Make Plans to Visit Ford’s Theatre on April 14th

One week from today will be the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.  Appropriately, Ford’s Theatre will be marking the occasion with a Lincoln Tribute.  The Tribute will consist of a 36 hour period of nonstop activities including orators reciting some of Lincoln’s favorite poetry, speakers discussing his legacy, a special performance leading up to the moment of his assassination, reenactors recreating the solemn death watch, and a wreath laying ceremony at 7:22 am on April 15th.  The Lincoln Tribute will, I’m sure, prove to be a particularly fitting vigil for our 16th President.

Perhaps the culminating piece of the Tribute is the special performance planned inside of Ford’s Theatre starting at 9:00 pm EST.  The program is entitled, “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration“.  Ford’s Theatre is describing the commemoration thusly:

Now he belongs to the ages

Ford’s Theatre will present a moving commemorative tribute to President Abraham Lincoln, 150 years to the day since his assassination. This evening event will include readings of Lincoln’s words and stories, Civil War-era music, excerpts from Lincoln’s favorite theatre and operas, and more. The event seeks to remind us that we not only lost a president; we lost a man who treasured his family, his friends and his country with a love so strong it could hold the Union together.

Tickets for the commemoration program sold out within minutes but those who do travel to D.C. can still share in the experience by viewing the commemoration with others at the nearby National Portrait Gallery.

For those who do not live in, or cannot make it to, the Washington, D.C. area, Ford’s Theatre has partnered with UStream to stream the commemoration online for free.

As cozy as it might sound watching the commemoration from the confines of your own home, I want to encourage you all, especially those of you in the D.C. metro area, to come out and be a part of the Lincoln Tribute and Commemoration in person.  I can think of no better way to truly immerse yourself in history.  Ford’s Theatre is providing a unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to essentially travel back in time.  Costumed reenactors will allow you to experience first hand what it was like in the hours leading up to and following Lincoln’s death.  As someone who has taken the opportunity to reenact a portion of this story, trust me when I say that immersing yourself in the history is an unparalleled learning experience.  I wouldn’t miss this exclusive chance to “live through” Lincoln’s assassination.

Free Ticket Giveaway!

To further motivate you all to make plans to visit Ford’s Theatre on April 14th and 15th, I have two (2) extra commemoration tickets that I will be giving away that night.  The winner of these tickets will be able to view the 9 pm program, “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration” from inside Ford’s Theatre rather than the streaming version at the Portrait Gallery.  Instead of giving them away in a contest ahead of time, I will be bringing the two extra tickets along with me when I attend the Lincoln Tribute on the evening of April 14th.  At a certain point before the show’s debut, I will send out a tweet on my @BoothieBarn Twitter page.  This tweet will contain a clue as to my location on the Ford’s Theatre campus.  The first person to find me and ask me for the tickets after I send out the tweet, will win the tickets.

So please, make plans to attend the Lincoln Tribute at Ford’s Theatre between April 14th and 15th.  It truly is going to be a once in a lifetime event that you won’t want to miss.  And, if you’re lucky and keep an eye on my Twitter page, you could win two free tickets to the “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration” going on at 9:00 pm at Ford’s Theatre.

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Calendar: April 2015

This month will mark the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  This milestone will be accompanied by MANY events, exhibits, and talks.  I, for one, plan to be very busy during the next few weeks.  Below is just a sampling of some of the more notable Lincoln assassination events that are planned for this historic month.  Take a look at the events below and be sure to visit the Calendar section of this site for a full list of events.

April 2nd:

A Fiendish Assassination” opens at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois

  • In addition to their, “Undying Words” exhibit, the ALPLM in Springfield will debut a new exhibit on the assassination featuring items never before seen by the general public.  The exhibit runs until mid-July. For more information, click here.

April 7th:

Fortunes Fool tiny

Author Terry Alford will give talk on his book, Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth, at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

  • As part of the Archives’ “Noon Book Lectures” series, Dr. Alford will discuss his biography of the assassin.  For more information and to make your free reservation for the event, click here.

April 9th:

The Mystery of Dr. Mudd & John Wilkes Booth” presented by Tom Mudd, a descendant of Dr. Mudd, in East Lansing, Michigan

  • While I don’t always agree with Tom Mudd regarding his descendant’s innocence, it is always a treat to hear him talk about his famous ancestor.  For more information, click here.

April 12th:

Tudor Hall Speech Dave Taylor

“A House Divided: Edwin and John Wilkes Booth” presented by Dave Taylor (Hey, that’s me!) at the Booth family home of Tudor Hall in Bel Air, Maryland

  • I’m honored to be speaking at the home of the Booths about the siblings Edwin and John Wilkes.  If you attend, please come up and say hi after.  For more information, click the image above.

James Swanson, author of the book, Manhunt: The Twelve Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, will speak at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

  • James Swanson will discuss his own interest and study of Lincoln’s assassination.  For more information, click here.

