Posts Tagged With: Petersen House

Assassination of Lincoln by Howard Hill

Yesterday, I posted about about Carl Bersch and his painting, Lincoln Borne by Loving Hands on the Fatal Night of April 14, 1865At the time of Lincoln’s assassination, Bersch was living across the street from Ford’s Theatre and made sketches of the chaotic scene after the assassination. He used those sketches to paint this eyewitness image of the event.

Borne by Loving Hands - Carl Bersch

While working on that post I came across another painting that shares the same subject matter. In 1872, artist Howard Hill painted his own version of the wounded President being carried across Tenth Street. His painting is called, Assassination of Lincoln, and it is currently owned by the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Howard Hill was not present in D.C. on the night of Lincoln’s assassination and therefore his painting is not based on eyewitness sketches like Carl Bersch’s painting. Still it is clear that Hill did his research and when composing this piece. Hill’s painting includes the detailed figure of not only the wounded Abraham Lincoln but also shows grief-stricken Mary Todd Lincoln.

Assassination of Lincoln by Howard Hill Mary Todd and Lincoln closeup

They are both followed by the figures of Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris, the Lincolns’ guests at Ford’s Theatre that night.

Assassination of Lincoln by Howard Hill Rathbone and Harris closeup

While both Bersch’s painting and Hill’s painting show Lincoln being carried across the street to the Petersen boardinghouse where he would later die, the biggest differences between them are the secondary scenes they contain. In the darker corner of Bersch’s painting (which will hopefully be more visible in the restored painting) there is a small scene of celebration marking the end of the Civil War. In his letter home, Bersch mentions that his first sketches on April 14th captured the parades and jubilation that were occurring below his balcony. Bersch still used these sketches when completing his final painting and combined two these contrasting images, one of celebration and one of sorrow, into the single painting. Lincoln Borne by Loving Hands is not centered  on Lincoln but on the American flag, which continues to fly over everything, good and bad.

Hill’s painting, on the other hand, does seem to center more on the figure of Lincoln and the men carrying him. But our eyes are also drawn to the top right corner of the painting where a different scene is playing out. Hill depicts the horseback figures of David Herold and John Wilkes Booth fleeing from the tragic scene. Booth is riding away when he seems to look back at his handiwork. As he does this a legion of demons reach out to him as he effectively rides into their grasp and into hell.

Assassination of Lincoln by Howard Hill Booth closeup

David Herold follows Booth’s course, but his attention is drawn to a premonition of the gallows that he will face for his crime.

Assassination of Lincoln by Howard Hill Herold closeup

Strangely this gallows shows the execution of five people rather than the four that actually occurred. Perhaps one of the bodies is meant to symbolize Booth’s death as well.

Howard Hill’s Assassination of Lincoln shares a similar theme with Carl Bersch’s Lincoln Borne by Loving Hands but the compositions differ in their focus and details. The inclusion of the celebratory revelers and the focus on the American flag in Bersch’s painting evokes the prospect of hope in our darkest times, while Hill’s visions of doom for the assassins emphasizes the importance of justice. Taken together, these two paintings demonstrate the complex feelings that emerged after Lincoln’s assassination.


Additional facts about the artist, Howard Hill

Howard Hill was born in England in 1830. In 1851, he married his wife, Ann Patmore, in London. Hill always considered himself an artist and normally recorded himself as such on census records. However, to make ends meet, he would also work as a house painter, his father’s trade. In 1858, Hill brought his family over to America. The Hills would live in Yonkers, NY and Hoboken, NJ. Hill originally got a job with Currier and Ives as one of many nameless English artists who created the iconic prints that so captured the spirit of America. He left this job after a short while, likely unhappy with the day to day life as a menial worker. In his own paintings, Hill was very fond of painting birds. His most common images feature ducks and quails in scenic landscapes, but he also enjoyed painting farmyard scenes as well. In 1865, four of Hill’s bird paintings were exhibited at the National Academy of Design, which was a prestigious opportunity. Sadly, true success never found Hill. He continued to paint and sell his paintings to make ends meet. Hill apparently painted Assassination of Lincoln in 1872, which was a subject quite different from most of his work. Whether it was commissioned or a piece Hill completed on his own is unknown. It was owned by an American Legion Post in Albany before it was donated to the Albany Institute of History and Art in 1961. It’s ownership prior to the American Legion Post is unknown. When a financial depression began in 1873, Hill  took to visiting the homes of well to do farmers, offering to paint scenes of their farm and livestock. He also used his six children to help him create an assembly line of painters. Howard and each of his children would each complete a select part of a painting allowing him to effectively mass produce paintings to sell. Though financial difficulties caused Howard to drink more, he was instrumental in teaching all of his children the art of painting. In 1886, Howard lost his wife and artist son within a span of four months. This increased his depression and for the next year he lived the life of a vagrant, moving from boardinghouse to boardinghouse and trying to get painting commissions for money. Howard Hill eventually died on March 6, 1888, likely from a stroke. He was buried in an unmarked grave next to his wife in Yonkers.

Though Howard Hill never achieved fame for his work as a painter, it seems that he did pass on a considerable talent. Howard’s daughter, Mary Ann “Nancy” Hill, learned how to paint from her father and she would pass that love of painting down to her son. That boy, Howard Hill’s grandson, was the great American painter, Norman Rockwell. Though Rockwell never knew his grandfather (Hill died 6 years before Rockwell was born), he still felt his grandfather’s work influenced him. Rockwell was quoted as saying, “I’m sure all the detail in my grandfather’s pictures had something to do with the way I’ve always painted. Right from the beginning I always strived to capture everything I saw as completely as possible.”

Other work by Howard Hill

References:
Albany Institute of History and Art
The biographical information on Howard Hill comes from American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell by Deborah Solomon

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Lincoln Borne by Loving Hands on the Fatal Night of April 14, 1865

On the evening of April 14, 1865, a 30 year-old German artist by the name of Carl Bersch was enjoying the celebratory mood that permeated the city of Washington. With General Lee’s surrender to General Grant just a few days earlier, the Civil War was effectively over. Washington had just conducted a grand illumination the night before and it seemed people were still celebrating. From his rented room on Tenth street, Bersch observed the festivities and joy that occurred around him:

Carl Bersch's balcony is visible on the right-hand building in this drawing from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly 5/20/1865.

