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Explore Ford's Theatre: The Historic Landmark in the Heart of DC

Today Fords Theatre still stands - along with a museum. For Ford’s Theatre tickets, Ford’s Theater Tours or Ford’s Theatre Schedule go to!

The Back Story

On April 14, 1865, John Wilke s Booth a famous American stage actor had to make a decision.

Booth was a hard-core Southern sympathizer and after months of assembling a team of conspirators Booth decided it was time to act – he would assassinate President Lincoln that very day. However, he did not know what Lincoln’ exact schedule was … where would he find the President?

What set Booth’s assassination plan in motion was the surrender of General Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Confederacy at Appomattox Court House, VA on Sunday April 9, just five days earlier. The South had officially lost the war. Booth wanted vengeance.

Booth knew that the Lincolns frequently went to plays and he expected that Lincoln would celebrate the Union’s win over the Confederacy that weekend by going to the theater. But which theater? Because Booth was an actor, he was well known at Washington’s two top theaters, and one of them, Ford’s Theater was almost brand new and glamorous, having opened just 18 months earlier. Booth knew the layout of both top theaters and had developed a plan for the assassination - it did not matter what show or which theater the Lincoln’s decided to attend, or when - Booth would be ready- he just needed to know which theater the Lincoln’s would choose.

By midday on April 14, 1865 the Lincoln’s decided to attend a play at Ford’s Theater, 511 10th St, NW – a new comedy, Our American Cousin. The White House then sent a note to Ford’s Theater so the staff would expect the President and First Lady that evening. Booth found out quickly from his theater friends and had plenty of time to dress for the evening’s performance and even had a drink at a nearby saloon beforehand. Earlier he had stashed planks of wood behind the door of Ford’s Theater’s Presidential Box (private balcony seating reserved for the US President). Booth planned to block the door so that no one could get into or out of the box after he entered. At that time there was no Secret Police!

The play began, but the President and First Lady arrived a little late and the show was halted as they were seated in the box while the orchestra played Hail to the Chief. Then the play resumed. Booth was already in the theater and as well-known actor it was not unusual at all when Booth asked to be introduced to the President at an intermission. He was allowed to go into the Presidential Box where he quickly jammed the door with the wood planks and shot President Lincoln point blank in the back of his head with a .44 caliber Derringer pistol.


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