American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 58

Harrigan & Hart

Edward “Ned Harrigan 1844 —1911

Tony Hart 1855 —1891

Harrigan & Hart, individually and collectively—along with their company—bridged indigenous American theatre from minstrelsy to variety to travesty to vaudeville and musical comedy. Ned Harrigan wrote the skits and later plays that he, Tony Hart, Annie Yeamans, Johnny Wild & Billy Gray and a company of three dozen other actors and comedians brought to life.

Harrigan wrote about the people he knew in the Lower Manhattan of the Nineteenth Century. It was a world of immigrants—Irish, German, Italian—and Negroes, all at the bottom of the social and economic ladder, struggling and competing for a toehold in America.

The names Harrigan & Hart were synonymous with The Mulligan Guard, a fictitious and absurd fraternal and quasi-military organization that provided the principal set of characters for many of Harrigan’s plays, sketches and songs. The Mulligan Guards were no more absurd or realistic than the many real, self-appointed marching and target companies that paraded themselves through New York in costumes and insignia of their own fanciful design.

Like Weber & Fields, a score of years later, Harrigan & Hart plays at their Theatre Comique were the place to find New Yorkers of every social station. Tony Hart’s short career and life ended at age 36. Ned Harrigan continued to operate his company and theatre until fashions changed. In his last years Harrigan revived some of his old plays and appeared in vaudeville.