Modern albumen print from wet plate collodion negative
Image: 9 × 5.9 cm (3 9/16 × 2 5/16")
Sheet: 12.2 × 9.7 cm (4 13/16 × 3 13/16")
Mat: 35.6 × 28 cm (14 × 11")
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Frederick Hill Meserve Collection
Born Blakes, Londonderry, Ireland
Although critical acclaim often eluded him, John McCullough enjoyed the enthusiastic support of those who relished his energetic, muscular style of acting. As one contemporary observed, "If Mr. McCullough is never sublime, he is always impressive." McCullough first performed in amateur theatricals before making his professional debut at Philadelphia's Arch Street Theatre in 1857; the turning point in his career came several years later. After a season in Boston with actor-manager Edward L. Davenport, he was discovered in 1861 by legendary actor Edwin Forrest, who recruited McCullough for his touring company and adopted him as a protégé. The younger man refined his dramatic skills under Forrest's tutelage, frequently playing the second lead to Forrest's principal character in the Shakespearean plays and popular melodramas that were staples of the Forrest repertoire. McCullough later emerged a popular star in his own right despite criticism that he was merely an imitator of his celebrated mentor.