Reference Entry

Russell, Sol Smith

Stephen M. Archer

in American National Biography Online

Published in print January 1999 |
Published online February 2000 | e-ISBN: 9780198606697 | DOI:

Show Summary Details


Russell, Sol Smith (15 June 1848–28 April 1902), actor, was born Solomon Smith Russell in Brunswick, Missouri, the son of Charles Elmer Russell, a storekeeper, and Louisa Mathews, the daughter of a music teacher. He was named for Solomon Smith, his uncle by marriage and a leading theatrical manager of the time. The young Russell showed an interest in the theater, putting on shows with friends and becoming a class clown, but his parents opposed this attraction. His uncle Sol Smith, however, allowed him to see his work and visit backstage. The child lived with his parents in Missouri and Illinois but left home to join the Union army as a drummer boy during the Civil War. He left the army in 1862, then joined a theater company in Cairo, Illinois, and slowly began to learn his craft. For six dollars a week, from which the young actor paid three dollars and a half for board while living in the theater, he soon emerged as a young man of disparate talents: he could drum in the orchestra, sing comic songs, and—because of his youth and delicacy—he could also play female roles. All the while he watched his colleagues closely, studying scripts and reading widely....

Reference Entry.  1153 words. 

Subjects: Theatre

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.