Posts Tagged With: Our American Cousin

The Lincoln Assassination On This Day (November 1 – November 7)

For the past 3 months I’ve been posting a different On This Day tweet related to the Lincoln assassination on my Twitter page and then publishing them all here each Sunday. I’m going to be taking a break from this for a few weeks as I am pretty deep into working on my Master’s thesis and don’t have time to research, compile, and compose #OTD tweets at the moment. My class ends in December so I hope to be back to posting regular tweets again around then. In the mean time here is the round-up for the last week.


November 1


November 2


November 3


November 4


November 5


November 6


November 7


Bonus

Here are a few other tweets from this week that I thought might interest folks.

On the first Friday of the month, the National Archives hosts an #ArchivesHashtagParty on Twitter. They encourage other archives and museums to tweet out pieces in their collection based around a different theme. This month’s theme was #ArchivesBookLove. Even though I’m not an archive, I sometimes take part in the fun showing off things in different collections.

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The Lincoln Assassination On This Day (October 18 – October 24)

Taking inspiration from one of my favorite books, John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day by Art Loux, I’m documenting a different Lincoln assassination or Booth family event each day on my Twitter account. In addition to my daily #OTD (On This Day) tweets, each Sunday I’ll be posting them here for the past week. If you click on any of the pictures in the tweet, it will take you to its individual tweet page on Twitter where you can click to make the images larger and easier to see. Since Twitter limits the number of characters you can type in a tweet, I often include text boxes as pictures to provide more information. I hope you enjoy reading about the different events that happened over the last week.


October 18


October 19


October 20


October 21


October 22


October 23


October 24


Bonus

Here are a few other tweets from this week that I thought might interest folks.


That brings us up to today. Next Sunday I’ll write another post covering the #OTD tweets from this coming week. If you don’t want to wait until then and want to know each anniversary on the day it happens, follow me on Twitter! My username is @LinConspirators (Twitter has a character limit not only for tweets, but for usernames as well so I had to condense it). Even if you don’t want to join Twitter, you can still see my tweets by just visiting my Twitter page on the web. You can also see my tweets by looking at the sidebar of this website if you’re using a desktop or laptop computer, or at the bottom if you are visiting on a mobile device.

Until next week!

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The Lincoln Assassination On This Day (October 11 – October 17)

Taking inspiration from one of my favorite books, John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day by Art Loux, I’m documenting a different Lincoln assassination or Booth family event each day on my Twitter account. In addition to my daily #OTD (On This Day) tweets, each Sunday I’ll be posting them here for the past week. If you click on any of the pictures in the tweet, it will take you to its individual tweet page on Twitter where you can click to make the images larger and easier to see. Since Twitter limits the number of characters you can type in a tweet, I often include text boxes as pictures to provide more information. I hope you enjoy reading about the different events that happened over the last week.


October 11


October 12


October 13


October 14


October 15


October 16


October 17


Bonus

Here are a few other tweets from this week that I thought might interest folks.


That brings us up to today. Next Sunday I’ll write another post covering the #OTD tweets from this coming week. If you don’t want to wait until then and want to know each anniversary on the day it happens, follow me on Twitter! My username is @LinConspirators (Twitter has a character limit not only for tweets, but for usernames as well so I had to condense it). Even if you don’t want to join Twitter, you can still see my tweets by just visiting my Twitter page on the web. You can also see my tweets by looking at the sidebar of this website if you’re using a desktop or laptop computer, or at the bottom if you are visiting on a mobile device.

Until next week!

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What’s Missing? Episode 2

Once again it’s time to test your Boothie knowledge, resourcefulness, and observational skills with a game called, What’s Missing?

What's Missing Icon

Below you will find 20 images all related in some way to the Lincoln assassination story. Most of them have previously appeared on this website, either in the Picture Galleries or in one of the many posts. Your job is to look at the images carefully to see if you can determine “What’s Missing?” from the image. You can click on each image to enlarge it a bit and get a better look. When you’re stumped, or ready to check your answer, click on the “Answer” button below each image. Good luck!