April 13th:

“Lincoln’s Legacy: An Evening with Doris Kearns Goodwin” at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan.

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals, will discuss Lincoln’s enduring legacy.  In addition, the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated, will be put on special display for this event and the following day. For more information, click here.

“Lincoln’s Last Days” debuts on the Smithsonian Channel.

  • At 8 pm EST, Smithsonian Channel will debut its newest documentary about the death of Lincoln.  For more information and additional showtimes, click here.

April 14th:

“Horror! Horror! Most Dreadful News!: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” presented by Scott Schroeder in Bloomington, Indiana

  • While they are many talks planned in Indiana on April 14th (check out the Calendar page for a full listing), if you are in the Midwest, I highly recommend you attend this one by Scott Schroeder.  This is the first of three lectures Scott will give on the subject of Lincoln’s assassination which shows his deep familiarity and knowledge on the subject. For more information, click here.

Lincoln’s Last Hours at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland

  • The NMHM is planning an open house and several commemorative events for April 14th and 15th.  For more information, click here.


The Lincoln Tribute at Ford’s Theatre

The entire Ford’s Theatre campus will be bustling with activity for a 36 hour period between April 14th and 15th.  Reenactors in period garb will be out on 10th St. discussing the end of the Civil War and the hopes of reconciliation under President Lincoln. Those hopes will be shattered upon the “news” of Lincoln’s assassination and the night’s deathwatch.  In addition to this free and public reenactment, several ticketed events will occur that night:

“A Vigil for President Lincoln (An Evening of Readings)” at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL

  • In addition to the many wonderful exhibits the ALPLM in putting on in recognition of the Lincoln 150th, they will be presenting an evening’s vigil for the President.  For more information, click here.

April 15th:

7:22 am Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Petersen House in Washington, D.C.

  • Each year, the National Park Service honors Lincoln’s memory by laying a wreath at the Petersen House, when Lincoln died.  This year’s ceremony will be accompanied by the church bells of Washington ringing out in memory of our fallen leader.

April 16th:

Author Harold Holzer will give talk on his book, President Lincoln Assassinated!!: The Firsthand Story of the Murder, Manhunt, Trial, and Mourning, at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

  • As part of the Archives’ “Noon Book Lectures” series, Harold Holzer will discuss his book.  For more information and to make your free reservation for the event, click here.

April 17th:

American Civil War Roundtable (UK) Conference featuring author, Michael Kauffman

  • Residents of the United Kingdom aren’t being left out of all the Lincoln assassination events.  Michael Kauffman, author of American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies, will be giving two speeches at the ACWRT’s Conference in Ascot, Berkshire, England.  For more information on this three day conference, click here.

April 17th – 19th:

Charles County Lincoln 150

Lincoln 150: On the Trail of the Assassin in Charles County, Maryland

During this weekend long commemoration, Charles County will be having many events relating the story of John Wilkes Booth’s escape through Charles County.  The events include:

  • An Evening of Civil War Music and Words at the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata, MD
  • A Global View of The Escape at James E. Richmond Science Center in Waldorf, MD
  • Lincoln 150 – On the Trail of the Assassin at the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House in Waldorf, MD
  • Villains, Rebels & Rogues at Rich Hill, the home of Samuel Cox, in Bel Alton, MD (I, Dave Taylor, will be giving tours and talks here)
  • Conspiracy – The Talk of Port Tobacco in Port Tobacco, MD

Here’s a commercial and an interview I did with the Charles County Government about the event and my interest in John Wilkes Booth:

For more information about the Charles County Lincoln 150, click here.

April 20th:

“The President is Shot! The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Hunt for his Assassin” presented by Geoff Elliot in Loudonville, Ohio

  • Geoff Elliot runs the Abraham Lincoln Blog and has a large following on Twittter as @Mr_Lincoln. For more information on his speech, click here.

April 23rd:

“Horror! Horror! Most Dreadful News!: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” presented by Scott Schroeder in Crawfordsville, Indiana

  • Couldn’t attend Scott Schroeder’s speech on the 14th? Here’s your second chance when he speaks at the home of the Lew Wallace, a member of the military commission that tried the Lincoln conspirators.  For more information, click here.

April 24th – 26th:

Caroline County event small

Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the Capture of Lincoln’s Assassin” in Caroline County, Virginia

  • Caroline County, Virginia will commemorate the death of John Wilkes Booth with a weekend long event including a bus tour of Booth’s route through Virginia, a speech by author Terry Alford, and a lunch with Mr. and Mrs Lincoln.  For more information about the three day event, including how to register, click here.

April 25th:

Luther Baker and the Capture of John Wilkes Booth” presented by Steve Miller in Lansing, Michigan

  • Learn about the manhunt and death of Booth by a leading expert on his capture, Steve Miller.  For more information, click here.

April 26th:

“John Wilkes Booth and Tudor Hall” presented by Jim Garrett at the Booth family home of Tudor Hall in Bel Air, Maryland

  • Jim Garrett will provide a wonderful history of Tudor Hall, the home of the illustrious Booth family, and the black sheep of the family, John Wilkes Booth.  For more information, click here.

