Ford's Theatre

Audio Available:

OVERVIEW: About this audio-described brochure

Welcome to the audio-described version of Ford's Theatre's official print brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps, this version interprets the two-sided color brochure that Ford's Theatre visitors receive. The brochure explores the history of the park, some of its highlights, and information for planning your visit. This audio version lasts about 45 minutes which we have divided into 16 sections, as a way to improve the listening experience. Sections  1 through 9 cover the front of the brochure and include information regarding the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the people involved. Sections 10 through 16 cover the back of the brochure which consists of more detailed information about the theater itself and the Petersen house, the boarding house where Lincoln died. Historic and contemporary pictures of both buildings are included.

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OVERVIEW: Ford's Theatre National Historic Site

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, located in Washington DC, is part of the National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior. It is located in the heart of D.C., only a few blocks from the National Mall. Ford’s Theatre was established as a National Historic Site within the National Park Service in 1968, to pay tribute to Abraham Lincoln, the United States' 16th president. In addition, it reopened as a theatre producing live performances to honor his favorite pastime: attending a play. Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors come to witness the space and artifacts and to hear the stories surrounding the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. During your visit, you can explore the museum and participate in a ranger led program within the theatre learn about the tragic event of April 14, 1865 and the assassination conspiracy.  You will also discover the Civil War history and details about Lincoln’s presidency and legacy. For those seeking to learn more about the park during their visit, audio guides and brochures are available at the visitor’s center. To find out more about what resources might be available or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.
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OVERVIEW: Front side of brochure

The front of the brochure contains a large illustration of Ford's Theater, surrounded by text, a small map, and black-and-white photographs of the people involved. This side describes a timeline of events around Abraham Lincoln's assassination and discusses the conspirators, the victim, and the other people in the Presidential Box. It also gives a brief overview of what was happening in Washington, DC in 1865 and the neighborhood surrounding the theater. 

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TEXT: Assassination of President Lincoln: The president shot at theatre last evening

On the night of April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theatre by John Wilkes Booth. He died in the early hours of April 15 in the small back bedroom of a boarding house across the street. Lincoln, who had struggled through the Civil War to preserve the Union, lived long enough to see it maintained but not long enough to help in healing the wounds left by the war. The theatre where Lincoln was shot and the house where he died are preserved today as Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site. It tells us of these events, reminds us of the troubling times this nation passed through, and encourages us to perpetuate the aspirations, hopes, and ideals that Lincoln held for the United States.

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IMAGES AND TEXT: The Conspirators

DESCRIBING: A collage of 6 small, cut-out photographs in black and white that are lined up in rows of 3. 


IMAGE 1 of 7: John Wilkes Booth

DESCRIBING: 1 small, portrait photograph in black and white that is separate from the group. 

DESCRIPTION:

A black and white portrait of John Wilkes Booth, closely cropped, no background is visible. He is seated with left hand on his hip, leaning land looking to his right, dressed wearing a jacket with small, high lapels and a light handkerchief in the breast pocket, there is a chain dangling from the inside of his jacket. Booth has short, curly dark hair that comes onto his forehead in a deep widow's peak, and a neatly trimmed mustache that extends below the corners of his mouth. He has a large nose and prominent cheekbones.

CAPTION: John Wilkes Booth

CREDIT: Library of Congress


IMAGE 2 of 7: Mary Surratt

DESCRIPTION:

A closely cropped black and white photograph of Mary Surratt. She has straight, dark hair in a center part, that is cut shorter than her earlobes. She looks directly into the camera with a neutral, expressionless stare. Her eyes are deeply set and hooded. She is likely wearing a dark dress with a light collar, but it is mostly obscured by the portrait below her. 

CAPTION: Mary Surratt

CREDIT: Library of Congress


IMAGE 3 of 7: Edman Spangler

DESCRIPTION:

A closely cropped  black and white portrait of Edman Spangler. He is a younger, middle-aged white man with short dark hair that comes to a widow's peak. He has a large, hooked nose, large ears that stick out, and significant amounts of beard stubble, with a slightly darker mustache connecting to a short goatee. With a furrowed brow and bottom lip slightly pursed, he looks to his left with an anxious or stressed expressionHe is wearing a dark shirt and jacket, that is covered by the portrait below him. 

