Miss Huntington Plays Paul Jones
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Written by J. Dennis Robinson

Agnes Huntington


The father of the American navy as a woman? Yes, said Agnes Huntington. She played the macho naval hero in the 19th century comic opera Paul Jones.




VISIT our John Paul Jones section
SEE: Photos from modern JPJ plays 
SEE another rare cabinet card of Agnes Huntington

It’s not likely to stage a comeback. Among our collection of John Paul Jones’ oddities is the libretto and score to the comic operetta "Paul Jones". The famous captain is played by Miss Agnes Huntington. The rest of the "dramatis personae" appear to be pulled wholly from the imaginations of author HB Farnie and composer Robert Planquette. The list reads like Gilbert and Sullivan gone bad – naval officer Rufino de Martinez, Spanish governor Don Trocadero, the old smuggler Bouillabaisse and his wife Chopinette. The play takes place in St. Malo, France and ends up at the island of Estrella near the Mosquito Shore.

Agnes HuntingtonFrom as early as 1778 Paul Jones has been the inspiration for tunes, beginning with ballads and chanteys extolling his heroism or condemning his piracy. Our collection includes sheet music from a World War I homage to Jones, a couple of piano arrangements of the popular ballroom dance "The Paul Jones" and the original soundtrack to the 1959 Jones' film starring Robert Stack.

And the comic opera would have stayed here in an obscure drawer had we not stumbled upon an 1890 copy of "The Illustrated America" featuring an article about Miss Huntington’s performance as the heroic Mr. Jones at the Broadway Theater in New York. The play was imported from London, but the actress was American. According to the magazine, Huntington was a smash in London, but quarreled with manager and left the play "Paul Jones" only to reprise her role in the United States version.

"In person, Miss Huntington is very tall and well proportioned," the article reports. "Her voice is a contralto, pure in tone and full of expression…Miss Huntington’s triumph in Paul Jones is all the more a personal work for her as the work is not very strong…It was not a success when first produced in Paris in 1887 under the title Surcouf".

The Illustrated America goes on say that there is almost no plot to the operetta "Paul Jones" and that the book on which it is based is unremarkable. Yrt the play was a hit with popular audiences -- and played by a woman taller than the Captain himseld.

CONTINUE to see pictures of Miss Huntington 

the 1890 Comic Operetta


Actress Agnes Huntington

Miss Huntington in her standard theater apparel

Comic opera Paul Jones

In Act II of the operetta Paul Jones, Miss Huntington as Jones woos Yvonne, a character played by Miss Van Bruydell.

Agnes Hunting as John Paul Jones

All images from "The Illustrated America" from the collection of SeacaostNH.com.

Victorian Cross Dressing

READER FOLLOWUP: (see photo above)

Dennis...enjoyed reading about AGNES and her role as JOHN PAUL JONES. I have a complete stand-up lady's victorian album of Agnes dressed for various roles...photographers from Boston/Chicago/N.Y.. some signed as shown in enclosed photo.
Thom Hindle
Images of the Past Gallery, Dover, NH