Garrett Farm Historical Marker Unveiling in Port Royal, Virginia

  • The historic highway marker located at the site of the Garrett farmhouse where John Wilkes Booth died was stolen a few months back.  The Surratt Society raised funds to create a new sign with updated text.  Join us on April 26th at 2:00pm at the Port Royal Museum of American History in Port Royal, Virginia, for the unveiling of the new sign.

Ongoing Events/Exhibits:

Undying Words: Lincoln 1858 – 1865 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL
A Fiendish Assassination at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL
Remembering Lincoln at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, IL
Now He Belongs to the Ages at the Lincoln Heritage Museum in Lincoln, IL
A Nation in Tears: 150 Years after Lincoln’s Death at the University of Illinois’ Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Champaign-Urbana, IL
So Costly a Sacrifice: Lincoln and Loss at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, IN
Autopsy for a Nation: The Death of Abraham Lincoln at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY
The Attempted Assassination of William Seward at the Seward House in Auburn, NY
Shooting Lincoln at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA
His Wound is Mortal: The Final Hours of President Abraham Lincoln at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland
President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Silent Witnesses: Artifacts of the Lincoln Assassination at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.
The Full Story: Maryland, The Surratts, and the Crime of the Century at the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, MD
#Todayin1865 tweets from @fordstheatre and @BoothieBarn
Remembering Lincoln a digital archives project by Ford’s Theatre:

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#Todayin1865 and #Surratt15 on Twitter


It has been just over a year since I joined Twitter with the username, @BoothieBarn.  I will be honest and say that, at first, I questioned whether this “social media” site would truly benefit me or my blog in anyway.  The Lincoln assassination is hardly a common topic in typical social media interactions.  As opposed to animations of cats or angry rantings about politics, celebrities, sports, etc., I wanted to hold my Twitter account to the same standard as this site.  My goal was to provide educational and informative tweets about Lincoln assassination topics, articles, and events.  So, uncertain if I would sink or swim, I decided to test the waters and see what this Twitter thing was truly like.

I’m happy to say that, time and time again, my decision to join Twitter has proved to be a wonderful choice.  Through Twitter, I have discovered a brand new world of connected history.  Devoted historians, both professional and amateur, use Twitter to share their discoveries and new thinking about the past.  I have used this “social media” site to connect with individuals, organizations, and museums around the country in meaningful and collaborative ways.  I’ve learned so much about a huge range of topics far beyond the Lincoln assassination.

Here's a small sample of the different people/organizations I follow on Twitter.

Here’s a small sampling of some of the different people/organizations I follow using Twitter.

The reason I state all of this is twofold.  First, I say all of this to slightly motivate you, my blog readers, into thinking about joining Twitter yourself.  Trust me when I say that Twitter is far more than inane, juvenile chatter about TV shows and celebrities.  If you follow the right people and groups, Twitter can be as educational as a text book.  It’s completely free to join and you don’t even have to tweet anything yourself.  You can just register, select or search for people to follow, and watch as your Twitter feed provides you with updates when those people tweet something.  The more you explore the more you’ll find that many of your favorite museums or groups are on Twitter providing great material to the masses.

The second reason I am saying all of this is to make you aware that Twitter is a great resource for Lincoln assassination content.  Between Ford’s Theatre (@fordstheatre), the Spirits of Tudor Hall (@SpiritsTH), and me (@BoothieBarn), I can promise you consistent updates about things going on in the field.  This is particularly true now thanks to a wonderful initiative started by the Ford’s Theatre Society.


A couple weeks back, Ford’s Theatre started a hashtag called #Todayin1865.  By putting a hashtag (#) in front of a word or phrase in Twitter, you create a searchable link for other tweets with the same phrase.  Therefore, by clicking the hashtagged phrase, #Todayin1865, you can quickly find all other tweets that contain that phrase.  Ford’s Theatre has been using that hashtag to tweet about Lincoln’s final days before his assassination.  I have jumped on the bandwagon, so to speak, and I have also started using the #Todayin1865 hashtag to discuss the activities of John Wilkes Booth and his conspirators during this time 150 years ago.  While real life events have kept me from tweeting with this hashtag everyday, I am making a strong effort to keep up at least until Booth’s death on April 26th.


Another hashtag that I will be using soon is #Surratt15.  This hashtag is in connection with the 2015 Surratt Society Lincoln Assassination Conference happening this weekend in Clinton, Maryland.  For those of you who can’t make it, I will be tweeting quotes from the different speakers and events during the weekend conference.  Check my Twitter account often this weekend and follow what occurs at this annual Boothie get together.

The best way to keep apprised of what I (and others) tweet is to join Twitter and follow me, but here are all three ways you can stay connected.

