulligan Guard Picnic, Harrigan & Hart settled down on Broadway and played in seventeen of their shows over the next seven years (until Harrigan and Hart split up).[1] Though still broad and farcical, these shows featured music that was integrated with a more literary story line, together with the dialogue and dance, and the shows began to resemble modern musical comedy.[2] Harrigan wrote the stories and lyrics, and Braham wrote the music. These shows were very popular especially with New York's immigrant-based lower and middle classes, who were delighted to see themselves comically (but sympathetically) depicted on stage. The action of the plays took place in downtown Manhattan and concerned real-life problems, such as interracial tensions, political corruption, and gang violence, all mixed together with broad, street-smart comedy, puns and ethnic dialects. Harrigan played the politically ambitious Irish saloon owner "Dan Mulligan", and Hart played the African-American washerwoman "Rebecca Allup".

Harrigan married Annie Braham, David's daughter, on November 18, 1876. Their family continued in his footsteps, as son William Harrigan, daughter Nedda Harrigan, and granddaughter Ann Connolly all became Broadway performers. However, Harrigan's habit of hiring relatives soured his partnership with Hart, and they split up in 1885. Hart died at age 36 from complications caused by syphilis. Harrigan ultimately wrote the book and lyrics for more than twenty five Broadway musicals and continued writing and performing until 1893.

Harrigan 'n Hart, a Broadway show featuring songs written by Harrigan and Braham, played at the Longacre Theatre in 1985. It featured Tony award-winning Harry Groener as Harrigan and Mark Hamill as Tony Hart. It was nominated for 1985 Tony Award, Best Book of a Musical, Michael Stewart.


  • 1878: The Mulligan Guard Picnic
  • 1879: The Mulligan Guards' Ball
  • 1880: The Mulligan Guards' Surprise which included the hit song "Whist! The Bogie Man" words by Harrigan and music by David Braham.
  • 1883: The Mulligans' Silver Wedding
  • 1883: Cordelia's Aspirations
  • 1890: Reilly and the Four Hundred


  1. ^ Who's Who in Musicals: Hale-Harris at www.musicals101.com
  2. ^ A History of the Musical at www.scaruffi.com

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links

Further reading

  • Kahn, E.J. (1955) The Merry Partners: The Age and Stage of Harrigan and Hart (Random House). Biography of Harrigan and Hart.
  • Moody, Richard. (1980) Ned Harrigan - From Corlear's Hook to Herald Square. (Chicago: Nelson Hall)

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