Here is a fascinating account of the struggle to create a viable American theatre and dramatic tradition in a society that, while eager for culture and entertainment, provided an environment hostile to their development. Meserve begins by describing the potential for dramatic writing that existed in America in 1829 and the obstacles faced by the many talented dramatists who emerged during the period. The author describes the work of playwrights in American popular theatre--their dramatization of current events and social issues and their attempts to adapt popular fiction and foreign plays. Two major categories of playwright are emphasized--the journeyman or actor-playwright and the literary playwright. The author finds that by 1850 virtually all of the outstanding American playwrights were either dead or had withdrawn from the theatrical scene.