1.  Bookmark my Twitter page

You can bookmark my Twitter profile page on your computer or phone and manually check it for new tweets.  My profile page is:

2. Check my Twitter feed on the side of this page

You can always catch up on my tweets when you’re visiting this site.  There is a Twitter widget on the main page.  My most recent tweets should show up on the right underneath the most recent comments here on BoothieBarn.

Twitter widget 2


3. Join Twitter and Follow @BoothieBarn

This is the best way to go.  Even if you don’t want to make tweets, having an account allows you to get notifications every time I tweet a tweet.  Setting up an account is quick, easy, and free.  Sign up at and start connecting with others.

At the very least, I hope you’ll try checking out my Twitter feed in the coming months.  I will be very busy for the foreseeable future with different activities and events relating to the 150th of Lincoln’s assassination.  This will severely limit the time I have to write full posts for this blog, which generally take me awhile to do.  To make up for it, I’ll be doing a lot of tweeting about the things I’m up to and John Wilkes Booth’s activities #Todayin1865.

It’s an exciting time to be a Boothie, and I hope you’ll join me in using Twitter to expand awareness and knowledge about this pivotal point in American history.


Dave @BoothieBarn

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Winner of the Assassination Editions of Smithsonian Magazine

It’s been over a week since the contest ended for a free copies of the Assassination Editions of Smithsonian Magazine.  It was great to read the plethora of responses regarding everyone’s favorite Lincoln assassination book.   I want to thank each and every person who commented and joined in on the conversations.

Lincoln assassination Smithsonian Magazines 2015

To select a winner, all of the eligible comments were assigned a sequential number based on when they were posted.  Then an online random number generator was used to select the winning comment.  I’m pleased to announce the winner of a free copy of the above pictures Smithsonian magazines is…

Steve Williams!

Steve posted the following comment about his favorite Lincoln assassination book:

If I were to choose a favorite book about the subject, I guess it would be Blood on the Moon by Edward Steers. My parents mailed it to me as either a birthday or Christmas present right before I deployed to Iraq when I was in the Army. Reading it made me want to research more about Booth and the assassination. And a desire to examine all of the bits of evidence from different perspectives.

Thank you so much for commenting, Steve, and congratulations on winning.  Your free magazines should be arriving in a couple of days.

To everyone else out there, be sure to pick up your own copies of these magazines at your local book store or newsstand.  I was surprised to see copies of both of these magazines at my local supermarket, so you never know where they might turn up.  But get your copies soon before next month’s issue is released.

Again, I want to thank everyone who commented and took part in the contest.  I’m hoping to have another exciting contest soon with a highly coveted prize.  Stay tuned.

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John Wilkes Booth’s Poetic Envelope

One of the more curious relics belonging to John Wilkes Booth, is a brief poem he wrote on the reverse of an envelope on March 5th, 1865.

Booth Hale Poem Envelope 3-5-1865 Sotheby's

There are some mysteries regarding this poetic envelope.  What does Booth’s poem say? Who wrote the second poem beneath Booth’s? Why were these poems written at all?  Let’s explore these questions as we analyze this piece on the 150th anniversary of its creation.

What Does Booth’s Poem Say?

This relic was first brought to the attention of the general public thanks to Carl Sandburg’s 1939 book, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years Volume 4.  In writing and illustrating his book, Sandburg borrowed heavily from his friend and Lincoln collector, Oliver R. Barrett.  Barrett had a massive Lincoln collection and allowed Sandburg to include a small picture of these poems.  Sandburg also transcribed the poems and added the following context:

“On March 5 of ’65 signing his name to a verse on an envelope back:

Now, in this hour, that we part,
I will ask to be forgotten never.
But in thy pure and guiltless heart
Consider me thy friend dear Eva
J. Wilkes Booth

And the daughter of a United States Senator, her name protected during ensuing scandals, Eva joined her quoted lines on the same envelope back: ‘For all sad words from tongue or pen – the Saddest are these – It might have been,’ dating it March 5, 1865, In John’s room-“

When Barrett died in 1950, his Lincoln collection went up for auction.  In the 1952 auction catalog, this envelope was advertised thusly:

Booth Hale poem envelope Barrett catalog

The auction company, which heavily utilized Sandburg for his expertise, again concluded that Booth’s poem stated:

Now, in this hour, that we part,
I will ask to be forgotten never.
But in thy pure and guiltless heart
Consider me thy friend dear Eva
J. Wilkes Booth

A careful analysis, however, will show that this transcription has a few omissions and errors.  As knowledgeable as Carl Sandburg was, he was not a Booth expert and was  far more experienced reading the President’s writing as opposed to that of his assassin.  The true and complete text of Booth’s poem is as follows:

Now, in this moment
Now, in this hour, that we part,
I will ask to be forgotten, never
But in thy pure and guileless heart,
Consider me thy friend dear, Ever
J Wilkes Booth

Booth’s hasty scrawl pushed the final two letters in “ever” together to create, in lower quality copies, what appeared to be the single letter “a”.  However, after consulting a slightly better quality image of the envelope, like the one that begins this post, one can make out the slight gap separating the two letters.  “Ever” is also the logical conclusion as it completes the poem’s rhyme, while “Eva” does not.

