Edward "Ned" Harrigan
Ned Harrigan was an American playwright, actor, producer, singer, lyricist, and comedian with the popular comedy team of Harrigan & Hart. He was an entertainment pioneer who helped establish and popularize musical-comedy theater in the United States. Ned Harrigan was one of the most beloved theatrical figures of his era.
Biographical fast facts
Full or original name at birth: Edward Green Harrigan
Error corrections or clarifications
* A number of sources, including the Encyclopedia Britannica, erroneously report "1845" as the year of Ned's birth. A few sources also report the incorrect street address of "31 Scammel Street" for his birth. The Harrigan family didn't move across the
street to 31 Scammel until a year after Ned made his debut in the world. Note that Scammel Street later ceased to exist when it was swallowed up by a public school playground. Also be aware that some government records (including some census records) erroneously spell their name "Harigan" and also
Biography - Credits - Residences of Ned Harrigan
Edward Harrigan was raised in an area of Manhattan known as Corlear's Hook, then more commonly known as Cork Row. It was a racially diverse area of Irish, Italian, and German immigrants, as well as African-Americans. His straightforward inclusion of those minorities in the many skits and plays he would later write, proved quite groundbreaking. Because of his frequent inclusion of those at the bottom of the social and economic ladder, his audiences didn't just consist of the elite Fifth Avenue crowd. It was just one of the elements that contributed to his phenomenal success and longevity on stage. In fact, Harrigan & Hart dominated the New York stage during the 1870s and early 1880s. Harrigan made his stage debut in San Francisco back in the 1860s, and his Broadway debut in 1870.
Teaming with Anthony J. Cannon, who later changed his name to Tony Hart, the comedy team of Harrigan & Hart would become so popular, Harrigan was later able to build his own theater venue. Productions were often a family affair, with Ned writing the lyrics to their songs, and his father-in-law, David Braham, composing the music. Other family members were frequently seen both onstage and off.
Harrigan & Hart were best known for The Mulligan Guards, which premiered in 1873. After becoming their signature piece, the Guards would be featured in many of their most popular slapstick skits and plays. It may have been the centerpiece of his career, but Harrigan didn't own the rights to the song. He often bemoaned the fact that he sold the tune for just $50 in the early years of his career.
The acclaimed comedy team gave their final Broadway performance on May 9th, 1885. Fans were heartbroken when they learned the most popular comedy duo on Broadway had gone their separate ways. Tony Hart died six years later at the age of 36. Paresis and advanced syphilis, had caused Ned's comic partner to suffer terribly during his final years. Suffering from dementia, Tony's last years were spent in and out of a state mental institution.
Ned Harrigan continued to delight his fans with new and old routines alike, for many years. The Globe Theatre, Theatre Comique, and his own Harrigan Theatre are the New York venues that are most closely associated with Harrigan.
The legendary George M. Cohan idolized Ned Harrigan, and wrote the popular song, Harrigan, in his honor. It was first heard in the Broadway show Fifty Miles From Boston, just a few years before Ned's death. It became a favorite with barbershop quartettes, and is likely better known to most audiences than the man who inspired it.
Excerpt from the song Harrigan (By George M. Cohan):
"H-A double R I-G-A-N spells Harrigan.
Proud of all the Irish blood that's in me.
Divel a man that says a word agin me.
H-A double R I-G-A-N you see,
It's a name that a shame never has been connected with
HARRIGAN, That's me!"
Nearly a century after their heyday, a $2 million Broadway musical, Harrigan 'n Hart opened. Directed by Joe Layton, the musical told the story of Ned Harrigan and comedy partner Tony Hart's struggle to rise to the top of late 19th century Broadway theater. Harry Groener portrayed Ned Harrigan, and Mark Hamill (of Star Wars fame) played Tony Hart. The show opened at the renowned Longacre Theater, January 31st, 1985, and closed February 3rd, 1985, after just a handful of performances, and a couple dozen previews. The show was a flop, with the New York Times calling it "dull" and "aimless." Nonetheless, both Harry Groener and Mark Hamill received Drama Desk Award nominations in the Outstanding Actor in a Musical category, for their performances.
Selected stage credits:
The Mulligan Guards
The Mulligan Guards' Christmas
The Mulligan Guard Ball
The Last of the Hogans
The Regular Army O!
Reilly and the 400
Selected song credits (as lyricist):
The Babies on Our Block
The Gallant "69th"
I Never Drink behind the Bar
Maggie Murphy's Home
My Dad's Dinner Pail
Paddy Duffy's Cart
Singing at the Hallway Door
The Skidmore Fancy Ball
Residences of Ned Harrigan:
Note that these residences may no longer exist, and it's possible the addresses have changed over the past century. This is not to suggest that Ned Harrigan owned each and every one of these structures. We're only reporting the fact that he called them home at one point or another in his life.
22 Varick Street, New York City, New York, U.S.A. (1876-1877)
26 King Street, New York City, New York, U.S.A. (c. 1877)
30 King Street, New York City, New York, U.S.A. (c. 1878-1881)
14 Perry Street, New York City, New York, U.S.A. (1881-1891)
236 West 44th Street, New York City, New York, U.S.A. (c. 1891-1893)
46 West 68th Street, New York City, New York, U.S.A. (c. 1894-1895)
122 West 113th Street, New York City, New York, U.S.A. (1895)
310 Park Place, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. (1895-1908)
249 West 102nd Street (just west of Broadway), New York, New York, U.S.A. (1908-1911)
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