Gypsy's Travels

Monday, August 13, 2007

Abraham Lincoln

When we visited Washington, D.C. in July 2007, We looked for out-of-the-way places as well as the usual tourist venues. One of the places the children wanted to see was the Lincoln Memorial. Most children are familiar with this landmark, even rcognizing it on the one cent coin, and it gave us an opportunity to talk about Abraham Lincoln. We were a little surprised that the building was a smaller structure than anticipated, but it was still impressive. I wonder if the children will visit it years from now and remember it as much larger. Seeing the world through the eyes of children is a blessing.

Of course, the children wanted to know what happened to Abraham Lincoln, so we visited Ford's Theater where Lincoln was shot on the evening of April 14, 1865. The theater was less than two years old, seated 1700 people, had a dress circle above the main floor, 2 upper and 2 lower private boxes on each side of the stage. The theater was closed after the assassination. The government bought the building in 1866 and, although it remained closed as a stage, it was used over the next 90 years as an office building, warehouse, and museum. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a Congressional Act to restore the theater in 1954, but it was 10 years before restoration was begun. The building reopened its stage in 1968, 103 years after the assassination of the President

The Presidential, or state box, appears as it did on that fateful night. Henry Clay Ford, the theater manager, had ordered the partition removed between the two upper boxes on the south (stage left) side of the theater, creating the President's private box. Ford placed two U.S. flags on stands and draped a large flag on the balustrade. He placed an engraving of George Washington on the central pillar. He also ordered an upholstered walnut rocker brought down from his own apartment for the President to sit in. It is thought that John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin, bored a hole in the door of the President's Box. This made it possible to observe the action on the stage as well as the occupants of the box. He may have also cut a mortise in the wall opposite the door to anchor a bar that could hold the door shut and prevent anyone from the dress circle from entering the corridor.

The wounded President was taken across the street to the Petersen house, home of William Petersen, a Swedish-born tailor who rented extra rooms to lodgers. Lincoln was placed in a small (9X 17') room on the first floor of the house, on a narrow, six-foot spool bed. He was so tall, they had to lay him diagonally across the bed. It was later learned that an actor friend of Booth's had once rented that room and Booth had taken an afternoon nap on the same bed where Abraham Lincoln died

The Lincoln Museum is located in the basement of Ford's Theater and houses items from Lincoln's life, articles belonging to the assassination conspirators, and other items of interest.
The Theater, Museum, and the Petersen House are all run by the National Park Service.
Some of this ineresting information was gleaned from "The Death of Lincoln" by Leroy Hayman.


  1. I think it is wonderful that your kids are able to take an active part in history. It's so much more fun that just reading about it in books. I'm a bit of a history buff, so I may be a little biased, but if sounds like you guys had a great time!

  2. We did have a good time and the kids were great!

  3. My grandfather was Leroy Hayman; It is really nice to see people still enjoying and using the books he loved to write.


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