This accidental, yet completely understandable substitution of the name “Eva” as the final word in the poem instead of the correct word, “Ever”, caused a great deal of confusion and speculation among Booth historians who consulted Sandburg’s book and the Barrett catalog.  Theodore Roscoe, author of the 1959 book, The Web of Conspiracy, trusted Sandburg’s account to include his own mention of the nonexistent “Eva” as having, “dallied for some time in a state of betrothal with the amorous actor.”  While Roscoe had the name wrong, he was not far off from the truth.

Who Wrote the Second Poem?

The larger poem, comprising the bulk of the envelope back states the following:

“For of all sad words from
tongue or pen.
The saddest are these –
It might have been.”
March 5th 1865
In John’s room –

The text of this poem is a quote from John Greenleaf Whittier’s 1856 poem, “Maud Muller.  The individual who wrote these lines on the envelope was John Wilkes Booth’s secret fiancée, Lucy Hale, daughter of United States Senator John Parker Hale.

Lucy Hale

CDV of Lucy Hale that was found in John Wilkes Booth’s possession when he was killed

Though the poem is unsigned, handwriting analysis conducted by researcher James O. Hall concluded that this second poem was indeed written by Lucy Hale. Booth and Miss Hale had been acquainted since 1863, when Miss Hale witnessed the actor perform in Washington and sent him a congratulatory bouquet of flowers.  The relationship between the two had flourished after Booth stopped touring and spent more time in Washington in the months leading up the assassination.  Both John Wilkes Booth and the Hale family lodged at the National Hotel in Washington.  This easily explains Lucy’s presence in his room on March 5th, though it would have still been against social custom.  By that date they were engaged, albeit secretly.  An actor, even one as famous and acclaimed as Booth, was still considered a poor match for woman of high class such as Miss Hale.  Even after the assassination, when Lucy was racked with grief over the actions of her fiancée, the authorities still protected her honor by being careful not to publicly disclose their intimate involvement.  She was quickly whisked away to Spain where her father had been appointed as an ambassador.

Why were these Poems Written?

The poems written by John Wilkes Booth and Lucy Hale are heartfelt lines that speak of remembrances and separation.  Due to this a couple of authors have written possible explanations for them.  Michael Kauffman, author of American Brutus, suggests that these lines were written by John Wilkes and Lucy as they lamented Lucy’s future departure for Spain:

“March 5, the morning after the inauguration, was bleak and cheerless for Booth and Lucy Hale.  They sat in Booth’s room at the National Hotel commiserating on life’s troubles and despairing of future happiness. They might not have a life together; Lucy would soon accompany her father to Spain, where he was about to begin his duties as an ambassador.  The emptiness of the moment reminded Lucy of Whittier’s “Maud Muller,” and she jotted down some lines on an envelope…Booth added a few lines of his own”

In Terry Alford’s upcoming book, Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth, he paints an even sadder picture regarding the circumstances of these poems’ creation:

“The day after the inauguration, Booth and Lucy ended their courtship.  The timing suggests that his odd behavior had attracted the notice of her family.  Or their parting may have been due to the fact that the Hales were leaving Washington.  His term in the Senate having expired, Hale was moving his family to prepare for his new assignment as American minister to Spain.

Booth and McCullough had shared their room during the inaugural crunch with John Parker Hale Wentworth, Lucy’s first cousin.  Wentworth proved a handy go-between for their courtship.  Now he offered a final service.  He handed Booth an envelope from Lucy.  If there was a letter inside, it is long gone.  The envelope survives.  On it Lucy copied the celebrated lines from John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “Maud Muller”…Wentworth gave the envelope to Booth, who added his own sentiment just above Lucy’s…”

As much as I respect and admire these two authors, I believe them both to be mistaken in regards to the nature of these poems.  The reason I don’t agree with Kauffman and Alford’s theories that the poems are mournful notes between John Wilkes Booth and Lucy Hale is due to the fact that Lucy’s father, John Parker Hale, had not yet been appointed minister of Spain when these poems were written.  Senator Hale may have been petitioning for the position on March 5th, but he was not nominated for it until March 10th.  In fact, the position was still very much in play on March 7th, two days after these poems were written.  On that day, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles recalled having a cabinet meeting during which Secretary of State William Seward offered the position of Minister to Spain to anyone in the cabinet.  This was intended to be a kind gesture towards Secretary of the Interior John Usher, who had lost his political base and was being forced out of Lincoln’s cabinet.  No one, including Usher, responded to the offer.  John Usher tendered his resignation to Lincoln on March 9th without inquiring about the ambassador position and so Seward found John Parker Hale for the job.

Senator John Parker Hale, Lucy Hale's father

Senator John Parker Hale, Lucy Hale’s father

Rather than being dejected poems of loss written by John Wilkes Booth and Lucy Hale for each other, I believe these poems are the couple’s farewell messages to Lucy’s cousin, John Parker Hale Wentworth.  I believe that Kauffman and Alford are both missing one key piece of evidence regarding this relic: the contents written on the front side of the envelope.

