- Birth Date
- 1 August 1806
- Death Date
- 31 March 1890
Thomas Ackley Lyne
Thanks to the dedication and extensive research compiled by Dr. Lee Krähenbühl of Stevenson University, information pertaining to Thomas A. Lyne's prior to 1862 can now be included in this biographical statement:
Lyne was a prominent American tragedian and elocutionist who introduced the practice of professional theatre to the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo in 1844—making them the first English-speaking religious community in American history to sanction theatre as an acceptable activity. Other religions followed suit 40 years later. He made his acting debut in 1829 and shared the stage with many antebellum actors including Edwin Forrest, Charlotte Cushman, and Dan Marble. Lyne was closely associated with Junius Brutus Booth, father of Edwin (successful actor) and John Wilkes Booth (failed actor and assassin of President Lincoln).
Lyne was introduced to the Gospel by his brother-in-law, George J. Adams, and eventually made his way to Nauvoo, Illinois, where he joined the Church. He was baptized by Amasa M. Lyman in April 1844. In Nauvoo, Lyne assembled an amateur company of supporting players from among the city’s prominent citizens. One of the performances, Pizarro, was a benefit to raise money for Joseph Smith’s legal defense fund. The cast included close advisers of the Prophet such as Heber C. Kimball, Amasa Lyman, Erastus Snow, and George A. Smith. Brigham Young appeared in a brief non-speaking role as a Peruvian High Priest. Assisting Lyne was Hiram B. Clawson, who became the comedian of the company when Lyne toured several performances to towns in Iowa Territory. This led to the growth of a persistent legend that a “Nauvoo Dramatic Association” had been established by Joseph Smith. However, this claim first appeared in 1904, sixty years after the fact, and the troupe was never more than a loose collection of amateur performers directed by, and starring, Thomas A. Lyne.
After the death of the prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., Lyne wrote a tract titled “A True and Descriptive Account of the Assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.” In the Succession Crisis of 1844, he aligned himself with Sidney Rigdon, who sent him on a mission to England (1845-46). Upon the collapse of the Rigdonite church, Lyne’s father-in-law, Peter Hess, became a Strangite bishop and enlisted Lyne for missions to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston (1847-1850). Upon learning that Strang was practicing plural marriage, Lyne abandoned evangelism entirely and returned to the professional stage as a touring actor for the next decade.
In 1862, Lyne wrote to Brigham Young seeking employment at the new Salt Lake Theatre. Lyne arrived to Salt Lake City by stagecoach and was hired by Hiram B. Clawson to work as an occasional star and elocution coach for the resident company of actors. His tenure at the Salt Lake Theatre was cut short by a long and public feud with Brigham Young.
Lyne died in Salt Lake City on 31 March 1890.
- Age at Departure: 56
- Lee Krähenbühl, “Thomas A. Lyne, the Latter-day Saints, and the American Theatre: Confluences and Influences, 1844-1904,” The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 40, 1 (Spring/Summer 2020), 80-103.
- Myrtle E. Henderson, A History of the Theatre In Salt Lake City From 1850 to 1870 (Evanston, Illinois: July 1934), 77-80.
- Utah State History Cemeteries and Burials Database.