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Archive for September, 2011

Charles Price, surveyed

Until lately I didn’t know much about Charles Price, my grandmother’s great-grandfather, but he is turning out to be one of the more easily documented of the “grandcestors,” for reasons that will likely become clear below. First, though, a biographical introduction; then, on to my recent discoveries about him.

Charles Price

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Nearly a hundred years ago the practitioners of a trade that had traditionally been regarded as barely a step above prostitution formed a union.

The growing resentment of the men and women of the legitimate stage towards the conditions under which they were employed eventually found institutional expression in the founding of the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) in 1913. But it was not until 1919—by which time it had become abundantly clear that the producing managers had no intention of yielding any of their control over the terms under which actors were employed—that its members voted to affiliate with the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

~ “All Work or No Play: Key Themes in the History of the American Stage Actor as Worker”

I have never been a member of Actors’ Equity, but I was for a time a non-union actor with paying gigs. And in the early 1980s I went on strike. Twice.

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In the United States a man builds a house to spend his latter years in it, and he sells it before the roof is on; he plants a garden, and lets it just as the trees are coming into bearing; he brings a field into tillage, and leaves other men to gather the crops; he embraces a profession, and gives it up; he settles in a place, which he soon afterward leaves, to carry his changeable longings elsewhere.

~ Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)

2011 marks the bicentennial of the start of construction on the Cumberland Road (also known as the National Road, the National Turnpike, and later U.S. Route 40), the first federally-funded highway in the United States. This year is also the 200th anniversary of an episode in my family’s history with a slight connection to that project. I’ll get to the family stuff a little later; but first, about the Road.

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