Carl Bersch’s balcony is visible on the right-hand building in this drawing from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly 5/20/1865.

“All Washington was celebrating, delirious with joy. Houses were lighted up and hung with bunting. Parades marched through the streets, waving flags and carrying many transparencies. Women with wide skirts, and wearing large poke bonnets, were about as numerous as men. President Lincoln was known to be at Ford’s Theater, so Tenth street was on the line of march. I observed no rowdyism, just a crowd of jubilant people, crazed with joy. The scene was so unusual and inspiring, that I stepped out upon the balcony in front of my windows, with my easel and sketch papers, determined to make a picture of the whole scene and transfer it to canvas. The very weirdness of the scene— aside from the historic nature of it— appealed to my artistic sense. Quickly, but very accurately, I made detailed drawings. I had more than an hour in which to do this.”

Sadly, however, a tragic act that occurred right across the street from Bersch’s residence would put an end to the jubilant atmosphere.

“Shortly after 10 o’clock a silence fell upon the surging crowd of revelers. The marching line halted. A loud cry came from a window of the theater, ‘President Lincoln has been shot; clear the street,’ soldiers and police attended to that. In the course of 10 or 15 minutes, out of the north door of the theater appeared a group of men, carrying the prostrate form of an injured man on an improvised stretcher. They stopped a few moments at the curb, hastily debating where to take the injured man to give him the best attention most quickly. They observed lights in the house, of William Petersen, my next door neighbor, and a young man, Willie Clark [sic], whom I know very well, standing on the topmost step of the winding stairs, leading to the Petersen house.  Clark [sic] was beckoning to those who had charge, to bring the injured man right in. This was done as quickly as the soldiers could make a pathway through the crowd.”

Bersch makes a mistake here in his letter written right after the assassination. The man who beckoned for the soldiers to bring Abraham Lincoln into the Petersen boarding house was not Willie Clark, but another boarder named Henry Safford. You can read more about Safford and about how Willie Clark was not even present at the Petersen House when Lincoln was there by clicking here.

Bersch goes on and notes how he was in the unique position to document this solemn occasion:

“My balcony being 12 or 14 feet above the sidewalk and street, I had a clear view of the scene, above the heads of the crowd. I recognized the lengthy form of the President by the flickering light of the torches, and one large gas lamp post on the sidewalk. The tarrying at the curb and the slow, careful manner in which he was carried across the street, gave me ample time to make an accurate sketch of that particular scene; make it the center and outstanding part of the large painting I shall make, using the sketches I made earlier in the evening, as an appropriate background. A fitting title for the picture would, I think, be ‘Lincoln Borne by Loving Hands on the Fatal Night of April 14, 1865.’ Altogether It was the most tragic and impressive scene I have ever witnessed. I am already busy with palette and brush and hope to transfer to canvas what may be one of the strangest pictures of all time.”

After finishing this letter to his family, Carl Bersch did complete his painting of Lincoln being carried across the street from Ford’s Theatre. The large format painting was kept by the family for many years. It was not until 1932 that Bersch’s daughter, Carrie Fischer, loaned the painting to the newly created Lincoln Museum inside of Ford’s Theatre. When the museum opened on February 12, 1932, the anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday, Bersch’s painting was publicly displayed for the first time.

Borne by Loving Hands - Carl Bersch

This painting hung in the Lincoln Museum for some time, and the Lincoln Museum even sold a postcard with the painting on it:

Borne by Loving Hands Postcard

It is not known how long Bersch’s painting was on display at Ford’s Theatre the first time. It was a loan and therefore subject to the will of Bersch’s descendants who were still the owners. The ownership of the painting passed from Carrie Fischer to her daughter Gerda Vey, upon Carrie’s death in 1955. Then, when Gerda died in 1977, she willed the painting to the White House. The White House decided against keeping it but transferred it to the National Park Service instead where it ended back up at Ford’s Theatre. It was on display at some time during the 1980’s – 1990’s but, eventually, it was put into storage.

Then came 2015, the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Lincoln. Increased interest in Lincoln’s assassination motivated the National Park Service to conduct restoration on the painting for the first time since 1980. A wonderful article appeared in the Washington Post detailing the efforts to conserve this painting:

HYATTSVILLE, MD - APRIL 8: The National Park Service museum has a painting by an eyewitness of Lincoln being carried from Ford's Theater after being shot, on April, 08, 2015 in Hyattsville, MD. Pictured, from left, Lyndon Novotny, materials handler, Bob Sonderman, Director & regional curator, and Laura Anderson, National Park Service museum curator for the National Mall. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

HYATTSVILLE, MD – APRIL 8:
The National Park Service museum has a painting by an eyewitness of Lincoln being carried from Ford’s Theater after being shot, on April, 08, 2015 in Hyattsville, MD. Pictured, from left, Lyndon Novotny, materials handler, Bob Sonderman, Director & regional curator, and Laura Anderson, National Park Service museum curator for the National Mall.
(Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Conserving Borne by Loving Hands WaPo 2015

Over the many years of display the painting had accumulated dirt and grime, darkening the colors and obscuring details. The article from October 2015, spoke of the future hope to put the painting back on display at Ford’s Theatre once the restoration of the piece was done.

It appears that the restoration process has been completed and currently the museum in the Ford’s Theatre basement is being  remodeled to make room for Carl Bersch’s painting. A tweet from Heather Hoagland, the Ford’s Theatre Society’s Exhibitions & Collections Manager, shows the work that is being done to prepare a place for this large, yet meaningful painting:

In the not too distant future, Carl Bersch’s “Lincoln Borne by Loving Hands” will return to the Ford’s Theatre Museum, eighty four years after its initial debut. It is a unique painting from an eyewitness to the events outside of Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865 and deserves to a be a fixture at Ford’s Theatre once again.


Additional facts about the artist, Carl Bersch

Carl Bersch was born on May 3, 1834 (year is disputed) in Zweibrücken, Germany which is located near the border with France. He originally studied theology at the University of Munich before taking up art. He came to America around 1861 and is said to have worked in Matthew Brady’s photography studio. He married his wife, Angelica Bode, in 1865. Together they had one child, Carrie. Bersch worked in Tennessee, Ohio, D.C., and Baltimore. He was a successful portrait artist in Baltimore and also briefly tried his hand at his own photography studio in the early 1880’s. Between artistic commissions he hired himself out as a German tutor. Bersch died on May 1, 1914 at the age of 80 and is buried with his wife, daughter, and granddaughter, in Baltimore’s Govans Presbyterian Churchyard.

