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Josie Baker

Biography: 

(1854-1918)

Descended from an old Philadelphia theater family, daughter of actor-manager John Lewis Baker and actress Alexina Fisher Baker, sister of Lewis Drew, Josie Baker's career as a stage ingenue was relatively short, just six years. She began performing girl roles in Philadelphia at the Walnut Street Theater in 1874. She debuted in New York in 1876 in "The Mighty Dollar" at Wallack's Theater. For the latter half of the 1870s she toured extensively in "The Shaughraun," "Diplomacy" and "A Million."

She was the unwitting cause of one the bloodiest incidents involving players in the old west. In 1879, in Marshall, Texas, Miss Baker, Maurice Barrymore, and B.C. Porter were accosted at lunch by James Currie, a railroad detective. Currie insulted Baker, Barrymore rose to quell the incident, was shot and wounded, then Currie shot and killed Porter. "It is regarded as the most damnable murder that has taken place in Texas in many years." Currie was executed.

In 1880 she married the brilliant comic actor John Drew, Jr., retired from the stage, and lived out her life as a wife and mother. She was, indeed, an ideal wife for a stage star, since she was accustomed to travel and tolerant of the irrational schedules.

NOTES, "A Texas Tragedy," Kalamazoo Gazette (Apr 20, 1879). David S. Shields/ALS