The Front Side of the Envelope

From the 1952 Barrett auction catalog, we know that there is some writing on the front side of this envelope.  For one, the enveloped is franked with the name of John Conness.  Franking was a practice at the time in which members of Congress, the President, cabinet members and other elected officials could send mail without the need of a stamp.  The official in question would sign his name in the top right corner of an envelope and that would be as good as a stamp for the postal service.  Officials pre-signed hundreds of envelopes for later use in this way.  The envelope with Booth and Lucy’s poems was signed by John Conness who was a Senator from California.

The 1952 auction catalog also states that the front of the envelope has, “a three line quotation with a note” on it.   While the catalog provides the note, written by John Parker Hale Wentworth, it does not give the quotation.  For that we must consult a more recent auction.  After being purchased in the 1952 auction for $210, the poetic envelope disappeared for many years.  Assassination researcher James O. Hall tried to locate it but to no avail.  Finally, in 2004, it popped up in a Sotheby’s auction.  From their archived auction page, we finally learn that the full text on the envelope’s front is:

“Touched by change have all things been
Yet I think of thee as when
We had speech of lip and pen.”

Beneath this, in the same hand is the sentiment:

“The above, though quoted, are the real sentiments of your friend, who trusts that the acquaintance and friendship formed will never be forgotten by either, Jno P. M. W.”

The poem John Parker Hale Wentworth quotes from is entitled “Remembrance“.  It was written by the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, the same author of Lucy’s, “Maud Miller” excerpt.

Wentworth, Booth, and Lucy

While John Parker Hale Wentworth and Lucy Hale were first cousins, they do not appear to have been particularly close growing up.  There was quite an age difference between them with Wentworth having been born in Maine in 1828 and Hale in New Hampshire in 1841.  In 1849, Wentworth, then 21, made his way to California to seek his fortune.  He would reside in California for the rest of his life.  In about 1862 or so, Wentworth was appointed the Indian Affairs Agent of Southern California by Abraham Lincoln himself.  Whether Wentworth wrote to his Senator uncle, John Parker Hale, for some assistance in gaining this position is unknown, but it’s clear that Wentworth was grateful to President Lincoln for the job.  He was also apparently well suited for it with newspapers reporting that, “Mr. Wentworth has worked miraculous changes in the condition of the Indians in this district; more particularly of the degenerated, wasting tribes of this vicinity.”

With Lincoln’s re-election in 1864, Wentworth made the decision to travel from California to Washington, D.C.  His motives for travelling aren’t known for sure.  He may have just desired to be present at Lincoln’s second inauguration and hoped to thank the President for granting him his position.  Or, perhaps he was like many other office seekers, looking to advance himself further in California’s political circle.  Regardless, he arrived in D.C. and took up lodging at the National Hotel, where his uncle and cousins resided. On February 22, 1865, he checked into a room with John Wilkes Booth and another actor named John McCullough.

John Wilkes Booth Gutman 23

It was probably during this time that Wentworth had his first real opportunity to get to know his younger cousin Lucy, who was 8 years old when he left for California and was now a beautiful lady of 24.  Being Booth’s roommate, Wentworth would have undoubtedly been aware of the relationship between his little cousin and the actor. The three of them likely spent time together, with Booth displaying his amazing ability to connect deeply with people.

In his free time leading up to the inauguration, it seems plausible that Wentworth would have wanted to report to his Congressmen on the condition of Indian affairs in his section of the state.  This would have put him into the offices of his Senator, John Conness.  This, I believe, explains Conness’ franked signature on the poetic envelope.  Perhaps Coness offered Wentworth some franked envelopes with which to send future correspondence, or maybe Wentworth decided to help himself to an envelope.  Wentworth seems to be the only logical intermediary between the office of Senator John Conness and John Wilkes Booth.

Though I have not been able to track Wentworth’s movements, it appears he departed Washington right after the inauguration.  In those days it was quite a long journey back to California, requiring steamboat travel to Panama, a train ride across the isthmus, and a second long steamboat journey to California.  It is not unreasonable to assume that Wentworth decided to begin his journey as soon as possible.  Even the very next day after the inauguration.

A Farewell Among Friends

With all of this in mind, I submit that the poetic envelope displayed above initially held John Parker Hale Wentworth’s farewell message to either his cousin, Lucy, his roommate, Booth, or to them both as a couple.  In this scenario, Wentworth wrote a note, placed it in an envelope he had received from John Conness’ office, and wrote Whittier’s “Remembrance” poem on the front.  He then either presented it or left the note for Lucy & Booth.  Lucy opened the envelope and read the contents.  She then wrote her own Whittier poem on the back of the envelope.  Given its position, it appears that Booth’s response was an after thought. Since Lucy used all of the space on the back of envelope, Booth squeezed his own poem on the top flap.  The envelope, but not the contents, was then given back to Wentworth as a representation of the couple’s affection.