Other work by Carl Bersch

Graves of the Bersch Family (from FindaGrave.com)

References:
Carl Bersch’s letter quoted in The Washington Star, April 16, 1932
“Lincoln assassination emerges in painting from 150 years of grime” from the Washington Post, October 5, 2015
The biographical material on Bersch comes from his obituary in the Baltimore Sun, May 3, 1914.

Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Julia Wilbur and the Saga of the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators

This is the second of two posts utilizing content gleaned from the diaries of Julia Ann Wilbur, a relief worker who lived in Alexandria, Virginia and Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. For biographical information on Julia Wilbur, as well as information regarding her diaries please read the first post titled, Julia Wilbur and the Mourning of Lincoln.


Witness to History: Julia Wilbur and the Saga of the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators

Source: Haverford College

Julia Ann Wilbur, Source: Haverford College

When Abraham Lincoln’s assassination occurred on April 14, 1865, Julia Wilbur understood the impact it would have on the history of our country. When not working to provide relief to the thousand of newly freed African Americans residing in Alexandria and Washington, D.C., Julia Wilbur was a student of history. She traveled far and wide to visit places of historical importance, relished exploring the old burial grounds of a city, and found instances to mingle with those who were shaping her times. Therefore, she not only took the time to be a part of the mourning events for Abraham Lincoln, but she also went out of her way to document and even involve herself in the saga of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. The following are excerpts from Julia Wilbur’s diaries detailing her interactions with the assassination’s aftermath.

Reporting the News

Like many citizens around the country, Ms. Wilbur took to her diary to report the latest news about the hunt for Booth and his assassins. Sometimes the news was good. Other times, Ms. Wilbur reported on the gossip that was on the lips of everyone in Washington.

April 15, 1865:

“President Lincoln is dead! Assassinated last night at the theater shot in the head by a person on the stage. The president lingered till 7 this A.M. so all hope is over. And Secretary Seward had his throat cut in bed in his own house, but he was alive at the last despatch. It is said an attempt was made on Sec. Stanton but he escaped. Many rumors are afloat, but the above is certain.

…Evening. Sec. Seward is comfortable, & may recover, his son Frederick is in a very critical condition, his son Clarence has only flesh wounds & is able to be about the house. There is a report that Boothe has been taken; that his horse threw him on 7th st. & he was taken into a house.— There is no doubt that it was intended to murder the President, the Vice Pres. all the members of the cabinet and Gen. Grant. & that the managers of the theater knew of it.”

April 16, 1865:

“Two Miss Ford’s were at the Theater at the time of the murder.”

[Note: These Miss Ford’s appear to be friends of Ms. Wilbur’s and unaffiliated with the Fords who owned Ford’s Theatre]

April 17, 1865:

“About noon we saw people going towards G. on the run. & we were told that two men had been found in a cellar dressed in women’s clothes. & it was thought they were the murderers, Miss H. & I walked up that way. They are probably deserters. We met them under guard; they were guilty looking fellows.

…We passed Seward’s House. A guard is placed all around it. & on the walk we were not allowed to go between the guard & the house. He was not told of the President’s death until yesterday. He seems to be improving. No news in particular. No trace of the murderers.”

Wilbur diary no trace of the murderers
April 18, 1865:

“Mr. Seward is no worse & Mr. F. Seward is improving.”

April 19, 1865:

“When Frances got ready about 12 M. we went out. (all about are posted notices, “$20,000 reward for the apprehension of the Murderer of the President.”)”

April 20, 1865:

“Numbers of persons have been arrested. but Booth has not been taken yet. Ford & others of the Theater have been arrested. The Theater is guarded or it would be torn down. If Booth is found & taken I think he will be torn to pieces. The feeling of vengeance is deep & settled.”

April 21, 1865:

“I went around by Ford’s Theater today. It is guarded by soldiers, or it wd. be torn down. There is great feeling against all concerned in it.— Mr. Peterson’s House opposite where the President died is an inferior 2 storybrick,—but the room in which he died will be kept sacred by the family. A number of persons have been arrested & there are many rumors; but Booth has not been taken yet.— Mr. Seward & son remain about the same.”

April 26, 1865:

“Report that Booth is taken.”

Learning of Booth’s Death from an Eyewitness

One of the more remarkable things in Ms. Wilbur’s diary is how she recounts the details of Booth’s capture and death. On April 27th she is able to give specifics of Booth’s death when such details did appear in papers until the next day. The reason for this is because Ms. Wilbur was able to hear the story firsthand from one of the soldiers of the 16th New York Cavalry, Emory Parady.

Pvt. Emory Parady in his later years

Pvt. Emory Parady in his later years

April 27, 1865:

“Booth was taken yesterday morning at 3 o clock, 3 miles from Port Royal on the Rappac., in a barn, by 25 of 16th. N.Y. Cav. & a few detectives. He was armed with 2 revolvers & 2 bowie knives & a carbine 7 shooter, all loaded. Harrold, an accomplice was with him. Neither wd. surrender until the barn was fired. Then Harrold gave himself up. & when Booth was about to fire at some of the party, he was shot in the head by Sargt. B. Corbett, & lived 2 ½ hrs. afterwards. He was sewed up in a blanket & brought up from Belle Plain to Navy Yd. in a boat this A.M. One of the capturers, Paredy, was here this P.M. & told us all about it.”

Collecting Relics

Julia Wilbur was fond of acquiring relics and would occasionally display her collection to visiting friends. The events of April 14th, motivated Ms. Wilbur to acquire some relics of the tragic event.

April 20, 1865:

“I purchased several pictures of the President, also Seward’s.

…Miss Josephine Slade gave me a piece of a white rosette worn by one of the pallbearers. Then Mrs. C. & I went to Harvey’s where the coffin was made. & obtained a piece of the black cloth with wh. the coffin was covered & pieces of the trimming. The gentleman who was at work upon the case for the coffin was very obliging & kind. This case is of black walnut, lined with black cloth, & a row of fringe around the top inside, I have also a piece of this box.”

