Actor, playwright, stage manager, and diarist Harry Watkins. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

What was it like to be a working actor in the United States in the 19th century? The diary of Harry Watkins—who made a living acting, playwriting, and stage managing in the antebellum era—provides us with some insight into the way in which life in the theatre has and hasn’t changed over the last century and a half. Dr. Amy Hughes, Dr. Naomi Stubbs, and Dr. Scott D. Dexter are our guests this week, and they’ve been working on producing both scholarly and digitized versions of Watkins’s diary.


  • Want to read Harry Watkins’s diary? Harvard University’s Houghton Library has a digital facsimile available here.
  • Learn more about how Amy, Naomi, and Scott are bringing Harry Watkins’s diary into the 21st century at their project’s website and keep up to date on the project on their Facebook page.
  • What was Harry Watkins doing on this day 171 years ago? Follow him on Twitter for brief daily excerpts from his diary.
  • For more about TEI: Text-Encoding Initiative, a consortium that collectively develops and maintains standards for the representation of texts in digital form, visit