Not long after the actor Edwin Booth (1833-1893) finished performing the role of Brutus in the Tragedy of Julius Caesar, he purchased a townhouse on Gramercy Park for $75,000 and had the building converted into a club for men involved in the arts. On New Year’s Eve 1888, The Players Club opened as a private, invitation-only, men-only club with Booth as its first president; Augustin Daly (1838-1899) was the first vice-president; and Laurence Hutton (1843-1904) the first secretary. Mark Twain (1835-1910) was also among the original members.
A few days after the opening of the Club, Booth had his portrait done at the Union Square studio of George Rockwood (1882-1911), who specialized in theatrical photography and was the first important photolithographer in the United States. One print was specially framed and signed for Hutton (now in the collection of Princeton University).
Princeton resident and lecturer Laurence Hutton was a close friend of Booth’s and published several biographies on the actor. Among these were the 1887 “Actors and actresses” column for The Dial and another in Harper’s, where Hutton was literary editor, and shortly before the actor died, a monograph titled simply Edwin Booth (1893).
Laurence Hutton (1843-1904), Edwin Booth (New York: Harper & brothers, 1893. Laurence Hutton Collection (HTN) 35702.198.49
George Rockwood (1882-1911), Edwin Booth, ca. 1889. Photolithograph. Theater Collection Rare Books and Special Collections
Note that Booth’s hand is hidden inside his coat. This is a sign that he was a Freemason.