April 21, 1865:

“Called on Mrs. Coleman. Then we went to Mr. Alexander’s & got some pieces of the cloth which covered the funeral Car. Then we saw an artist taking a Photograph of the car. which stood near the Coach Factory where it was made. We went there & Mrs. C. took of pieces of the cloth & alpaca. & a young man told us the Car would be broken up to day & he would save us a piece.

“…Then I went out again & obtained a board from the Funeral Car, which a workman was taking to pieces. & also some of the velvet of the covering. I intend to have this board made into a handsome box. & will make a pin cushion of the velvet.”

April 22, 1865:

“Went to see Mrs. Coleman. she gave me some of the hair of President Lincoln.”

May 2, 1865 (in Philadelphia):

“In all the shops are pictures of the President, & there are some of Booth.”

Booth drawing CDV 1865

October 12, 1865:

“Called at Ford’s Theater. got relic.”

October 18, 1865:

“Then Mrs. B. went with me to Ford’s Theater & we each obtained from Mr. Kinney who has charge of the building, a piece of the Presidents Box. The wood work where his knees rested when he was shot.”

A Visit to Richmond

Ms. Wilbur temporarily departed Washington in mid May of 1865. During that time she traveled to Richmond, with side trips to Petersburg and Appomattox, to provide relief work for the newly freed African Americans. Diary entries during her time in Richmond lament the poor living conditions of the black citizens and also discuss her own experiences in the city. One of my favorite anecdotes from that period is Ms. Wilbur’s recounting having tea with a family of free African Americans.

May 19, 1865:

“Took tea by invitation at Mr. Forrester’s. Quite a company. We drank from Jeff. Davis’s tea cups, eat with his knives & forks & eat strawberries & ice cream from his china saucers— I sat in the porch & looked at Jeff’s house not many rods distant, & tried to realize that I was in Richmond— The morning of the evacuation people fled & left their houses open. goods were scattered about the street, & Jeff’s servants gave this china to Mr. Forrester’s boys. That morning must have been one long to be remembered by those who were there. All night long there was commotion in the streets. Jeff. & his crew were getting away with their plunder.”

“Thought I might as well see some thing of this important trial”

Admission to the Conspiracy Trial

Ms. Wilbur returned to Washington, D.C. in mid-June.  Once back home, she quickly resumed her habit of engrossing herself in the historical proceedings happening around her. In June of 1865, such historical proceedings could only be the trial of the Lincoln conspirators. Before attending the trial however, Ms. Wilbur first visited the conspirators’ former site of incarceration.

June 17, 1865:

“In P.M. went to Navy Yard. Went on to the Saugus & the Montauk.

…The Saugus weighs 10 hundred & 30 tons, draws 13 ft. water & its huge revolving turret contains 2 guns wh. carry balls of 470 lbs. It is 150 ft. in length, pointed fore & aft & its 83 deck & sides plated with iron. The turret, pilot house— smokestack & hatchways are all that appear on deck & in an engagement not a man is visible. It has been struck with heavy balls & deep indentations have been made on the sides of the turret. Once a heavy Dahlgren gunboat during an engagement, The Saugus did service at Fort Fisher.— There are 13 engines in this vessel.

We went below & saw the wonders of the interior. Booth’s associates were confined on this vessel for a time. Booth’s body was placed on the Montauk before it was mysteriously disposed of.”

Then, on June 19th, Julia Wilbur attended the trial of the conspirators:

“At 8 went for Mrs. Colman & got note of introduction to Judge Holt from Judge Day & proceeded to the Penitentiary.

Thought I might as well see some thing of this important trial.

Mr. Clampitt read argument against Jurisdiction of Court by Reverdy Johnson.

It was very hot there. Mrs. Suratt was sick & was allowed to leave the room & then they adjourned till 2, & we left. Mrs. S. wore a veil over her face & also held a fan before it all the while.

Harold’s sisters (4) were in the room. The prisoners excepting Mrs. S. & O’Laughlin appeared quite unconcerned. They are all evidently of a low type of humanity. Great contrast to the fine, noble looking men that compose the court.”

Ms. Wilbur’s diary entry concerning the courtroom is valuable not only due to the descriptions she gives of Mrs. Surratt and Michael O’Laughlen, but also because she took the time to sketch the layout of the court when she got home:

Wilbur diary Courtroom layout 1

Wilbur diary courtroom layout 2

“This was the position of the court.

It was an interesting scene, & I am glad I went, although it is so far, & so hot.”

These diagrams are fascinating and help us solidify the placement of the conspirators and members of the military commission in the court room.

Reporting on the Execution

It is likely that the excessive heat in the courtroom convinced Ms. Wilbur that she did not need to attend the trial again.  However, she did keep up with the proceedings and reported on the sentencing and execution of the conspirators (which she did not attend).

July 6, 1865:

“The conspirators have been sentenced. Payne, Harold, Atzerott & Mrs. Surratt are to be hung to morrow. O’Laughlin, Mudd, & Arnold to be imprisoned for life at hard labor, & Spangler to State prison for 6 yrs.”

July 7, 1865:

“Hottest morning yet. Martha ironed, & the whole house has been like an oven. It was too much for me. I could not work.— The days pass & nothing is accomplished— This eve. F & I took a walk.

— About 1 P.M. The executions took place in the Penitentiary Yard. A large number of people witnessed them. They were buried within a few feet of the gallows. It is all dreadful, but I think people breathe more freely now. They are convinced that Government means to punish those who deserve it. Jeff. Davis friends may feel a little uneasy hereafter.”

Facesofdeath

Unfortunately, it does not appear that Ms. Wilbur had any reaction to the death of Mary Surratt, a middle aged woman like herself.  In fact the very next day Ms. Wilbur mentions walking past Mrs. Surratt’s house without any commentary.

July 8, 1865:

“Then passed Mrs. Surratt’s house on the way to Mr. Lake’s, where we had a pleasant call.”

It’s likely that Ms. Wilbur agreed with Mrs. Surratt’s fate as Ms. Wilbur was very against those who held “secesh” sympathies.

