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James Cassius Williamson

1845 – 1913

James Cassius Williamson (1845-1913), actor and theatrical entrepreneur, worked and performed in theatres in his native USA before coming to Victoria under contract to George Selth Coppin in 1874. Over twelve months, he and his comedienne wife became wealthy and famous. They returned overseas, but in 1879 they arrived in Australia having purchased from WS Gilbert the exclusive Australasian rights to perform HMS Pinafore. In 1880 Williamson formed his (Royal) Comic Opera Company. Initially sole lessee of the Theatre Royal in Melbourne, he was in and out of partnerships from 1882, mounting increasingly lavish productions with international stars, opening new ventures such as the (New) Princess's Theatre in Melbourne, and refurbishing or leasing other venues such as Her Majesty's in Sydney. By 1904, he had 650 employees on his payroll. Having made an unrivalled impact on Australian theatre, Williamson died in Paris, and was buried in Chicago.

Updated 2018