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An Actor Assassinates President Abraham Lincoln 150 Years Ago

Actor John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at the Ford Theatre in Washington,D.C. on April 14, 1865.

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Wilkes had access to the theater because of his profession. He was a member of a famous theatrical family, although the least illustrious member: Junius Brutus Booth, a great English tragedian, emigrated to the United States in 1821 and had three sons,  Junius Brutus Booth, Jr., John, and Edein Booth, a celebrated performer (often called the greatest American Hamlet of the 19th century) who became a theater entrepreneur, building the Booth Theater in 1869 — Broadway’s current Booth Theater is named after him.

Here are father and two sons performing in Julius Caesar, from left to right John, Edwin and Junius Sr.

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John Wilkes Booth chose to murder the president during a performance of Our American Cousin,  a farce by Tom Taylor about a boorish but honest American who travels to England to meet his aristocratic family. Booth hoped the gunshots would be drowned out by the laugh line to this highlighted passage:

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The Ford Theatre, draped in mourning, after the assassination

The Ford Theatre, draped in mourning, after the assassination

The Night Lincoln Was Shot: Minute-by-Minute Backstage With John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre

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About New York Theater
Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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