He is best remembered for his diary, kept from 1845 to 1860, which is considered a rare source of firsthand information about the theater during the antebellum period. On February 5, 1854, Watkins married Harriet M. Secor with whom he had two children. Watkins became manager of Philisophy T. Barnum"s American Museum"s theatrical enterprises in 1857, where he wrote, presented, and acted in, among other things, The Pioneer Patriot.
Watkins played such roles as Edward Middleton in The Drunkard, Wool in his own adaptation of The Hidden Hand, and Titus in Brutus by John Howard Payne.
He was the author of more than 25 plays by 1889. (1885), and in his book His Worst Enemy: Photographed from Life In New York (1889).
Watkins is fictionalized in the Martin Scorsese film Gangs of New York, in a scene where The Five Points Mission presents a dramatization of Harriet Beecher Stowe"s Uncle Tom"s Cabin. Barnum had presented H. J. Conway"s popular version of Uncle Tom"s Cabin at the American Museum in the 1850s, which varied from the novel especially in ending happily.
Watkins" diary, which he kept during the first fifteen years of his acting career (November 20, 1845 – 1860), is a rare source of firsthand information about the theater during the antebellum period.
lieutenant "is the only known diary of its size and scope written by an American actor during the decade prior to the Civil War". Although Watkins" daughter, Amy Lee, had intended to use his diary as support to write a book about him, she exchanged it with Maud Durbin Skinner (the wife of Otis Skinner), probably due to financial hardship, for the amount of her dentist bill and a small compensation. The complete thirteen volumes of the original manuscript are available online at the Harvard Theatre Collection website of the Harvard College Library in "Papers of the Skinner Family".
In 2012, a group of scholars began to digitize the Watkins The project, A Player and a Gentleman: The of Harry Watkins, Nineteenth-Century American Actor, aims to shed new light on pre-Civil War theatre culture as the conditions of artists during that period.
All three children became actors. Charles was 29, and William was 19.
He was also actively engaged in politics, often expressing his views in his diary as well as in bulletins, such as How Shall I Vote?.