CAPTION: Edman Spangler

CREDIT: Library of Congress


IMAGE 4 of 7: Dr. Samuel Mudd

DESCRIPTION:

A slightly blurry, closely cropped black and white photo of Dr. Samuel Mudd. He is a middle-aged white man wearing a light shirt and dark vest. He is turned slightly to his right with a blank expression, posing for a portrait. Mudd is balding, with some hair combed over the crown of his head. He has a long nose and a voluminous dark mustache and goatee, obscuring his mouth and chin. 

CAPTION: Dr. Samuel Mudd

CREDIT: Library of Congress


IMAGE 5 of 7: Lewis Powell

DESCRIPTION:

A closely cropped black and white photo of Lewis Powell. He is a young man, cleanly shaven with ear length dark flowing hair parted on his left. He has defined cheekbones and jawline, and looks to his right with a pensive expression. He is wearing a dark long-sleeved, Crew neck t shirt without buttons.

CAPTION: Lewis Powell

CREDIT: Library of Congress


IMAGE 6 of 7: David Herold

DESCRIPTION:

A closely cropped black and white photo of David Herold. He is seated for a portrait, looking slightly to his right with a neutral or curious expression. His eyes are squinting as if examining something in the distance. He has earlobe-length, straight, dark hair parted on one side and gelled in place. He is clean-shaven but showing some stubble. He is wearing a dark suit jacket with a lighter vest that is buttoned at the top and bottom but gaping open in the middle to show a white shirt. 

CAPTION: David Herold

CREDIT: Library of Congress


IMAGE 7 of 7: George Atzerodt

DESCRIPTION:

A closely cropped, slightly grainy black and white photo of George Atzerodt. He is seated, leaning a bit forward. His collar-length hair is dark and curly, covering his ears. He is looking to his left with an intense gaze, brow furrowed. Atzerodt has a dark mustache and goatee, but thin enough so his mouth is still visible. He is wearing a dark jacket and vest with a light shirt and dark bow tie underneath.

CAPTION: George Atzerodt

CREDIT: Library of Congress

RELATED TEXT:

John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and southern sympathizer, saw Lincoln as the source of the South’s problems. In late 1864, he began laying plans to kidnap the president. Early recruits were Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlin, and John Surratt. John’s mother, Mary Surratt, ran a boarding house in Washington, D.C., where the conspirators met. By 1865 David Herold, George Atzerodt, and Lewis Powell had joined Booth. An attempt to seize Lincoln on March 17 failed. John Surratt, Samuel Arnold, and Michael O’Laughlin apparently left the venture then. After Robert E. Lee’s surrender, Booth put together a desperate plan. Powell was to kill Secretary of State William Seward, Atzerodt was to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Booth would assassinate President Lincoln. Only Booth was successful. In the chaos after the shooting at Ford’s Theatre, Booth fled to Maryland where he met up with Herold. The pain in Booth’s left leg, broken when he leaped from the theatre box, was intense, and he rode to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd to have the bone set. On April 26, while Booth and Herold hid in a tobacco barn on the Garrett farm near Port Royal, Va., Union troops surrounded them. Herold surrendered immediately. Booth was shot while still in the barn after troops set it a fire. Booth died three hours later on Garrett’s porch. Although barely coherent, he asked the soldiers to “tell my mother I died for my country.” The other conspirators were soon arrested. Their trial began on May 10 and ended on June 29. Atzerodt, Herold, Powell, and Mary Surratt received death sentences—all were hanged on July 7, 1865. Arnold and O’Laughlin, involved in the kidnapping conspiracy, were given life sentences, as was Dr. Samuel Mudd. Edman Spangler, a stage hand at Ford’s Theatre who did odd jobs for Booth, got six years of hard labor. The four were sent to Fort Jefferson in Florida to serve their sentences. O’Laughlin died of yellow fever in 1867. President Johnson pardoned and released the others in 1869.

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MAP AND TEXT: Booth's flight

DESCRIBING: A small, square map. 

DESCRIPTION:

A colored square map detailing John Wilkes Booth’s escape route out of Washington DC. Washington DC is highlighted in yellow and located in the top center of the map. The right side of the map is Maryland and colored light tan. The left side of the map is Virginia and colored dark tan. The Potomac River is blue and divides Virginia and Maryland in a wide curving manner towards the bottom right hand corner. Booth’s escape route is distinguished by black dots denoting points of stay and red arrows denoting his route. The route begins at the top of the map in DC and ends in Virginia in the bottom left hand corner. The first black dot is labeled “Ford’s Theatre, Lincoln shot 10:15 pm, April 14, 1865.” A red arrow follows it in a southeast direction leading to another black dot labeled “Surratt Tavern, Picked up weapons, Midnight April 14, 1865.” Another red arrow follows in a slightly southeast direction leading to another black dot labeled “Home of Dr. Mudd, Leg set, April 15, 1865.” Another red arrow follows in a southwest direction leading to another black dot labeled “Home of Samuel Cox, Help sought, April 16, 1865.” A short straight red line heading south leads to another black dot labeled “Stayed in woods, April 16-21, 1865.” A winding red arrow follows with two different endings. One part of the arrow ends at a black dot still in Maryland with the label “Home of Colonel Hughes, Landed here mistakenly, having gone upriver rather than across to Virginia, April 22, 1865.” The other part of the arrow ends across the Potomac River heading southwest towards another black dot labeled “Lucas’ Farm, Slept in cabin, April 23, 1865.” The final red arrow crosses another, but much thinner, river labeled the Rappahannock River. It heads southwest towards the last black dot labeled “Garrett’s Farm, Arrived April 24, 1865, Killed April 26, 1865.” According to the measurement ledger in the upper left hand corner of the map, Booth’s escape route covers about 80 miles.


RELATED TEXT:

Booth hoped for a quick escape through the Maryland countryside to Virginia and the South where he expected a hero’s welcome. His broken leg slowed him as he followed the established route of Confederate couriers through Southern Maryland and across the Potomac River. Southern sympathizers gave Booth and Herold food and lodging, but many were reluctant to assist them. At one point Booth and Herold were forced to hide in a thicket for several days. Booth had not envisioned such harsh treatment.

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TEXT: The Events of April 9–14,1865

April 9, 1865 Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders his Army of Northern Virginia to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Va. Celebrations in Washington, D.C. abound. 

April 10, 1865 Crowds serenade the White House. Lincoln promises to make a speech the next day. He asks the band to play Dixie, saying it is ”one of the best tunes I ever heard.” 

April 11, 1865 Lincoln tells a crowd on the White House lawn about his post-war plans, including reconstruction. He plans to restore the rebellious states to the Union quickly. About the right to vote in the reunited country, Lincoln notes, “It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.” John Wilkes Booth, listening in the crowd, becomes angry and says to his accomplice Lewis Powell, “That is the last speech he will ever give!” 

April 14, 1865 Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, returns from Appomattox Court House. He has breakfast with his father. Later, Lincolnand wife Mary take a carriage ride in the city. At 8:30 pm the Lincolns and their guests arrive at Ford’s Theatre.

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IMAGE AND TEXT: Washington in 1865

DESCRIBING: A medium, horizontal photograph in black and white. 

DESCRIPTION:

A black and white rectangular photograph of the unfinished Capitol dome. The white Capitol is in the background of the photo. It has a large rectangular base that expands beyond the photo’s borders. The base includes many evenly spaced windows throughout and columns in the middle. On top of the base in the center of the Capitol and photo is the unfinished dome that is made up of columns and a tall pole sticking out of the middle. The unfinished dome is flanked by two short domes. The mid-ground of the photo includes a thick row of trees which hide the lower section of the Capitol. In front of the trees is a path. On this path and in the left part of the photo is a white dome like tent with a small opening. The tent is half as tall as the trees behind it. There is a drop in elevation from the path to the front of the photo. The front portion includes the construction of a pond that takes up the right side of the photo. It is surrounded by mounds of dirt and a large dirt path that is directly in front of the tent.

CAPTION: Lincoln’s 1861 inauguration took place beneath the unfinished Capitol dome.

CREDIT: National Archives

RELATED TEXT:

From 1861 to 1865, Washington, D.C. underwent great changes as the city became the center of the federal government’s effort to conduct the war and maintain the Union. The 1860 population of 75,000 swelled as workers came looking for government positions. Clerks filled new jobs. Thousands of enslaved people who had managed to escape came to start new lives as free blacks. Construction projects boomed. Workers finished the Capitol dome in 1863 (right). Hospitals sprang up. Nurses and volunteers came to care for the war’s wounded and dying brought from nearby battlefields. Undertakers and coffin makers were in demand. Many burials took place at newly established Arlington National Cemetery on the grounds of Arlington House, home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Opportunists joined the throngs, preying on the weak. The city’s primitive facilities were over-taxed. Few streets were paved, and in bad weather became impassible. Creeks and canals were little more than open sewers. The Nation’s Capital experienced growing pains that would not be addressed until after the Civil War.

