Edwin Forrest Society | Entertainment Community Fund

Edwin Forrest Society

The Entertainment Community Fund established the Edwin Forrest Society to give special recognition to those selfless individuals or couples who have made provisions for estate gifts to the Entertainment Community Fund.
Photo credit: l-r: B.H. Barry, Jayne Houdyshell, Tyne Daly, Joe Benincasa. Photo credit: Jay Brady Photography


Membership in the Edwin Forrest Society is granted to those who have included a gift to the Entertainment Community Fund in their estate plan. The gift can be made through various means.

A simple statement of intent is all we need. Your pledge indicates that you have set aside a portion of your estate so thousands of performing arts and entertainment professionals can rely upon the Entertainment Community Fund as a safety net in the years to come. The members of the Society are listed in a special section of our Annual Report each year.

If you have questions about making a planned gift and joining the Edwin Forrest Society, please get in touch with:

Jay Haddad
Manager of Individual Giving
212.221.7300, ext. 128

The Legacy of Edwin Forrest, "America's Greatest Actor"
Edwin Forrest was the first true star of the American theater. Today, with so many famous personalities and multitalented performers, it may be hard to imagine a time when the world of entertainment was not seen as exciting and glamorous. But in 1806, when Forrest was born in Philadelphia, and through most of the rest of the 19th century, American actors and other entertainers performed only in theater, variety and traveling circuses, and members of the profession were not highly respected. During his long and successful career, Edwin Forrest did a great deal to change that perception.

Forrest was fascinated with the theater at a very early age and made his first professional appearance on the stage of Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre when he was only 14 years old. Six years later he debuted in New York and became an overnight sensation with both critics and audiences.

The fame of his initial triumph and the power of his performances brought him sold-out houses in city after city. Within two years, and still in his early twenties, Edwin Forrest had become the most highly paid performer in the United States. Both his professional and financial positions would be secure for the rest of his life.

For 50 years, Edwin Forrest remained the most highly paid and most popular actor in America. When he toured England and Europe, he was the first American to be acclaimed an international star.

During his lifetime, Forrest was a major supporter of both The General Theatrical Fund and the American Dramatic Fund Association, two charities that were predecessors of the Entertainment Community Fund. His principal dream, though, was to create a retirement home for the elderly members of the profession he so loved, and he left the bulk of his enormous estate to be used for the realization of that dream.

The Edwin Forrest Home opened its doors in Philadelphia in 1876, four years after Mr. Forrest's death. It continued to serve retired members of the profession until the 1980s, when its Board of Managers decided to close the home, sell the property, and contribute its sizable assets to the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey, the main section of which was named the "Edwin Forrest Wing" in his honor.

Two stipulations in Mr. Forrest’s estate plan were that every year Shakespeare’s birthday should be celebrated, and the Declaration of Independence should be read on the Fourth of July. To this end, we celebrate the Bard’s birthday across the country at our Edwin Forrest Day celebrations in (or around) April of every year, and at the Actors Fund Home we do indeed hold a special reading of the Declaration on July 4.