Attending Henry Wirz’ Trial

Julia Wilbur continued her habit of attending historic trials in the city, by attending the trial of Andersonville prison commandant, Henry Wirz. After Henry Wirz’ execution she once again invoked the Lincoln conspirators:

November 11, 1865:

“Called at Mr. B’s office & saw Mr. & Mrs. Belden. Heard particulars of the Execution yesterday. Mr. B. gave me an Autograph Note of Henry Wirz, a lock of hair & a piece of the Gallows. I came only for the autograph. His body was mutilated after death, Kidneys were divided among 4 surgeons. Another person had a little finger, obtained under pretense of Post Mortem examination. Remainder of body buried in Yard of the Penetentiary near Atzerot. All this, & we claim to be civilized & human! If his body had been given up to his friends, it would be torn to pieces by the infuriated people.”

As we know Henry Wirz mingled with the bodies of the conspirators until 1869, when Andrew Johnson allowed the bodies of all those executed to be claimed by family. Wirz was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, the same resting place of Mary Surratt.

Piece of Henry Wirz' Old Arsenal coffin in the collection of the Smithsonian's American History Museum.

Piece of Henry Wirz’ Old Arsenal coffin in the collection of the Smithsonian’s American History Museum.

In the Interim

By 1866, John Wilkes Booth and four of his conspirators were dead. The other four tried at the trial of the conspirators were serving sentences at Fort Jefferson off the coast of Florida.  As such there was a lull for a time during which Julia Wilbur reported next to nothing revolving around the events of April 14, 1865. Only a few brief mentions exist in her diary of 1866 and early 1867.

April 14, 1866:

“Anniversary of a sad day.

Departments have been closed, & flags are at half mast. No other observance. A year ago today I was in Alex. & could not get away. It was a sad time.”

April 28, 1866:

“Went to the Army Medical Museum. Many interesting in this Museum. Called on Mrs. Smith. She is ill. Went into Ford’s Theater. Not finished yet. It is intended for archives relating to the War of the Rebellion. The sad associations connected with it will make it an object of interest for generations to come.”

April 15, 1867:

“Anniversary of Death of Abraham Lincoln! Two years have passed rapidly away.”

On visiting the National Cemetery in Alexandria on May 12, 1867:

“There is also a monument to the memory of the 4 soldiers who lost their lives in pursuit of Booth the Assassin. They were drowned.”

Upon seeing Secretary War Edwin Stanton on May 27, 1867:

“Saw Sec. Stanton today, but how unlike the Sec. of War that I saw in his office in Oct. ’62. He was then in the vigor & prime of manhood. Hair & beard dark & abundant. But 5 years of War have made him 20 years older. He is thin, sallow, careworn. His locks are thin & gray. I never saw a greater change in any man in so few years.”

June 21, 1867:

“On return went into Ford’s Theater to see the Medical Museum.”

The Escaped Conspirator

In late 1866, John H. Surratt, Jr. was finally captured after more than a year and a half on the run. Surratt had been an active member of John Wilkes Booth’s plot to abduct President Lincoln and take him south. His arrest in Alexandria, Egypt and extradition to the U.S., set in the motion the last judicial proceedings relating to Abraham Lincoln’s death.  Once again, Ms. Wilbur would be sure to take part in this event, attending John Surratt’s trial twice and providing some wonderful detail of the courtroom scene.

February 18, 1867:

“(Surratt arrived in Washington today, is in jail)”

June 19, 1867:

Surratt Trail Ticket

“Miss Evans & I went to Mr. B’s & he went with us to City Hall & got tickets of admittance for us to the Court Room. 6 ladies present besides ourselves. Surratt was brought in at 10, & the court was opened. Judge Fisher presiding. Witnesses examined were Carroll Hobart. Vt.; Char. H. Blinn, Vt.; Scipano Grillo, Saloon keeper at Ford’s Theater; John T. Tibbett mail carrier, & Sergt. Robt. H. Cooper. Examined by Edwards Pierpoint of N.Y, Atty, Carrington.

Surratt sat with his counsel, Bradly, he, a pale slender, young man, seemed to take an interest in all that was said. His mother’s name was mentioned often, & Tibbett said he had heard her say “she wd. give $1000 to any body who would kill Lincoln.” I could not feel much sympathy for him. They must have been a bad family.

But I think Surratt will never be punished. The Government will hardly dare do it after releasing Jeff Davis.

The room outside the bar was crowded, & this is the first day ladies have been seated inside the bar.

Miss Evans was never in a Court before, & we were both much interested.”

June 21, 1867:

“Frances & Miss Evans went to Surratt’s trial”

June 27, 1867:

John Surratt Trial Drawing

“Rose early. Worked till 9 A.M. Then went to Surratt’s trial at City Hall. Courtroom crowded. Judge Fisher presiding. Witnesses, 2 brothers Sowles, & Louis Weichman. He last boarded with Mrs. Surratt, was intimate with J.H. Surratt. His testimony was minute but of absorbing interest. Examined by Edwards Pierpoint. Bradly & Merrick, counsel for prisoner, are evil looking men.

Surratt looked less confident today than when I saw him a week ago yesterday.

When they were removing the handcuffs he breathed hard. Took his seat looking a little disturbed. His brother Isaac soon came & took a seat by him & they talked & laughed a few minutes.

Isaac looks like a hard case & quite unconcerned. It is very evident that J.H. Surratt was a conspirator & that the family were bad.

Wilbur diary Surratt was a conspirator

I would like to be here at the close of the trial, and hear the summing up.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Wilbur did not get her wish to witness the close of John Surratt’s trial. She was visiting back home near Avon, New York when the trial ended.

August 10, 1867:

“Papers from Washington.

Argument in Surratt case finished. Jury do not agree.”

August 12, 1867:

“Finished reading for Father Mr. Pierpointt’s argument in Surratt case to father. Very able argument.”

August 16, 1867:

“Jury discharged, could not agree, ([illegible]). Surratt remanded to jail.

Bradley has challenged Judge Fisher. Much excitement in W[ashington].”

Epilogue

While the period of assassination events effectively ended with the trial of John Surratt, Ms. Wilbur maintained diaries for the rest of her life.  There could be more passages in her diaries commenting on or recalling those tragic days. As stated in the prior post about Julia Wilbur and the Mourning of Lincoln, Julia Wilbur’s diaries have only been transcribed for the period of March 1860 until July of 1866. All entries in this post dated beyond July 1866, were discovered by meticulously reading through the digitized pages of Ms. Wilbur’s diaries located here. There are still many discoveries to be made in Julia Wilbur’s diaries and I encourage you all to follow Paula Whitacre’s blog to read more about the work being done on Julia Wilbur.