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IMAGE AND TEXT: Events of April 14– 15, 1865

DESCRIBING: A large, cut-out illustration. 

DESCRIPTION:

The Ford’s Theater, Tenth street and the Peterson house 453 (now 516) Tenth Street, is shown from a birds eye angle. The illustrations include a cut out section of the interiors of both the Theater and house in expanded detail, with 7 numbers denoting each event. The numbers are included as presented in the Related Text of the brochure. Descriptions of each part of the illustration that is associated with the number follows. 

The presidential box members are shown after the attack, labeled 1. The front of the box draped with bunting is labeled 2. John Wilkes Booth is pictured in mid jump from the box, staggering across the stage, labeled 3, while holding his left leg, running through the back and riding away on a galloping brown horse, labeled 4. The theater patrons are shown pointing at both the Presidential box as well as Booth’s path of escape, while some are posed to chase. On the street, between the Theater and house, President Lincoln is carried through the crowded onlookers who are in various poses of running, pointing, hands flailing, hats off and held by hearts, women are in gowns while being held by men dressed in suits. labeled 5. In the Peterson house, three rooms are shown, with Lincoln in the room furthest from the front door, laying on a bed, surrounded by many seated and standing individuals, labeled 6. The front room and middle room are occupied by a pair of couples, labeled 7.

CAPTION: This illustration shows the activity from the time Lincoln was shot until he was carried across the street and placed in the back bedroom of the Petersen House. Read the story (top right) in ”Events of April 14–15, 1865.”

CREDIT: NPS/Al Lorenz

RELATED TEXT:

About 8:30 pm the Lincolns and their guests, Maj. Henry Reed Rathbone and Clara Harris, arrived at Ford’s Theatre to see a performance of Our American Cousin. Lincoln enjoyed the theatre, for it gave him some relief from burdens of the presidency. At about 10:15 pm, when only one actor, Harry Hawk, was on stage and the audience was laughing, John Wilkes Booth entered the presidential box (1) and shot President Lincoln. Booth stabbed Major Rathbone in the left arm, then (2) jumped to the stage. In jumping, Booth got entangled in the decorations for the presidential box and landed off balance on the stage, breaking a bone in his left leg. He moved across the stage (3), ran out the back door of the theatre, mounted his horse in the alley (4), and escaped from the city. The unconscious president was carried across the street (6) to 453 (now 516) Tenth Street and placed in a back bedroom (7). Mary, his wife, and Robert, his son, waited in the parlor. Lincoln died on Saturday, April 15, 1865 at 7:22 am.



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IMAGES AND TEXT: Occupants of the presidential box

IMAGE 1 of 3: Abraham Lincoln

DESCRIBING: A small, cut-out photograph in black and white. 

DESCRIPTION:

A black and white photo of Abraham Lincoln, cropped so the background is gone. Lincoln is seated, with one elbow resting on a table or desk. He is a middle aged man with short dark hair, large ears, and prominent cheekbones. He has a short beard but no mustache. His deeply set eyes have a serious expression, but his mouth is slightly smiling with deep parentheses on either side. He is wearing a dark jacket, vest, and bow tie, with a white shirt. A watch chain is visible across the vest, and his hands are holding a small object.

CREDIT: National Archives


IMAGE 2 of 3: Maj. Henry Reed Rathbone

DESCRIBING: A small, vertical photograph in black and white. 

DESCRIPTION:

A black and white portrait of Henry Reed Rathbone. He is seated with his face in profile to his left, his elbow on the back of a chair. Rathbone has dark curly hair, shorter than collar length. He has thick mutton chop sideburns and a mustache, but his chin is clean shaven. His nose is prominent and slightly hooked. He wears a military uniform with two columns of buttons on the chest and insignia on the shoulders. His facial expression is blank and posed.

CAPTION: Maj. Henry Reed Rathbone

CREDIT: National Archives


IMAGE 3 of 3: Clara Harris

DESCRIBING: A small, vertical photograph in black and white. 

DESCRIPTION:

A black and white portrait of Clara Harris. She is facing away from the camera at an angle so her back and one shoulder is visible. Her face is in profile and looking downward to her right, eyes closed or almost closed. Harris has a long nose and tall forehead. She wears her long, dark hair in an elaborate hairstyle featuring braids across a bun on her neck, and a long curl of hair extending down her back. Her dark dress or jacket is embroidered on the sleeve and collar. Her expression is somber or sad. 