What’s Missing A:

What's Missing A

What's Missing Answer Icon

What’s Missing B:

What's Missing Answer Icon

What’s Missing C:

What's Missing C

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What’s Missing D:

What's Missing D

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What’s Missing E:

What's Missing E

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What’s Missing F:

What's Missing F

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What’s Missing G:

What's Missing G

What's Missing Answer Icon

What’s Missing H:

What's Missing H

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What’s Missing I:

What's Missing I

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What’s Missing J:

What's Missing J

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What’s Missing K:

What's Missing K

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What’s Missing L:

What's Missing L

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What’s Missing M:

What's Missing M

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What’s Missing N:

What's Missing N

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What’s Missing O:

What's Missing O

What's Missing Answer Icon

What’s Missing P:

What's Missing P

What's Missing Answer Icon

What’s Missing Q:

What's Missing Q

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What’s Missing R:

What's Missing R

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What’s Missing S:

What's Missing S

What's Missing Answer Icon

What’s Missing T:

What's Missing T

What's Missing Answer Icon

So how did you do? Let us know in the comments section below.

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John Wilkes Booth’s Movements at Ford’s Theatre

It is well known that John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln in his theater box, jumped to the stage, and escaped out of the back door of Ford’s Theatre.  These hurried moments at Ford’s instigated a massive manhunt that lasted twelve days and ended with the death of the assassin.

The moments that preceded John Wilkes Booth’s firing of his derringer are not as well known.  John Wilkes Booth was intimately familiar with the layout, and people, of Ford’s Theatre.  It was like a second home to him insomuch that he even had his mail delivered to Ford’s when he was in Washington.  This familiarity allowed Booth to move about Ford’s Theatre without arousing suspicion.  What follows is an account of Booth’s movements at Ford’s Theatre in the time before he shot the president.

Ground Floor of Ford's Theatre and Baptist Alley plan

John Wilkes Booth had a busy day on April 14th.  His preparations to assassinate the President took him to the Herndon House hotel to alert his conspirators, the Kirkwood House hotel to leave a suspicious note for Vice President Johnson, and near Willard’s hotel to give a note to John Mathews which would justify his later actions.  Booth also visited Mary Surratt’s boarding house on H street three times that day.  It was after his third visit, where Mrs. Surratt confirmed she had given John Lloyd the message that parties would be calling for the hidden weapons tonight, that John Wilkes Booth walked to Ford’s Theatre.  He first went into the Star Saloon owned by Peter Taltavul. It was located right next door to Ford’s Theatre.  He briefly drank there with some of the stagehands from Ford’s, including Edman Spangler, since the play for that night, “Our American Cousin“, was at an intermission.  He found himself drinking alone when the men we called to curtain.

From the Star Saloon, Booth made his way to Baptist Alley behind Ford’s Theatre and got his horse, a bay mare, out of her stable. Spangler built the stable for Booth and took care of it for him.  Booth walked his horse to the back door of Ford’s Theatre. At the back door, Booth called for Spangler, who he hoped would hold his horse until he would need it.   Booth was told by another stagehand that Spangler was needed for an upcoming scene change and so Booth waited with his horse.  After the change, Spangler came out and agreed to hold Booth’s horse.  Booth entered the back door of Ford’s.  The current scene of the play left Booth with no room to sneak across.

The back wall of Ford's Theatre from backstage.  When Booth tried to go across here, there was not enough room.

The back wall of Ford’s Theatre from backstage. When Booth tried to go across here, there was not enough room.

Instead, he lifted a trap door and descended a staircase that led under the stage.  This was a T shaped passageway that was used by stagehands to cross the stage underground and for the musicians to reach the orchestra pit.  Booth emerged by ascending another flight of stairs and opening a trap door on the opposite side.

From there, Booth exited a stage door and into a covered alleyway between Ford’s Theatre and the Star Saloon.  He exited the passageway right out onto Tenth St.  Various witnesses put Booth in the theater lobby and at the Star Saloon at different times which makes knowing his precise course impossible.  However, a likely scenario would have Booth entering the lobby of Ford’s Theatre after exiting the alleyway.  He walked past the ticket taker, John Buckingham, who instinctively held out his hand for a ticket until he realized it was Booth.  Buckingham said that Booth entered the theater and stood behind the seats watching the production (and the President’s box) for some time.

As this was going on, Spangler had grown tired of caring for Booth’s horse.  He called for Peanut John, a young man who acted as an errand boy for the theater, to come out and take his place.  With Peanut holding the reigns, Spangler returned to work.

John-Wilkes-Booth-at-Ford's

An animated clip showing, approximately, Booth’s movements at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.

