John Durang Photo

John Durang

Born: Jan 6, 1768

Death: Mar 31, 1822

Birthplace: Lancaster

Nationality: United States

John Durang

Date of Birth : Jan 6, 1768
Date of Death : Mar 31, 1822
Birth Place : Lancaster

John Durang was the first U.S.-born professional dancer of note, best known for his hornpipe dance. John Durang, the son of Jacob and Catherine Durang, was born on January 6, 1768, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but grew up mostly in York, Pennsylvania, where he was educated at the Christ Lutheran Church school. In 1784, he made his debut as a performer in Lewis Hallam's "lecture" and patriotic extravaganza. Plays and dances were then legally banned, and the term lecture was used for such events. He went on to spend much of the rest of his life as a dancer, acrobat, actor, mime, rope dancer, and blackface comic. He was a part of a group called Ricketts's Circus, which traveled throughout the northeastern United States and into Canada. He was reputedly George Washington's favorite entertainer. The popular tune "Durang's Hornpipe", composed in 1785 by the German dwarf Hoffmaster, was named for him. Durang married Mary McEwen, also a dancer, with whom he had six children, including the actors Ferdinand, Charles, and Augustus Durang, and the dancers Charlotte and Juliet Durang. Durang died March 31, 1822 in Philadelphia and was buried at St. Mary's Church.


  • Jacob Durang
  • Catherine Durang


  • Mary McEwen


  • Ferdinand Durang
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