CAPTION: Clara Harris

CREDIT: National Archives

RELATED TEXT:

In keeping with events celebrating the war’s end, the Lincolns decided to attend a performance of Our American Cousin starring Laura Keene at Ford’s Theatre on Tenth Street. The Lincolns initially invited Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, but they left the city in mid-afternoon. At the last minute, the Lincolns invited Clara Harris, daughter of New York Senator Ira Harris, and her fiancé, Maj. Henry Reed Rathbone. Years after Lincoln’s assassination, more tragedy haunted this couple. In 1883, while living in Germany, Henry Rathbone killed his wife Clara, then turned a knife on himself. Rathbone was declared insane and died in an asylum in Hanover, Germany, in 1911.

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IMAGE AND TEXT: The president's widow

DESCRIBING: A small, cut-out photograph in black and white. 

DESCRIPTION:

A black and white photograph of Mary Todd Lincoln, white middle aged woman with dark hair. A studio portrait of her from the hips up with a blank background. She is in the center of the photo and is standing at an angle facing her right. Her left arm hangs to her side and her right hand rests on her right hip. She is wearing an elaborate gown that is light in color and off the shoulders. The top of the gown has ruffles that encircle her shoulders, chest, and part of her upper arms. The ruffles are detailed with colored stitch work including flowers. The dress is tight around her waist and poofs out from her hips down. A vine of flowers and leaves is attached to the dress. It trails from the middle of her chest and the dress’ ruffles down the center and off to her left. She is wearing white gloves while holding a doily in her right hand. A matching set of metal jewelry including earrings, a necklace, and a bracelet displayed on her left wrist are worn. The earrings are a circle. The necklace consists of circles and ovals connected to each other. The bracelet consists of circles connected to each other. Mary is wearing another bracelet on her right wrist that does not match the set. She is also wearing a floral crown on top of her parted straight hair that is pulled back and covers the top of her ears. Her face is round while staring off in the distance, to the left of the camera. She has a slight smile.

CREDIT: Library of Congress

RELATED TEXT:

Neither the judgment of history nor the events she lived through were kind to Mary Todd Lincoln (right). Her husband was assassinated at her side, and three of her four sons died during her lifetime. Criticism stalked her every public action as first lady and did not abate in the aftermath of Lincoln’s death. In her final years, Mary was estranged from her only remaining son, Robert. Fifteen years after the death of her husband, Mary died at her sister’s home in Springfield, Ill., in July 1882. 

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TEXT: The tenth street neighborhood

As Washington, D.C.’s population grew during the Civil War, so did the number of gamblers, hustlers, pickpockets, prostitutes, and bootleggers. Unwary citizens or soldiers were relieved of what little money they had. The opening of Ford’s Theatre on Tenth Street brought a new type of person to the district—actors— whose profession was deemed a less than desirable trade. Actors and actresses needed places to stay during theatre engagements, and although suspect characters, boarding houses welcomed them—as long as they had ready cash to pay for the rooms. By the mid-1860s many homes in the Tenth Street neighborhood had been turned into respectable boarding houses, providing lodging and food for people needing an extended stay in the city. These homes usually served a more genteel clientele like Congressional delegates and their families. Such was the Petersen boarding house across the street from Ford’s Theatre.

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OVERVIEW: Back side of brochure

This side of the brochure is divided, the top two-thirds feature color photographs and black-and-white illustrations of Ford's Theatre, the bottom third features color photographs and black-and-white illustrations of the Petersen House. The theatre section discusses the history of the building, its renovation, and use today, with photos of contemporary performances. The Petersen House section discusses Lincoln's medical treatment and death in that building, and contains information about touring the Petersen House today.

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IMAGES AND TEXT: A history of Ford's Theatre

 IMAGE 1 of 4: White gloves

DESCRIBING: A small, cut-out photograph. 

DESCRIPTION:

A pair of white gloves are pictured one on top of the other. Each glove is showing signs of aging, with yellowing throughout. they are thin with fine stitching running from each fingertip to wrist opening. Their position is layered below the blue fan, and brochure text.

CREDIT: NPS/Carol Highsmith

IMAGE 2 of 4: Blue fan

DESCRIBING: A small, cut-out photograph. 

DESCRIPTION:

This fan is crafted with two layers of detail and 16 segments of fan. The outer fan layer are of soft feathers, muted blue with details affixed that are arranged in a cluster at the top, that branch down to resemble a flower with pedals. The lower layer is narrower than the top and is a cream color. There are many more elaborate details on these sections; these details are of light and dark, providing contrast within the piece. It comes to gather at the very bottom where they are affixed to a pin that the fan can open or close on. There are signs of aging with yellowing and some of the affixed details are no longer attached.

