The death of Abe Lincoln

The price of tickets for the production of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre the night of the Lincoln assassination was were Orchestra (main level, chair seating) $1.00, Dress Circle (first balcony, chair seating) $.75, Family Circle (second balcony, bench seating) $.50.

On the day before he went to Ford’s Theater, April 14, 1865, Lincoln is quoted as saying to his bodyguard,  William H. Crook (above) “Crook, do you know I believe there are men who want to take my life? And I have no doubt they will do it …. I know no one could do it and escape alive. But if it is to be done, it is impossible to prevent it.”
Fifteen people turned down President Lincoln’s invitation to join him and Mary Todd Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on the night of his assassination, April 14, 1865.  It was good
Friday of the Easter weekend, and most people had plans.  Another factor, probably, was Mary Todd Lincoln’s erratic and spiteful behavior to almost everyone who came near her husband.  (In 1875, Mary was committed to an insane asylum by her only surviving son, Robert Lincoln.)

 The fifteen people who turned down the Lincoln’s were Mr. & Mrs. Edwin Stanton, General & Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, William A. Howard, General Isham N. Haynie, Richard J. Olgesby, Richard Yates, Noah Brooks, Thomas Eckert, George Ashmun, Schuyler Colfax, Mr.  & Mrs. William H. Wallace & Robert Lincoln.

Edwin Stanton (Above) was Lincoln’s Secretary of War probably refused to go because his wife could not get along with Mrs. Lincoln.  The Grants were already booked aboard a train to leave Washington to spend time with their children in New Jersey.  But, again, Mrs. Grant also disliked Mrs. Lincoln and that may have been the actual reason for turning down the first couple.

Postmaster William A. Howard was leaving the city to return to his native Detroit.

General Isham N. Haynie and Richard J. Olgesby had already made plans to entertain friends that evening.  Noah Brooks, a reporter, was sick with the flu.  Thomas Eckert a telegraph operator at the War Department refused because he was overworked.  George Ashmun had a previous engagement, as did Speaker of the House of Representatives
Shuyler Colfax.  Mr. and Mrs. William H. Wallace, the Governor of Idaho territories, claimed to be too tired to attend the play that evening.  Robert Lincoln, the President’s eldest son, had just returned from a tour of duty with General Grant and was tired.

The contents of Lincoln’s pockets from the night of the assassination are housed at the Library of Congress. Some of these items included newspaper clippings, spectacle and reading glasses and their cases, a pocket knife and even a Confederate five dollar bill.

Tad Lincoln (above, the President’s youngest son) was at another theatre the night his father was shot. Tad was attending a performance of “Aladdin or the Wonderful Lamp” at Grover’s Theatre. Attending with him was his tutor, who had the news of the shooting whispered to him. The tutor rushed Tad out of the theatre and took him back home to the White House.

Major Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris, the couple who attended the play at Ford’s Theatre with the Lincoln’s had a tragic ending. On July 11, 1867, the Rathbone’s were married. Rathbone eventually started to have severe mood swings and in 1883, while the family was living in Germany, Rathbone tried to murder his children. He then shot and stabbed his wife to death. He also tried to kill himself but failed.  He was found insane and sent to an asylum for the rest of his life.

The last surviving person who was in Ford’s Theatre the night of the assassination was Samuel J. Seymour (of Easton Md.) who died at age 96 on April 14, 1956, exactly 91 years to the day that the assassination took place. Seymour was 5 years old when his godmother, Mrs. George S. Goldsborough, took him to see Our American Cousin. They sat in the Dress Circle facing opposite the Presidential box and witnessed the assassination and Booth’s leap to the stage.

On April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln’s autopsy was performed in the 2nd floor guest room at the front right hand corner (northwest corner) of the White House. Lincoln was the first President of the United States to be embalmed. Over one million people viewed the Presidents body during the open casket viewings as the train carrying his body rolled across the country to take the corpse to Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, Illinois for burial.  As early as the New York observers noticed that Lincoln’s face was showing signs of blackening and discoloration. For the remainder of the trip, undertakers would frequently apply white chalk powder, rouge and amber makeup to make the President appear as normal as possible.

There is a medical debate that started in the 1960′s about whether Mr. Lincoln had Marfan Syndrome.  The syndrome is an inherited disorder of connective tissue People with Marfan syndrome tend to have long limbs and are usually, but not always, tall. The syndrome can also cause spine problems, abnormally-shaped chest, and loose joints.

The diagnosis was based on physical observations of Lincoln: the fact that he was much taller than most men of his day, with long limbs, an abnormally-shaped chest, and loose (lax) joints (based on written descriptions).

 Lincoln had two Life Masks made of his face (and one set of his hands). One was made  in 1860 by Leonard Volk just prior to Lincoln’s nomination for President and the other was made by Clark Mills on February 11, 1865 just two months prior to his assassination.

Four soldiers of the Veteran Reserve Corps were assigned the duty of springing the traps that hung the Lincoln conspirators. On a signal from executioner Christian Rath, the posts were knocked out by the men,  springing the trap doors. One of the men was Private William Coxshall who later said of the incident “I became nauseated, what with the heat and waiting, and taking hold of the supporting post, I hung on and vomited”.

In 1876, Lincoln’s body was almost the victim of a grave robbing plot.  On November 7, 1876, a group of Chicago counterfeiters attempted to steal Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom and the release of one of their incarcerated members (their engraver)