Photo of the Day: Petersen House (1921)

After the shooting at Ford’s Theatre, the scene on Tenth Street was a picture of agitated solemnity.  Many of those who had been present in the theater were now anxiously waiting just outside its doors for word regarding the President’s condition.  As the news was passed down the Washington streets, others migrated towards the scene, hoping to get the latest information for themselves.  Many, if not all, of those who traveled to the theater that night hoped that the news being passed around was false.  Perhaps the President was fine and the rumors of his being shot were untrue.  As the newcomers arrived however, and they started hearing accounts from witnesses, their hopes would have inevitably changed.  Faced with the realization that the President had, indeed, been shot, their hearts would then pray that their leader was not gravely injured by an assassin’s bullet.

The sight of the unresponsive President being carried, borne by loving hands, out of the theater and into the street would have dashed the hopes and prayers of those present.  The somber truth of President’s condition would have been obvious to everyone, as drops of his blood spilled onto the dirt street.

One of the men viewing this tragic scene was Henry Safford, a boarder who lived across the street from Ford’s Theatre at the boardinghouse of William and Anna Petersen.  Noticing that those carrying the President were unsure where to take him, Safford called out, “Bring him in here.”  With those four words, the Petersen House became an integral part of history and would forever be known as “The House Where Lincoln Died”.

Petersen House 1920 - 1922 BoothieBarn

This picture, previously unpublished, shows the Petersen House between the years of 1920 and 1922.  At that point the building was owned by the government with Lincoln collector Osborn Oldroyd as its tenant and caretaker.  Oldroyd operated his Lincoln museum out of the Petersen House.  At the time this picture was taken, it cost 27¢ (with 3¢ tax) to visit the museum.

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13 thoughts on “Photo of the Day: Petersen House (1921)

  1. Brian r. Miller

    A wonderful addition to the blog and very informative on the connection of Osborn Oldroyd to both houses, if my memory serves me correctly Robert Todd wanted Oldroyd out of he Lincoln house for displaying with his Lincolnania Booth material that Robert Todd found offensive and an injustice to is memory!! One small sidebar which I’m sure is a typo the Lincoln house was built for Reverend Dresser in 1849 then sod to the Lincoln’s in 1844, how could they purchase what wasn’t yet built? otherwise great addition o amazing blog and Dave thank you for very recently adding a gallery on Joseph Adrian whom so little is known about or his Rosalie, evey bit of nformation gleaned is wonderful. Keep up the great work and thank you!!

    Brian R. Miller

    • Brian,

      Thank you for alerting me of that typo. The Lincoln home was built in 1839, not 1849. And, yes, Robert Todd Lincoln evicted Oldroyd due to the latter’s habit of selling off pieces of the house as souvenirs and displaying a portrait of Booth apparently on the mantel of the Lincoln home. Oldroyd packed up his stuff and managed to get another cushy gig at the Petersen House.

      P.S. If you want to learn more about Rosalie Booth, I did a lengthy post about her life here:


      • Brian r. Miller

        Really enjoyed the piece on Rosalie booth, never really knew anything of her and very little of Josephs life. Very interesting reading. It would be interesting to delve into the Players club Archives to see if Edwin had more material on Rosalie and Joseph especially at least cdv of Rosalie. Not sure what it would require to delve in to their records but it could be quite the treasure hunt as Edwin seem to become the patriarch of the family after Junius Booth sr’s death. Is there any effort to currently sort the Archives?


        • Brian,

          Kate, a fellow Lincoln assassination researcher, has actually done some research at The Players. The policy is very strict regarding Booth family materials. You are not allowed to photograph anything written by the family. If you make an appointment to conduct research, the best you can do is sit there and transcribe the documents. I truly believe they have the original Rosalie CDV somewhere (possibly misfiled or lost), but when Kate asked about it, she was told they did not have it. In regards to letters, I know they a few from Joseph since you can find them using their card catalog ( but, again, the only way to see them are in person.


          • Brian r. Miller

            Thank you very much for your reply, I just started looking at the web link, very interesting!! I have to believe there is more information on all of the Archives on the Booths and Booth aquaintances. Sounds like it is definitely worth the research. The club is no interested in having anyone go through and identify the whole archives? Did you have a chance to lok at my E mail to you and see if you were interested in photos of any items? I love to share with everyone something they may never have seen. When you have the chance just let me know!

            Much thanks!!
            Super blog Dave!!!

  2. Kathy

    Great post. Dave.

  3. Ernesto

    Good pic! Unlike that any blood dripped onto the street while L carried to Petersen house. First, Leale says blood readily clotted in head wound. second, L was carried on board or something similar from which blood would not have dripped until flowing copiously, which from description didn’t happen.
    Blood dripping is likely from some dramatic secondary source like Jim bishop or Sandburg, etc.

    • Ernesto,

      While I pretty much agree with you that the President was not bleeding profusely when he was led out of Ford’s, wouldn’t he have left some blood on the surface of Tenth St? You would be the expert for this, but my understanding was that, while Lincoln was still in the box, Dr. Leale used his finger to remove the blood clot in Lincoln’s head therefore allowing the pressure to be released and blood to flow more freely. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever read a period account which states that the President’s body was placed on anything as it was removed from the theater. In modern times the body would be secured to a board or gurney but I don’t believe those tending to Lincoln thought of that. All the accounts I have read state that Lincoln was carried, awkwardly, by many hands across the street.

      In truth, the blood that was present on Tenth St. probably did not have come from Lincoln’s transportation between Ford’s and the Petersen House. Rather, the many blood relics that exist today (if they are legitimate) are the likely products of that night’s medical proceedings. As bloody linens and basins were emptied onto the street, many doubtlessly took the time to daub textiles and papers into the small puddles of Lincoln’s blood. Some of the “modern” accounts may have over dramatized this, but, I think it’s safe to say that it did occur.


  4. Gene C

    Great photo Dave, Where and how did you find it?

    • Gene,

      I recently acquired a few unpublished photographs of various sites relating to the assassination. I’ll be scanning some more and posting them in the future.


  5. I like this photo, too, because you can see the house next door, which was very soon knocked down to build the office building that recently became the Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership. (We at Ford’s learned from photos that it was built in early 1920’s.) It looks like there’s a restaurant in the basement of the 514 building. Thanks, Dave!

    • You’re right, Sarah. According to the Historic Structure Report for the Petersen House, the house next to the Petersen House at 514 Tenth St. was taken down in 1923 and replaced by the 6 story office building you guys use today for the Center of Education and Leadership.

      But that’s not a restaurant in the basement of 514, it’s actually a shoe repair place called the “Capital Shoe MFG. & Repair Co.”

      Thanks for commenting,


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