This Day In Founding Fathers History – 8 February 2013

On this day in 1735, “Flora” was performed in Charleston, South Carolina, the first opera performance in the United States. “Flora” is an English ballad opera which was immensely popular. It was one of the first operas to incorporate contemporary music with a contemporary theme. On this day, the opera premiered in a makeshift theater, but with the growing popularity of theater, the first opera house in the U.S. was built and opened a year later, the Dock Street Theater in Charleston. When British soldiers’ belongings were inventoried after they died during the Revolutionary War, many of them had the programs for “Flora” on their person. 1

In 1693 on this day, a charter was granted for the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  King William III and Queen Mary II of England signed the charter, making the College of William and Mary the first U.S. institution to receive a royal charter. The charter reads, in part, “Forasmuch as our well-beloved and faithful subjects, con- stituting the General Assembly of our Colony of Virginia, have had it in their minds, and have proposed to themselves, to the end that the Church of Virginia may be furnished with a seminary of ministers of the gospel, and that the youth may be piously educated in good letters and manners, and that the Christian faith may be propagated amongst the Western Indians, to the glory of Almighty God; to make, found and establish a certain place of universal study, or perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and other good Arts and Sciences…we would be pleased, not only to grant our royal license to the said [list of trustees], to make, found, erect and establish the said college, but also to extend our royal bounty and munificence towards the erection and foundation of the said college, in such way and manner as to us shall seem most expedient.”  2

1 “Resurrecting ‘Flora’…,” nj.com/entertainment/music/index.ssf/2010/11/resurrecting_flora_the_first_o.html; “First opera in US ‘Flora,’ opens in Charleston, SC,” Famous Daily, famousdaily.com/history/first-opera-in-us-flora.html; “Dock Street Theater,” Charleston On Stage at the Dock, charlestononstage.com/dock-street-theater.html
2 “History and Traditions,” William & Mary website, wm.edu/about/history/index.php; “Royal Charter,” scdb.swem.wm.edu/wiki/index.php/Charter#Transcription_of_the_Royal_Charter