Born in the US to a theatrical family, Joseph Jefferson first appeared on stage at age four. He is seen here as his best-known character, Rip Van Winkle, a role he performed for 40 years. Jefferson toured to Dunedin in 1864. During his visit he saw a play by local Māori, and noted that 'in one of the scenes where they were tracking an enemy the grace and earnestness with which they moved was surprising'. Jefferson's daughter Margaret met the Dunedin journalist and playwright Benjamin Farjeon, whom she later married in London.
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