George Washington Smith dances Albrecht in the First American Production of Giselle (Boston MA)

George Washington Smith, said to have been a mulatto, danced the role of Albrecht in the first American production of ”Giselle,” in 1846 with Mary Ann Lee. In 1840 Smith had been hand picked by Viennese Ballerina Fanny Essler to be her partner. He quickly rose in acclaim and helped popularize ballet in Philadelphia.


George Washington Smith, (born c. 1820, Philadelphia—died Feb. 18, 1899, Philadelphia), American dancer, ballet master, and teacher, considered the only male American ballet star of the 19th century.

Smith’s talents were developed by studying with various visiting European teachers in his native Philadelphia, then a mecca for theatre and dance. His performing debut was made in 1832, and he soon grew into a versatile dancer, admired for his skills as a technician, actor, partner, and pantomimist.

In 1840 the Viennese ballerina Fanny Elssler and her British partner, ballet master James Silvain, arrived in Philadelphia for a two-year American tour. Smith worked with them, performing one of his most noted roles, that of Harlequin. When they left, Smith used his harlequinade talents and appeared in a pantomime, Mazulme, or The Black Raven of the Tombs, a role for which he became noted. Smith’s ballet studies continued with the Philadelphian P.H. Hazard, under whom he and Mary Ann Lee became the leading dancers in the first American production of Giselle, performed in Boston in 1846. Mary Ann Lee and George Washington Smith, who later formed their own successful touring company. Lee retired at 24, but Smith George Washington Smith continued to dance (with Lola Montez), teach and choreograph. He also danced with the Ronzani Ballet, with a very young Enrico Cecchetti. He would have a long career, as a was a choreographer and teacher, and go on to found one of the first classical ballet schools in Philadelphia. Smith in his later years.







Other Happenings in 1846


Jan 5 The United States House of Representatives votes to stop sharing the Oregon Territory with the United Kingdom

Feb 23, The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia tolled for the last time, to mark George Washington’s birthday. A hairline fracture had developed since 1817 and a failed attempt to repair it resulted in the crack.

Apr 15, The Donner family set out for California from Springfield, Ill.

Apr 25 Thornton Affair: Open conflict begins over the disputed border of Texas, triggering the Mexican-American War.

Dec 28 Iowa becomes 29th state of the Union

Jun 15, Washington diplomats established a straight line border between the US and Canada in the northwest and thus established Point Roberts, Wa. as the westernmost corner of the US. The enclave is 4.9 sq. miles.

A US Treaty was signed with the Cherokee Nation in which the tribe gave up resistance to forced relocation.


Jan 1 Yucatan declares independence from Mexico

Jan 21 1st edition of Charles Dickens’ newspaper “The Daily News”

Jan 28 Battle of Allwal, British beat Sikhs in Punjab

Arts & Sciences

Feb 21 1st US woman telegrapher, Sarah G Bagley, Lowell, Mass

May 7 First printed copies of “Poems” by Emily, Charlotte and Anne Brontë received, published under pseudonym of Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell (2 copies sold)

Jun 5 Telegraph line opens between Philadelphia & Balt

Aug 10 US Act of Congress passes establishing the Smithsonian Institution, now world’s largest museum and research complex

Sep 10 Elias Howe takes out a US patent for a lockstich sewing machine

Sep 18 Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning exchange last letters before eloping

Sep 30 Anesthetic ether used for 1st time by American dentist Dr William Morton who extracts a tooth

Nov 4 Benjamin Palmer patents artificial leg

Dec 10, Norbert Rillieux (1806-1894), African-American engineer, received a patent for the Rillieux Process for refining sugar. He won several patents for a way to refine sugar in a process that later came to be called multiple-effect distillation.

Human & Civil Rights

Jun 24 Residency tax on Jews of Hungary abolished


Jun 19 First officially recognized baseball game (played by Cartwright Rules) – NY Nines 23 defeat Knickerbockers 1 at Hoboken, New Jersey

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