Booth exited the theater and walked next door to the Star Saloon.  Here he had a glass of whiskey and some water to chase it down.  He also acquired a cigar and began puffing away.  Cigar in mouth, Booth returned to the lobby of Ford’s.   Booth entered the main floor of the theater again and watched the production some more.  Upon exiting, he conversed with Harry Ford who was in the ticket office counting receipts.  Booth placed his half smoked cigar down on the window’s ledge and joked with Ford that no man should disturb his cigar.

As stated before, Booth’s movements are not an exact science.  It is likely that Booth, anxiously passing the time while waiting to strike, repeatedly traveled between Ford’s Theatre and the Star Saloon, attempting to gain courage with every drink.  Eventually, however, Booth realized that it was time to strike.  From the lobby of Ford’s Theatre, Booth ascended the staircase which led him to the balcony level.

Booth crept across the back of the dress circle level.  As he approached closer to the president’s box he stopped and noticed a guard sitting in front of the entryway to the boxes.  He removed his hat, and took out something, probably a calling card, from his pocket.  He then approached the man and presented the card to him.  He was allowed to pass and entered the vestibule with led to the boxes.  Booth closed the door and, using a bar he had hidden there earlier, he wedged the door shut.  The door to Box 8, which was at the end of the passageway, was open.  With his single shot derringer in hand and a large Rio Grande Camp knife at the ready, Booth entered the President’s box through door 8, turned left, and shot Abraham Lincoln in the head at close range.

The Shot 14 National Police Gazette 4-22-1865

Booth cried out “Sic Semper Tyrannis” and dropped the gun.  He raised the knife in his hand as Major Rathbone, one of the President’s guests that night, rushed at him.  Booth tried to stab Rathbone in the chest but Rathbone parried the strike and took it in his left arm instead.  Booth then ran to the front of the box, put his hands on the railing, and leaped over.  He fell almost twelve feet to the stage below.  He landed awkwardly, either due to a last minute grab by Rathbone or his spur catching one of the decorative flags adorning the box.  In a moment he raised himself up and with quick speed made his way across the stage, perhaps pausing briefly at center stage to raise his knife and shout “The South shall be Free!”  Booth ran into the wings and towards the back door he originally entered through.  William Withers, the orchestra director, unknowingly got in his way and Booth pushed him away, cutting his vest in the process.  Booth reached the back door, rushed through it, and shut the door close behind him.

In the alley, Booth shouted at Peanut John to, “Give me the horse!”  Booth knocked Peanut away using the butt of his knife and a firm kick.  He swiftly mounted the horse and put spurs to her.  She dashed down Baptist Alley.  Booth turned her northward and exited out onto F Street.  He would soon escape D.C. via the Navy Yard bridge and America’s largest manhunt would begin.

References:
Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination by Thomas A. Bogar
Restoration of Ford’s Theatre by George Olszewski
American Brutus by Michael W. Kauffman
The Art Loux Archive

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Photo of the Day: The Stage of Ford’s Theatre

This is how the stage scenery appeared for Our American Cousin at the time of Lincoln’s assassination.  It was photographed by Mathew Brady on Monday, April 17 after the War Department ordered the scene of the crime to be recreated for government detectives.

Notice the music stands in the orchestra pit.  They are likely still holding the music to “Honor to Our Soldiers”, a song that was planned to be performed for Lincoln that night.

Honor to Our Soldiers Playbill excerpt
Image Source: National Archives

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Harry Hawk’s Letter to his Parents

Harry Hawk 1

Actor Harry Hawk was the only person on stage when Booth assassinated Lincoln.  When Booth jumped to the stage, brandishing a bloody knife in his hands, Hawk turned and ran from him, fearing for his life.  In the hours  following the assassination, Hawk gave a statement to Corporal Tanner who, under orders from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, was collecting evidence in the parlor of the Petersen House.  In addition to this official statement, Hawk also wrote a letter to his parents in Chicago to tell them of the events.  Here is his letter, dated April 16th, recounting the tragedy:

“Washington, April 16, 1865

My Dear Parents,

This is the first time I have had to write to you since the assassination of our dear President on Friday night, as I have been in custody nearly ever since, I was one of the principal witnesses of that sad affair, being the only one on the stage at the time of the fatal shot. I was playing Asa Trenchard, in the “American Cousin,” The “old lady” of the theatre had just gone off the stage, and I was answering her exit speech when I heard the shot fired. I turned, looked up at the President’s box, heard the man exclaim, “Sic semper tyrannis,” saw him jump from the box, seize the flag on the staff and drop to the stage; he slipped when he gained the stage, but got upon his feet in a moment, brandished a large knife, saying, “The South shall be free!” turned his face in the direction I stood, and I recognized him as John Wilkes Booth. He ran toward me, and I, seeing the knife, thought I was the one he was after, ran off the stage and up a flight of stairs. He made his escape out of a door, directly in the rear of the theatre, mounted a horse and rode off.

The above all occurred in the space of a quarter of a minute, and at the time I did not know that the President was shot; although, if I had tried to stop him, he would have stabbed me.

I am now under one thousand dollars bail to appear as a witness when Booth is tried, if caught.

All the above I have sworn to. You may imagine the excitement in the theatre, which was crowded, with cries of “Hang him!” “Who was he?” &c., from every one present.

In about fifteen minutes after the occurrence, the President was carried out and across the street. I was requested to walk down to police headquarters and give my evidence. They then put me under one thousand dollars bond to appear at 10 o’clock next morning. I then walked about for some time as the city was wild with excitement, and then I went to bed. At half-past three I was called by an aid of the President, to go the house where he was lying, to give another statement before Judge Carter, Secretary Stanton, and other high officials assembled there. I did so, and went to bed again. On Saturday I gave bail.

It was the saddest thing I ever knew. The city only the night before was illuminated, and everybody was so happy. Now it is all sadness. Everybody looks gloomy and sad.

On that night the play was going off so well. Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln enjoyed it much. She was laughing at my speech when the shot was fired. In fact it was one laugh from the time the curtain went up until it fell — and to think of such a sorrowful ending! It is an era in my life that I shall never forget. Inclosed is a piece of fringe of the flag the President was holding when shot.”

To learn more about Harry Hawk, the other actors, and employees of Ford’s Theatre that fateful night, I recommend pre-ordering Dr. Tom Bogar’s upcoming book, “Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination: The Untold Story of the Actors and Stagehands at Ford’s Theatre“. Dr. Bogar spoke at the 2013 Surratt Society Conference and has done a phenomenal job delving into the history of these forgotten souls.  The book is due to be released in November, so pre-order it from Amazon today!

References:
Harry Hawk letter published in the Evening Star, April 24, 1865

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Battle of the Polkas

I’ve previously written about the long, drawn out legal battle between Laura Keene and John Sleeper Clarke over the popular play, “Our American Cousin”.  Laura Keene, the one-time lover of Edwin Booth, had to bring John Sleeper Clarke, the husband of Asia Booth, to court over her rightful ownership of the play not once, but twice.  The first suit was brought shortly after the play made its debut in Laura Keene’s New York theatre in 1858 when William Wheatley and John Sleeper Clarke began performing the play at the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia.  Everyone knew the play was a smash hit and, through some crafty means, Wheatley and Clarke managed to get themselves a copy of Tom Taylor’s original script and then poached Keene’s personal improvements.  In the legal battles, both sides would claim that they held the true ownership of the play.  Outside of the courtroom, both sides would also try to convince the American theatre goers that their version was the best.

Keene's Cousin Ad

Advertisement for Laura Keene’s Our American Cousin

Clarke Cousin Ad

Advertisement for John Sleeper Clarke’s Our American Cousin

In addition to their respective newspapers advertisements, Keene and Clarke came out swinging with battling “Our American Cousin” polkas. Keene struck first with her polka:

Keene's Cousin Polka Cover

Keene's Cousin Polka

Not to be undone by Keene, John Sleeper Clarke had his own polka composed for his theatre:

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Clarke's Cousin Polka

For those of you who are musically inclined, you can download the sheet music for both polkas. Keene’s version is here and Clarke’s version is here. Oddly enough, here is a third “Our American Cousin” Polka that seems to be trying to find a compromise as it is written merely, “To the Patrons & Friends of Asa Trenchard”.

I find these battling polkas to be the perfect example of the constant one-upmanship between these two theatre rivals.  Though operating in separate cities, Keene and Clarke played out a very public dispute trying to gain control of the most popular comedy of the day.

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