References:
Paula Whitacre’s Blog on Julia Wilbur
Transcriptions of Julia Wilbur’s Diaries from Alexandria Archaeology
Digitized pages of Julia Wilbur’s Diaries from Haverford College

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“President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” at the Newseum

Located on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street in northwest D.C., the Newseum is an impressive institution devoted to the evolution of news reporting and the importance of free press in a society. The seven floor museum contains impressive permanent exhibits relating to some of the most news worthy events in American and world history. There are also many galleries in the museum which house an array of different temporary exhibits. When I visited Washington, D.C. for the first time in 2009, I made sure to tour the Newseum due to the fact that they were displaying a temporary exhibition based around James Swanson’s book, Manhunt. One of my very first posts on this site recounted that wonderful exhibit.

Since that time (and my subsequent move to Maryland), I have made many visits to the Newseum.  Their exhibits are fascinating and it is a wonderful place to bring guests from out of town.  As you might expect, there are several permanent items on display at the Newseum related to Lincoln’s assassination that I see each time I am there.  One permanent, 80 foot long display on the top terrace overlooks Pennsylvania Avenue and recounts the history of Washington’s most famous street.

Newseum Terrace

The display also points out that the site currently occupied by the Newseum was once the home to the National Hotel, the preferred hotel of John Wilkes Booth when he was in Washington.

The Newseum collection also contains different newspapers, both physical and digital, that cover the assassination of Abraham Lincoln:

However for this year, the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Newseum has created a very special exhibition:

New York Herald Exhibit Newseum

President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” is a detailed look at how one of the most widely read newspapers in the country covered the events of April 14, 1865.  Over a period of 18 hours following the shot at Ford’s Theatre, the New York Herald would publish an unprecedented seven special editions, each with new information regarding the President and Secretary of State’s conditions and the subsequent search for their assassins.  The Newseum may very well be the only institution in the world that contains copies of each of the seven editions of the New York Herald from that tumultuous time.


Coverage Chronologically

 
Seven Issues of New York Herald Newseum

The current exhibit at the Newseum contains an original of each of these editions paired with large wall displays that highlight the differences and additions between them.

2:00 AM edition:

NYH 2 am edition Newseum

3:00 AM edition:

NYH 3 am edition Newseum

8:45 AM edition:

NYH 8 am edition Newseum

10:00 AM edition:

NYH 10 am Uncovering the Plot edition Newseum

10:00 AM “Reward” edition:

NYH 10 am Reward edition Newseum

2:00 PM edition:

NYH 2 pm edition Newseum

3:30 PM edition:

NYH 3 pm edition Newseum

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge


Floor to Ceiling Coverage

 
While the “President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” exhibit is only contained in one small room of the Newseum, there is no wasted space.  Even the floor and ceiling contain displays.  On the floor is a map of Civil War Washington with labelled sites relating to the assassination:

Floor map Newseum

Meanwhile the ceiling is festooned with wonderful banners (several of which I wish I could own myself) relating to the assassination:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


The Stories Behind the Story

 
The displays not only provide commentary on the evolving story of how the country came to learn the details of Lincoln’s assassination, but they also introduce us to the people involved in reporting the news.  One of my favorite stories is that of Associated Press reporter, Lawrence Gobright who was responsible for the very first telegraphic dispatch covering Lincoln’s assassination:

First dispatch Newseum

In 1869, Gobright would recollect his actions that night:

“On the night of the 14th of April, I was sitting in my office alone, everything quiet : and having filed, as I thought, my last despatch, I picked up an afternoon paper, to see what especial news it contained. While looking over its columns, a hasty step was heard at the entrance of the door, and a gentleman addressed me, in a hurried and excited manner, informing me that the President had been assassinated, and telling me to come with him! I at first could scarcely believe the intelligence. But I obeyed the summons. He had been to the theatre with a lady, and directly after the tragedy at that place, had brought out the lady, placed her at his side in his carriage, and driven directly to me. I then first went to the telegraph office, sent a short ” special,” and promised soon to give the particulars. Taking a seat in the hack, we drove back to the theatre and alighted; the gentleman giving directions to the driver to convey the lady to her home.

The gentleman and myself procured an entrance to the theatre, where we found everybody in great excitement. The wounded President had been removed to the house of Mr. Peterson [sic], who lived nearly opposite to the theatre. When we reached the box, we saw the chair in which the President sat at the time of the assassination; and, although the gas had for the greater part been turned off, we discovered blood upon it…

Lawrence Gobright

Lawrence Gobright

My friend having been present during the performance, and being a valuable source of news, I held him firmly by the arm, for fear that I might lose him in the crowd. After gathering all the points we could, we came out of the theatre, when we heard that Secretary Seward had also been assassinated. I recollect replying that this rumor probably was an echo from the theatre; but wishing to be satisfied as to its truth or falsity, I called a hack, and my companion and myself drove to the Secretary’s residence. We found a guard at the door, but had little trouble in entering the house. Some of the neighbors were there, but they were so much excited that they could not tell an intelligent story, and the colored boy, by whom Paine was met when he insisted on going up to the Secretary’s room, was scarcely able to talk. We did all we could to get at the truth of the story, and when we left the premises, had confused ideas of the events of the night. Next we went to the President’s house. A military guard was at the door. It was then, for the first time, we learned that the President had not been brought home. Vague rumors were in circulation that attempts had been made on the lives of Vice-President Johnson and others, but they could not be traced to a reliable source. We returned to Mr. Peterson’s house, but were not permitted to make our way through the military guard to inquire into the condition of the President. Nor at that time was it certainly known who was the assassin of President Lincoln. Some few persons said he resembled Booth, while others appeared to be confident as to the identity.

Returning to the office, I commenced writing a full account of that night’s dread occurrences. While thus engaged, several gentlemen who had been at the theatre came in, and, by questioning them, I obtained additional particulars. Among my visitors was Speaker Colfax, and as he was going to see Mr. Lincoln, I asked him to give me a paragraph on that interesting branch of the subject. At a subsequent hour, he did so. Meanwhile I carefully wrote my despatch, though with trembling and nervous fingers, and, under all the exciting circumstances, I was afterward surprised that I had succeeded in approximating so closely to all the facts in those dark transactions…”

In addition to his quick reporting and continual dispatches throughout the night, Gobright also holds a place in history due to his brief custodianship over the derringer that was used to kill Abraham Lincoln.

