The original text
Based on a one-act play called The Dead, or Five Years Away by an Irish miner and amateur playwright named Sam Smith, which told the story of about John Stofel, a Dutch shoemaker, and had a plot somewhat similar to Rip Van Winkle. The American actor J.C. Williamson (1845-1913) came across this text and bought it outright for $100. He then had it rewritten by his friend Clay M. Greene, who retitled it Struck Oil. Though Williamson claimed that he had re-written the last act himself, it is usually credited to Clay.
The new work is a melodramatic tale that tells of the travails of John Stofel and his a daughter Lizzie during the US Civil War, when John is wounded and loses his mind, returning to find that oil had been discovered on the farm he had bought before the war and the previous owner now wants to repossess the farm. They are ultimately saved when herecovers his mind and finds the deeds to the farm.
The play was first performed in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 23 February 1874 and became a very popular vehicle for Williamson and his wife Maggie Moore, one they toured with for years.
Translations and adaptations
Made into a 1919 Australian silent film directed by Franklyn Barrett (not a success at the time and now considered a lost film).
Performance history in South Africa
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