CREDIT: NPS/Carol Highsmith

IMAGE 3 of 4: Baptist church

DESCRIBING: A medium, vertical illustration in black and white. 

DESCRIPTION:

A two-dimensional black and white drawing of a building. It is a symmetrical building with a steeple. Below the steeple is a sign with the words “First Baptist Church.” The main part of the building is three floors tall. The first floor has double doors in the center with a semicircle window directly above it. The doors are flanked by four windows, two on each side. The second floor has five windows. A large square window is in the middle with smaller windows flanking it. The third floor has a semicircle window in the middle flanked by two flower-like windows, one on each side. The steeple consists of multi layers and is nearly the size of two floors. There are 4 columns with three openings on the middle layer and the top resembles a bell shape.

CAPTION: First Baptist Church. 

CREDIT: NPS

IMAGE 4 of 4: Theatre after the assassination

DESCRIBING: A medium, cut-out photograph in black and white. 

A black and white photograph. The view is from the street, looking down 10th street, with the Ford's Theater shown prominent in the background with four connected buildings on its left side. The closer buildings have wood siding and the tallest building is made of brick. The road slopes downward and is rutted from travel. A group of people dressed in black are at the bottom of the road. Black ribbons hang on the sides of the buildings, looping in curved "w" shapes below the windows. A large sign advertises "Octoroon" and patriotic song and chorus. A wagon with a dark colored covering is in front of the closest building. There are mourners dressed in black on the street. The trees are barren of leaves.

CAPTION: This photograph, taken shortly after the assassination, shows the theatre and nearby buildings draped in black mourning bands. Note the muddy, unpaved street.

CREDIT: NPS

RELATED TEXT:

John T. Ford was an extremely successful theatrical entrepreneur from Baltimore, Md., where he managed the Holliday Street Theatre. In 1861 he expanded operations to Washington, D.C. He leased the First Baptist Church on Tenth Street (right) and turned the church into a music hall. Three days after signing the lease he opened with a 2½-month run of the Christy Minstrels. Ford’s productions proved profitable, but a fi re destroyed the building in December 1862. Undaunted, he raised money for new construction, and the cornerstone was laid in February 1863. The first performance in Ford’s new theatre took place on August 27, 1863. From then, until the theatre closed in the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, Ford staged 495 performances. The success was attributed to John Ford’s dedication to quality in the construction of his new building, the up-to- date equipment, the first-rate actors he hired, and to the engaging productions that he mounted. The federal government closed the theatre during the investigation of the assassination and trial of the conspirators. After their sentencing and hanging, Ford was given permission to reopen. Ford received threats that the building would be burned if he reopened the theatre, so the War Department closed it again. In August 1865 the department leased the building from Ford and began its conversion to a three-story office building. Everything in the interior was gutted and removed. In 1866 the federal government bought the theatre from Ford for $100,000. In June 1893, a section of three interior floors collapsed, killing 22 clerks and injuring 68. Repaired once again, the building served as a government office. On February 12, 1932, on the 123rd anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, the Lincoln Museum opened on the first floor of Ford’s old theatre. In 1933 the building and museum collection was entrusted to the National Park Service.

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IMAGE AND TEXT: Renovation and restoration

DESCRIBING: A medium, horizontal photograph. 

DESCRIPTION:

A photo of seven young white men gathered around a stage set featuring a wall and shoulder high structure. Two of the men are sitting on the structure, which looks like part of a wooden fence. Another man stands next to the structure with one leg up, and a younger man or teen boy on his shoulder. Two men stand in front of the structure, with the last crouching by their knees. All the men have excited, smiling facial expressions, and many hold fists in the air as if celebrating something. They are all wearing khaki or brown pants, old fashioned suspenders, and button up shirts varying from white, to striped, red plaid, and solid red. The background is an abstract purple gray sky view, with a carved sign reading "R N S" at the bottom of the scene. 

CAPTION: Cast of the musical Shenandoah. 