The above is, of course, just a theory, but it is a theory that I believe logically explains how poems from John Wilkes Booth, Lucy Hale and John Parker Hale Wentworth all came to be on a single envelope franked by Senator John Conness.

American Brutus by Michael Kauffman
Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth by Terry Alford
John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day by Art Loux
The Oliver R. Barrett Lincoln Collection Auction Catalog
The Web of Conspiracy by Theodore Roscoe
Sotheby’s Auctions
Right or Wrong, God Judge Me: The Writings of John Wilkes Booth edited by John Rhodehamel and Louise Taper
News Notes of California Libraries, Volume 14
“Indian Affairs in Southern California”, Daily Alta California, January 24, 1863
Mr. Lincoln’s White House: Cabinet
Diary of Gideon Welles
Special thanks to Roger Norton for providing me with Carl Sandburg’s quote in a pinch
Kate Ramirez

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Meeting the Family of John T. Ford


Theatre owner John Thompson Ford worked hard to vindicate his convicted employee, Edman Spangler. In this post from the Ford’s Theatre Blog, Rae Davidson, the Corporate Relations Coordinator of Ford’s Theatre, relates a unique tour she gave to a group of John T. Ford’s descendants. Enjoy!

Originally posted on FORD'S THEATRE | BLOG:

Photo of John T. Ford courtesy of Wikimedia. Photo of John T. Ford courtesy of Wikimedia.

As a development professional, I spend a lot of time speaking about the mission and impact of Ford’s Theatre Society, and I enjoy providing tours to our patrons and the chance to share our campus’ important history. My tour groups range greatly, from casual theatregoers to professional historians. But never in my time with Ford’s Theatre, have I provided a tour to anyone with such a personal relationship to the theatre as the Morrisons.

Mrs. Edith Morrison, the great-granddaughter of John T. Ford (the namesake and original owner of Ford’s Theatre), won a private tour of the theatre in a local charity auction, and invited her children and grandchildren to participate over the winter holidays. The Morrisons arrived a half hour early for their 5:00 p.m. tour on December 23, equipped to give me a history lesson of my own. Edith’s husband…

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Assassination Editions of Smithsonian Magazine

Lincoln assassination Smithsonian Magazines 2015

In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Smithsonian has published two different editions of their magazine with articles relating to the event.

The normal, March 2015, subscriber issue of Smithsonian Magazine features the image of Booth’s derringer on the cover.  Contained in this issue are four articles about different aspects of the assassination.  These articles can be read online through the Smithsonian website:

The second magazine is a special collector’s edition devoted entirely to the assassination story.  This is a stand alone issue featuring images of Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth on the cover.  It contains articles by noted authors Michael Kauffman, Edward Steers, Jr., James Swanson, Asia Booth Clarke, Lloyd Lewis, Jay Winik, Doris Kearns Goodwin and more.  Many of the articles are edited excerpts from the books by the different authors, but the magazine still provides a multifaceted look at the story and impact of Lincoln’s assassination.  The edition is thoroughly illustrated with period images and with the work of several modern artists.  One of my favorite illustrations in the magazine is this “assemblage” image of the conspirators by artist Polly Becker.  It is somewhat reminiscent of the original “Ring of Conspirators” image from Benn Pitman’s edition of the trial:

Conspirators by Polly Becker

Conspirators by Polly Becker

Sadly, the articles contained in this special collector’s edition of the Smithsonian Magazine are not available to read online.

Both of these magazines are currently on sale at newsstands and bookstores.  Attendees of this year’s Surratt Conference on March 21st, will also be able to purchase copies of these magazine there.  Time, of course, is limited to acquire both of these magazines.  The normal March issue featuring Booth’s derringer will be replaced by the April issue in less than a month’s time, and the special collector’s edition has a note to newsstands to only display it until May 17th.

In the spirit of my previous giveaway of the book, John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day by Art Loux, I am offering a free copy of both of these magazines to one lucky commenter on this blog.  Given the many authors involved in producing these magazines, I thought it would be fun to have you all discuss your favorite Lincoln assassination book.

Therefore, if you would like to win a free copy of both, the March 2015 issue and the special 150th anniversary issue of Smithsonian Magazine, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post describing what book on the Lincoln assassination is your favorite and why.  In one week’s time, on March 7th, I will pick one of the commenters at random to receive a free copy of these two magazines.

So get commenting below for your chance to win a free copy of these assassination editions of Smithsonian Magazine courtesy of The contest is now over. You may continue to comment, but any new comments will not be entered into any drawing.  Thank you all for participating.

Contest Rules: To win a copy of a.) the March 2015 issue of Smithsonian Magazine and b.) the “Special 150th Anniversary Issue” of Smithsonian Magazine, you must write one (1) comment on this post describing your favorite book on the Lincoln assassination and why it is your favorite. A valid email address must be attached to the comment in order to win. Multiple comments from the same person will be counted as one entry.  Contest will end on March 7, 2015 at 20:00 EST.  The winner will be notified via email.  If no response is received within three (3) days, a new winner will be chosen.  In the event that the winner chooses to forfeit the prize, another winner will be selected.  Winners agree to have their name and comment used in a future post.

