“The Murderer: John Wilkes Booth and the Plot Against Lincoln” at the ALPLM

Almost a year ago, I was contacted by representatives from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. Though I was right in the middle of setting up my classroom for a new school year (at a brand new school, and grade, actually), I dropped everything to take the call from employees of such an esteemed institution. As part of their volunteer educational programming, the ALPLM asked me if I would be willing to come to Springfield in the upcoming year and give a talk about the assassin of President Lincoln. I suppose it is not difficult to ascertain what my response was. After a few victory laps around my minefield of classroom, I settled in for the long wait until summer.

Dave Taylor at the ALPLM 6-29-2016

Less than a month ago, on June 29, I was humbled to present my speech, “The Murderer: John Wilkes Booth and the Plot Against Lincoln” for the wonderful folks at the ALPLM. The museum was kind enough to record my presentation and put it on YouTube, and so I have embedded the video below. It misses some of the fancy animations I included in my PowerPoint but is of far better quality than I could have ever done. The video below includes the lively question and answer session that followed the speech where we cover several other Lincoln assassination topics beyond John Wilkes Booth.

In addition to the speech, I spent my time in Springfield visiting the Lincoln sites and viewing several of the ALPLM’s assassination related letters and artifacts. Altogether, the speech and visit to the ALPLM are among the highlights of my “career” as a “historian.” I would like to thank Jeremy Carrell, Barbara McKean, Samuel Wheeler, Dr. James Cornelius, David Grimm, and Chuck Hand for setting everything up and for their hospitality in, and around, the ALPLM.

It was truly an honor to speak at the ALPLM and, if you have the time, I hope you enjoy the speech below.

Categories: History, News | Tags: , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on ““The Murderer: John Wilkes Booth and the Plot Against Lincoln” at the ALPLM

  1. Barry Cauchon

    Congratulations Dave. That’s a wonderful reward for all the hard work you’ve put into your research and blog. I look forward to viewing the presentation. Barry

    • Thank you, Barry. I hope all is well with you and that I’ll be seeing you at the Surratt Conference in April.

  2. Congratulations Dave! I would have loved to have seen you. The crowd was lucky to have you as a speaker. I look forward to the video.

    • Laura Lennox

      Can’t wait to view the video!

    • Thank you, Mike. I hope you enjoy the (rather long) video.

    • Dave, the video was great! You did an amazing job, your presentation was very informative, witty and entertaining. I’m sure the crowd loved it. I wish there were more question and answer footage, you looked like you were having a lot of fun.

      Great job!

  3. John Winterbauer

    How’d I miss that? Wish I’d have known you guys were coming!

    • John,

      I’m sorry about that. One of the menus on the side of the blog gives a list of upcoming speaking engagements for Kate and me. Everything is up for the rest of the year (as of today), but Kate and I are always booking more. Next time I’m back in Illinois, I’ll try to make a bigger announcement.

  4. Deb Hubacz

    Congratulations! Nice to see you and Kate getting recognition for your work. Looking forward to your Booth Escape Tour in September. Hope Kate can join us as well. I appreciate you sharing your and Kate’s video.

    • Deb,

      Thank you for your kind words. Kate and I certainly enjoy getting out there and educating the public about Lincoln’s assassination. I look forward to meeting you on the Booth tour.

  5. Laurie Verge

    I waited to comment until I viewed the video. Old school teacher me had red pen in hand ready to catch errors or things that I could argue with. I finally laid down the pen and enjoyed the entire presentation. Excellent!

  6. Dave-Just went to the ALPLM July 4 and one of the guides mentioned you were just there as we chatted about the Booth Escape Tour. I’m glad you have it available on YouTube.

    • I’m grateful that the ALPLM was willing to professionally record it and put it up on YouTube. The only thing I like more than giving speeches is narrating the Booth escape route tour.

  7. Brian Jackson

    I watched the entire presentation – it was excellent and you were great!!! (I do think Mary Surratt knew exactly what was doing for Booth when taking the field glasses, etc,, to the tavern that day)

  8. Brian Jackson

    Dave, I have a quick question about something you mentioned in your lecture that’s been nagging me for awhile. You said JWB, Powell, and David Herold heard Lincoln speaking after the war and afterwards, Booth said “that will be the last speech he will ever make.” How is it that we know for a fact that Booth uttered those words? From Powell? From Herold? From a passerby? How??

    • Brian,

      You are very astute and managed to grasp hold of the one point in my presentation that I was very tempted to leave out because the evidence for it is second & third hand. I would direct you to this thread on Roger Norton’s wonderful Lincoln Discussion Symposium on the matter: http://rogerjnorton.com/LincolnDiscussionSymposium/thread-1578.html

      Ultimately the different variations of what occurred and what was said by Booth during Lincoln’s speech come years later. In 1867, Thomas Eckert testified that Lewis Powell had told him that Booth said, “That is the last speech he will ever make”. In 1886, reporter turned novelist George Alfred Townsend wrote a fictional story with the assassination as a plot point called Katy of Cactoctin. He claims that Booth said the words, “Now, by God! I’ll put him through” in reference to Lincoln’s speech. Townsend cites this line as coming from Frederick Stone, who had learned it from David Herold during the trial. GATH repeats this line a 1892 newspaper article. Eckert’s more contemporary telling (in 1867 rather that 1886) makes me lean more towards that as the truth, but it’s still technically hearsay.

      I feel that, whether Booth actually said the words or not, they do exemplify his feelings at the moment.

      Thanks for the comment.

  9. Diane T. Putney

    Thanks for posting your lecture. Most interesting.
    In the Q & A, you spoke about the Army Medical Museum on the third floor of the Ford’s Theatre building (which opened to the public in April 1867) having on exhibit the bullet that killed Lincoln, the Lincoln skull fragments, and the John Wilkes Booth vertebrae.
    I am doing research on Ford’s Theatre and can see that you have made a slight error.
    While the vertebrae were in the museum in 1866-1867, the Lincoln bullet and skull fragments were not. They were in the custody of the Army Judge Advocate General until 1940. In that year they were given to the Lincoln Museum on the first floor of the Ford’s building. Along with them came other items from the conspiracy trial, such as the probe, derringer, diary, compass, boot, etc. The Lincoln Museum placed the items on display in 1942, but not the bullet, skull fragments, and probe. In 1956, those three medical-related Lincoln items were given to the Medical Museum of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology – the successor to the Army Medical Museum which had moved out of the Ford’s building in 1887. Today it is the National Museum of Health and Medicine.
    The items you mentioned, the JWB vertebrae, the Lincoln bullet, and the Lincoln skull fragments, were not all three together at the Ford’s building 1866-1867.
    Thought you would be interested in the clarification.
    Diane T. Putney

    • Thank you Diane for this information. You are, of course, correct and I remember now seeing the 1940 transfer paper from the JAG office to the Lincoln museum with the bullet, Nelaton probe, and skulls fragments included. I must have confused the Lincoln relics being at Ford’s with Booth’s vertebrae with Lewis Powell’s skull which was at the Army Medical Museum for a brief time with Booth’s bones.

      I appreciate the clarification.


  10. Laurie Verge

    Some of us also caught a pair of incorrect dates related to Powell. I believe that his skull was found in the Smithsonian in 1992, and the burial beside his mother in Geneva, Florida, in 1994. You gave later dates in the talk. You might want to double-check with Betty Ownsbey, since she has always been the go-between with the Powell descendants and participated in the burial service. She also commissioned a small, elegant cask for the skull’s proper interment.

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