CREDIT: Charles Erickson

RELATED TEXT:

Today’s Ford’s Theatre is the result of two efforts. First is the Lincoln Museum—the initial collection of Lincoln items assembled by Osborn Oldroyd and brought to Washington, D.C. in 1893. The federal government purchased Oldroyd’s collection in 1926 and moved it to a museum in Ford’s Theatre in 1932. The second began after World War II when the public became interested in restoring the theatre to its 1865 appearance. In 1960 Congress budgeted funds for research and an architectural study and approved the restoration in 1964. Work proceeded carefully, ensuring that furnishings corresponded to those in Ford’s Theatre in 1865. Most items in the Presidential Box are reproductions, but the sofa upon which Major Rathbone sat and one parlor chair are original. The George Washington engraving hanging on the Presidential Box is also original. The restored theatre and museum opened to the public on February 13, 1968.

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IMAGES AND TEXT: The living theatre

IMAGE 1 of 2: A panoramic view of Ford's Theatre

DESCRIBING: A large, horizontal photograph.

DESCRIPTION:

A panoramic view of Ford’s Theatre. On the left side of the photo is the backstage. The backstage includes a red and brown brick wall, covered with pipes, stage lighting, scaffolding, and wires. There are miscellaneous objects stored along the backstage including props, ladders, and equipment. In the center of the photo and to the left of the stage is the President’s Box. The box has two large openings draped by gold and white fabric. Two American flags flank the box. Two more flags are draped over the banisters. Another flag stands in between the openings. Below it and between the banisters is a square framed photograph of George Washington. The inside of the box has red wallpaper and four red and brown pieces of furniture. The box is surrounded by a white wall decorated with columns and other Greco Roman and classical architectural details. Below the box is another box closed off with brown, blue, and white curtains. In front of the box hangs a gold chandelier. The right side of the photo is the theatre seating. It is made up of three different tiers. The bottom floor has the largest seating, divided into three sections. The second floor is shaped like a semi-circle with about seven rows divided up into five sections. In the center of the top floor is the current control room. It is surrounded by five rows of wooden benches and lighting trusses. A part of the ceiling is visible, and it is white with gold garland-like designs.

CAPTION: Panoramic view of Ford’s Theatre (left to right): backstage, Presidential Box, and theatre seating.

CREDIT: Carol Highsmith


IMAGE 2 of 2: Martin Rayner

DESCRIBING: A medium, horizontal photograph. 

DESCRIPTION:

A close up photo of a white middle aged man acting on stage. Behind him is a dark curtain to his right and white and tan wall to his left. He is laying on the stage and lifts himself up some with his arms. The upper part of his body is most visible. He is wearing a white collared long-sleeve button-up nightgown and a white night cap that hangs to the left side of his head. He has shoulder-length brown curly hair and a graying goatee. He looks off in the distance to his left with an inquisitive expression. His forehead is crinkled, and his mouth is slightly ajar as if speaking.

CAPTION: Martin Rayner as Scrooge in the holiday favorite, A Christmas Carol. 

CREDIT: Charles Erickson

RELATED TEXT:

Today Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site is a live, working theatre. As a tribute to President Lincoln’s love of the performing arts, the Ford’s Theatre Society is committed to bringing the best talent to the theatre’s historic stage and to producing plays that are as eloquent, intelligent, and respectful of humanity as Mr. Lincoln was throughout his life and presidency. Productions are praised by critics and audiences for the superior quality of their artistic programming.

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TEXT: Planning your visit

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site is at 511 10th Street NW; the Petersen House where Lincoln died is across the street. The site has information, tours, exhibits, and a bookstore. It is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm except December 25. The theatre is closed to tours during rehearsals or matinees, but the Lincoln Museum in the theatre basement and the Petersen House remain open. Food, drink, and gum are prohibited.

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IMAGE AND TEXT: Events at the Peterson House

DESCRIBING: A medium, vertical photograph. 

DESCRIPTION:

A color photo of a red brick building. It has four rows of windows. The top two floors have three windows with cream colored shutters and light, sheer curtains visible inside. The front door is on the second row of windows, with eight steps curving up to meet it. The bottom row of windows is slightly shorter than the others, at street levels. A light green tree and the back wheel of a red bicycle peek in from the left side of the photo. 

CREDIT: NPS

RELATED TEXT:

The first person to enter the Presidential Box after Lincoln had been shot was Charles Augustus Leale, a 23-year-old doctor who had just completed his medical studies. Dr. Leale found the wound in Lincolns head and removed a blood clot, which released pressure and allowed the unconscious president to breathe on his own. Leale assessed, “His wound is mortal; it is impossible for him to recover,” and ordered that the president be carried across the street to a bed at the home of William and Anna Petersen. The Petersen family aided as they could, although on this night their home was no longer their own. Over 90 people would come and go through the house to pay their last respects to the dying president. Soldiers stood guard at the front door and were posted on the roof to keep crowds at bay. Through the night, Leale, along with Lincoln’s personal physician Dr. Robert King Stone and other doctors, cared for Lincoln—attempting to make him comfortable—for they all knew that the wound was fatal. The president never regained consciousness. At 7:22 am, April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln died.