Edwin Pitts holding the Derringer 1

After shooting Lincoln with the single shot pistol, John Wilkes Booth immediately dropped the gun onto the floor of the theater box. Somehow it went unnoticed during the chaos that ensued in the small box as physicians entered to care for the mortally wounded president. One of the men who had entered the box along with the physicians was a man named William Kent. Kent would later claim it was his penknife that was used to cut the collar from around Lincoln’s neck. After departing the theater that night, Kent discovered he had lost his keys and so returned to the theater and gained entry into the now empty box. He was searching for his keys when his foot struck something. Lawrence Gobright had also just arrived in the box to report on the scene of the crime:

“A man [Kent] standing by picked up Booth’s pistol from the floor, when I exclaimed to the crowd below that the weapon had been found and placed in my possession. An officer of the navy — whose name I do not now remember — demanded that I should give it to him ; but this I refused to do, preferring to make Major Richards, the head of the police, the custodian of the weapon, which I did soon after my announcement.”

As stated, Gobright did turn the derringer over to the Metropolitan Police and William Kent identified it on April 15th:

William Kent statement


Don’t Believe Everything you Read in the Newspapers

 
The New York Herald exhibit at the Newseum also demonstrates how the newspapers covering Lincoln’s assassination made the same mistake as some modern journalists by printing unreliable or unsubstantiated claims in hopes of being the first to provide their audience with an exclusive.

Booth in custody Newseum

Rumors and speculation would fill every mouth, diary, and newspaper for the next twelve days as the entire country searched for John Wilkes Booth.

In addition to misinformation that was printed in a rush, the New York Herald exhibit at the Newseum also brings attention to later instances that have caused unintended deception.  The New York Herald’s coverage of Lincoln’s assassination was so wide spread that even many years later, the paper was still very well connected to the event in the minds of the public.  Many advertisers attempted to benefit from this connection by creating their own, custom reprints of editions of the New York Herald.  On the face of it, the reprints appeared genuine though some, like the one below, included engravings that were never in the originals.  No matter how real they looked however, hidden either in the text of the front page or within the interior pages were advertisements for the latest miracle tonic, liniment, or some other product.

Fake NYH Newseum

This type of “historical advertising” was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century.  People were more likely to hold on to the advertisement if it had something compelling on it.  Another example of this type of advertising is this reproduction CDV of John Wilkes Booth’s escape on a bag for dysentery syrup:

John Wilkes Booth Dysentery Syrup

While the newspapers were well known to be advertisements in their day, as time has passed reproductions like the one above have fooled many unknowing treasure seekers into thinking they have a genuine (and pricey) piece of American history. Most of the time, however, a careful read through (especially of the interior pages which are usually just full page ads for the product) will reveal it is a reproduction.  You can see a small sampling of some of the many advertising reproductions of the assassination editions of the New York Herald here.


Plan Your Visit

 
I highly recommend a visit to the “President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination” exhibit at the Newseum.  It is located on the 4th floor of the museum which is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Tickets to the Newseum cost $23 for adults and allow you to return the next day for free.  While this price may seem a bit expensive compared to the federally funded museums in D.C. that offer free admission, the Newseum has many wonderful galleries and exhibits that make the price more than worth it.  This special New York Herald exhibit only runs until January 10, 2016 so be sure to visit the Newseum before it is gone.

References:
President Lincoln Is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination at the Newseum
Recollection of men and things at Washington during the third of a century by Lawrence Gobright (1869)
National Archives
Library of Congress

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Now He Belongs to the Ages: Commemorating Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre

It has been (and continues to be) a busy time for me recently.  With no time to write any blog posts here, I asked Kate to be a guest author here on BoothieBarn.  I hope you enjoy her write up about our adventures last week at the Lincoln Tribute put on by Ford’s Theatre. ~ Dave


Hello fellow readers, Boothies, and Lincolnites,

Since our favorite blogger extraordinaire is busy being our favorite Twitter extraordinaire, he asked me (Kate Ramirez) to post about our experience at the Ford’s Theatre Lincoln assassination commemoration. For 36 hours the historic Washington, D. C. landmark remembered the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865. For those who couldn’t make it or simply want to hear another opinion, I have chronicled our journey below and I hope you enjoy it.

The story is well known. On April 14, 1865, rain fell from the dark evening sky like an endless shadow hovering above the Capitol City. 150 years later, the heavens once more cried for the fallen leader who led our nation through the long blood bath that was the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln.

Petersen House 4-14-15

For a moment it seemed as though the gloom had returned to cloak 10th street in a heavy mourning shroud. But as hundreds of candles broke through the dark, the procession began more and more to resemble the Illuminations that long ago lit the Capitol city.

Vigil outside Fords 4-14-15

Our night began backwards as we walked through Baptist Alley even before seeing what was happening in front of the historic Ford’s Theatre. It may sound cliché but I could swear I heard the pounding of horse hooves through the downpour. A strange and eerie chill settled over the looming brick building and it felt as though hands of time had suddenly ceased to turn.

Baptist Alley 4-14-15

Baptist Alley 2 4-14-15

Lining the barricaded 10th street were dozens of citizens celebrating the war’s end and groups of Union soldiers fortunate enough to have made it home from battle (They were costumed reenactors of course but why ruin the immerse dialogue by mentioning that).

Reenactors 4-14-15

Everyone, Dave and I included, was eager to see “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration.”

Inside Fords 4-14-15

The show was very well done and managed to strike just the right notes of tragic and heartbreaking but also touching and hopeful. Opening with the song “Someday” from the musical “Freedoms Song: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War” was the perfect choice. Though it features an upbeat tempo, I believe that is what Lincoln himself would have wanted. After all, it was Lincoln, lover of the theatre, who said that “a tragedy is best read at home.” From beginning to end never was there a dull moment. The Federal City Brass Band revived the music of the Civil War and the voice of Kevin McAllister rang out in the rafters as he magnificently performed “Father How Long?” From David Selby stirring the audience to laughter by telling some of Lincoln’s favorite jokes to local actors reminding us that Lincoln was a great leader not because he was perfect but because he was willing to admit when he was wrong, the night was not only a commemoration of life but a celebration of it too.