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Calendar: March 2015

As we near the beginning of March, I thought it would be prudent to highlight some of the Lincoln assassination events that are planned for this month.  Remember that you can view these and other, smaller events that might be occurring, by visiting the Calendar section of this site.

fords-150-remembering-lincolnMarch 3rd:

Tickets go on sale for Ford’s Theatre 150th events: Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration, Behind the Scenes Tour with Brian Anderson, and Midnight Tour with James Swanson

Though not an event itself, at 10 am on March 3rd tickets will go on sale to the general public for these three events scheduled during the Ford’s Theatre 150th program.

  • Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration is a one time performance taking place inside Ford’s Theatre at 9 pm on April 14th.  This event will also be streamed live online.
  • A series of three, Behind the Scenes Tours with Brain Anderson are planned over April 14th and 15th.  Mr. Anderson is the author of Ford’s Theatre’s newest book, Images of America: Ford’s Theatre.  I took his backstage tour back in 2014 and it was very well done.
  • At midnight on April 15th, author of Manhunt, James Swanson, will provide his own, insightful  tour of Ford’s Theatre.

Ticket sales are already open to members of the Ford’s Theatre Society, and the events will therefore sell out quickly when sales to the general public open on March 3rd.

March 13th:

The musical, Freedom’s Song: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, starts its run at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Ford’s Theatre operates as a working theater as well as a National Historic Site.  They have several productions a year.  Their spring musical for 2015 is the show Freedom’s Song: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.  I’m thinking this is a slightly modified version of Frank Wildhorn’s previous musical The Civil War, which I saw at Ford’s Theatre a few seasons back.  If I am correct, it is definitely a show to see.  It’s not a traditional musical with a concrete narrative but is more of a series of vignettes highlighting different groups and events that occurred during the Civil War.  The music is a wonderful mix of genres and is accompanied by voice overs of the words of famous Civil War era figures.  Trust me, when a quote from Lincoln comes on and they bring up a solidarity light from inside of the President’s box, it gives you chills.  Freedom’s Song runs until May 20th.

March 20 – 22nd:

2015 Surratt Conference logo

The Surratt Society’s 16th Annual Lincoln Assassination Conference in Clinton, MD

The Surratt Conference is the Lincoln assassination buff’s “Comic-Con”.  Held every year, the weekend conference consists of a special bus tour and welcome reception on Friday, speakers presenting on a multitude of topics on Saturday, and another special bus tour on Sunday.  This year’s conference is already close to being sold out due to space constraints.  If you haven’t already registered, call the Surratt House Museum at 301-868-1121 to check on availability.

Even if you are not able to join us for this year’s conference, I will be live tweeting the weekend event on my Twitter account (@BoothieBarn) with the hashtag #Surratt15.

March 21st:

Lincoln Symposium at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Ford’s Theatre will be hosting their own Lincoln Symposium on Saturday, March 21st.  The event is free, but requires tickets available on a first come first served basis on the day of the event.  The day consists of speakers presenting on many topics relating to Lincoln’s life and death.  Can’t make it to the Surratt Conference? Well, you’re in luck. Terry Alford, author of a highly anticipated biography of John Wilkes Booth, will be pulling double duty that day.  After presenting at the Surratt Conference in the morning, Dr. Alford will make his way to Ford’s and will be presenting at their Lincoln Symposium in the afternoon.  This promises to be a wonderful event and I only wish I could duplicate myself in order to attend both conferences at the same time.

March 23rd:

A new exhibit, Silent Witnesses: Artifacts of the Lincoln Assassination, opens at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

This special exhibit reunites several assassination artifacts from collections around the country.  The exhibit runs from March 23rd until May 25th and will be located on the second floor of Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership.

March 28th:

The Lincoln Group of New York presents its Commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy and New York Funeral in New York City, NY

Register by March 20th for this half day symposium put on by the The Lincoln Group of New York.  After lunch and a tour of the historic Great Hall of the Cooper Union where Lincoln presented his famous Cooper Union speech, the attendees will retire across the street at the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium at 41 Cooper Square (Third Ave. bet. 6th & 7thSt.) for a series of speeches relating to Lincoln’s life and death.  Speakers include Harold Holzer, Frank J Williams, Richard Sloan, Kate Clifford Larson, Michael Kauffman, and ME (Dave Taylor)!  Check out this agenda for more information.

Ongoing Events/Exhibits:

Undying Words: Lincoln 1858 – 1865 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL
Remembering Lincoln at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, IL
A Nation in Tears: 150 Years after Lincoln’s Death at the University of Illinois’ Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Champaign-Urbana, IL
So Costly a Sacrifice: Lincoln and Loss at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, IN
President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

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