The clock struck 10:15 PM and the audience again returned outside to honor the memory of the President who never saw the sunrise with a candlelight vigil.

Vigil outside Ford's 2 4-14-15

Those who had been in the audience for “Our American Cousin” wandered the streets, regaling all who passed them with tales of how they saw Lincoln shot, witnessed John Wilkes Booth dramatically leap to the stage shouting “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” and heard Mrs. Lincoln scream for help. Throughout the night, Dr. Charles Leale updated the crowd gathered outside the Peterson Boardinghouse on the condition of the wounded President, the look of his outward appearance, and his pulse and heart rate. Briefly on the steps appeared Florence Trenchard herself, Miss Laura Keene, who, in her theatrically perfected tone, recounted how she brought water to the presidential box and was allowed to hold the head of the dying commander in her lap, his blood staining her cuff.

Laura Keene at Petersen House 4-14-15

Dr Leale at Petersen House 4-14-15

Despite the rain, candles burned through the night as the vigil continued into the small hours of the morning and the news of the first presidential assassination swept through the Washington streets. Those who were so filled with cheer mere hours before, toasting the surrender of General Robert E. Lee, now wandered through a haze of shock and grief. Who would lead the nation now?

James Swanson talked with local reporters while American Brutus author Michael Kauffman spoke with members of the crowd.

James Swanson with Us 4-14-15

Mike Kauffman and Us 4-14-15

It had grown late. The air was colder. Dave seemed oblivious to the chill in his long coat but strong gusts of wind lacerated my bones like knives of ice. The sky was darker and not one star shown in the black abyss. I had lost track of the hour when we finally departed.

We did not return until the next morning. Though the ceaseless night had finally given way to sunrise, candles still burned as over five hundred souls waited to hear the final report of Dr. Charles Leale.

Outside Fords 4-15-15

It was 7:22 AM when his words came down like a guillotine. “The President has breathed his final breath.” In that moment, I’m sure many of us could not help but think of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. “Now he belongs to the ages.”

The President is Dead 4-15-15

The lonely call of taps wafted from the boardinghouse stairs which Lincoln had been carried up just hours earlier. The Federal City Brass Band played solemnly as a National Park Ranger, accompanied by military procession, laid a wreath at the foot of the steps.

Brass Band 4-15-15

Wreath 4-15-15

Though the tolling church bells could only faintly be heard, the bagpipers stationed just outside the theatre filled the air with their haunting rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Ranger Eric Martin raised his hand in salute.

Eric Martin NPS Salute 4-15-15

Around 8 o’clock the vigil began winding down and 10th street reopened to cars. Dave and I had the chance to take a backstage tour of Ford’s Theatre with Brian Anderson, author of Images of America: Ford’s Theatre.

Brian Anderson 4-15-15

Seeing into the Presidential box and viewing the theatre from the Family Circle was an amazing experience. I would definitely recommend the tour to anyone looking to see Ford’s Theatre from a different angle. Plus, you get a free book at the end and if that isn’t motivation than I don’t know what is.

Box from the Dress Circle 4-15-15

The tour marked the end of the commemoration for us and as we walked back to our hotel I mentioned to Dave how sometimes it feels like historic events are so far away but remembering the Lincoln assassination at Ford’s Theatre brought 1865 to life again. And passing the H-Street boardinghouse that once belonged to Mary Surratt made me think how history is all around us, waiting to enthrall us with its stories. All we have to do is listen.

Us on stage at Ford's Theatre 4-15-15

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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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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.

You can read more about:

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Reagan Library’s former Lincoln Exhibit

Reagan Library Lincoln Exhibit catalog

From June through September of 2013, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California hosted an exhibit entitled, “A. Lincoln: Railsplitter to Rushmore“. The exhibit showcased a multitude of objects borrowed from the collections of private individuals; institutions like the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Library of Congress, Smithsonian, and Ford’s Theatre; and even the production designers of Dreamworks Pictures who produced Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Over 250 unique artifacts relating to Lincoln’s life and presidency were on display along with sets from the Lincoln movie like this one of Lincoln’s office:

Lincoln Office Set Regan Library 2013

Appropriately, one room of the exhibition was devoted to the assassination and death of Abraham Lincoln.  Here is a nice panorama of the exhibit room showing the recreated bedroom of the Petersen House, a mock up of the Ford’s Theatre box, and a replica of President Lincoln’s casket:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Here is a slideshow which further highlights the artifacts and displays from the assassination gallery:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A few of the artifacts that were on display came from the Ford’s Theatre collection.  These included a Confederate cipher machine, a ticket to Ford’s Theatre, a key to a cell that imprisoned on of the Lincoln conspirators, and some funerary items.  One of Ford’s Theatre most iconic items was also loaned to the Reagan Library for the exhibit; a blood stained pillow from the death chamber of the President.

Petersen bedroom Assassination Exhibit Reagan Library

The Reagan Library’s recreation of the death chamber of Abraham Lincoln in the Petersen House. An authentic blood stained pillow from that night can be seen in a display to the left.

These images, sent to me by Carolyn Mitchell of the Spirits of Tudor Hall, show the blood stained pillow further:

Blood stained pillow Mitchell 1

Blood stained pillow Mitchell 2

Under this lighting, it’s hard to see the actual blood stains on the pillow.  The obvious dark splotches are not blood stains but ink stains that occurred long after Lincoln’s death and before modern artifact preservation techniques.  For many years, this pillow was on display at the Petersen House in Washington, D.C.  Today, however, the artifact is too fragile to be on display without a climate controlled display as seen here.  I’ve been told by a National Park Service employee that the pillow is so delicate that you could poke your finger straight through the pillow with ease.  Another, less fragile, pillow from Lincoln’s deathbed is on display in the basement museum of Ford’s Theatre.

References:
Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library
A. Lincoln: Railsplitter to Rushmore Exhibit Catalog
Ford’s Theatre NPS
A huge belated thank you to Carolyn Mitchell who visited the exhibit and sent me photographs and a copy of the exhibit catalog.  You’re the best, Carolyn!

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