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IMAGES AND TEXT: Touring the Peterson House today

IMAGE 1 of 3: Back bedroom

DESCRIBING: A large, horizontal illustration in black and white. 

DESCRIPTION:

A black-and-white pencil sketch: a group of men around Lincoln's bed in the Petersen House.  All of the men are wearing dark suits while looking at Lincoln. Lincoln is covered in sheets and blankets up to his neck and lies back with his eyes closed. The observers are labeled with numbers to identify them. The first observer is in a rocking chair at the foot of the bed, and has white hair. He is labeled 1, Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy. There are three men sitting on straight-backed chairs around the foot and side of the bed: 2, Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War; and 11 and 12 are both physicians. Another man sits on the edge of the bed by Lincoln's feet, leaning over as if talking to Lincoln or the other men. He is 3, another physician. There are seven men standing around the head of the bed, one with his hands on Lincoln's head. The man with his hands on Lincoln's head is labeled 6, J.K. Barnes,  Surgeon General. The other men standing around the bed are 4, William Dennison, Postmaster general; 5, Sen. Charles Sumner; 7, Robert Lincoln, son; 8, Henry Halleck, U.S. Army Chief of Staff; 9, John Hay, private secretary, and 10, Gen. M.C. Meigs. The wallpaper behind the bed is vertically striped, and there are two tables covered in tablecloths with various items including cups, books, and hats on the tables. 

CAPTION: A newspaper artist sketched this death-bed scene as Lincoln lay dying. At his bedside are his son, Robert, friends, physicians, and members of his staff. His wife Mary was not in the room when her husband died. This illustration appeared in Harpers Weekly on May 6, 1865, three weeks after Lincoln died.

RELATED TEXT:

The bed in the Petersen House was not long enough for Lincoln. He was laid across it diagonally with his shoulders and head supported by pillows. The furnishings, while not original, are accurate due to detailed sketches provided by eyewitness artists.


IMAGE 2 of 3: Front parlor

DESCRIBING: A medium, horizontal photograph. 

DESCRIPTION:

A photograph of a formal room with red carpet and cream wallpaper with red diamond patterns. A dark red sofa sits against the left wall, a small table with two chairs and a marble top is in the center of the room, and a dark fireplace is on the right side of the room. Differently sized framed art hangs from each wall, including a mirror on the back wall. There are two windows with green shades on the back wall, and a chandelier with four round lights hanging from the center of the ceiling. 

CAPTION: Front parlor

CREDIT: NPS/Carol Highsmith

RELATED TEXT:

Mary Todd Lincoln spent most of the night of April 14–15 here between visits to her husband’s bedside. Their eldest son, Robert, and close friends comforted her through the night. In 1865 double doors separated this room from the back parlor.


IMAGE 3 of 3: Back parlor

DESCRIBING: A medium, horizontal photograph. 

DESCRIPTION:

A photograph of a formal room. It has the same dark red carpet as the front parlor, but the wallpaper is a different cream and red pattern. This room has a small desk with a marble top and wooden chair on the left side, in front of a fireplace. The center of the room has a table with two chairs, covered in a red tablecloth with a small lamp. On the right side of the room is a wooden sleigh bed with a quilt and two pillows. There are various framed photos or artworks on the walls, and two windows with green shades on the back wall. The chandelier with four round lights matches the one in the front parlor.

CAPTION: Back parlor

CREDIT: NPS/Carol Highsmith

RELATED TEXT:

From here Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton began investigating Lincoln’s assassination. Stanton and others sent guards to protect Vice President Andrew Johnson, questioned witnesses, ordered Booth’s arrest, and set in motion the arrest and trial of Booth’s conspirators. Stanton also broke the tragic news to the nation.


Rooms in the Petersen House are furnished in 1865 period pieces. None of the furniture is original to the house.

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OVERVIEW: Accessibility

We are committed to ensuring visitors of all abilities can experience the performances, exhibits, history and programs our site has to offer. Our facilities provide Elevators, Accessible Seating, Chair Rental for use on site with no charge; our mainstage performances offer Audio Description (upon request of at least two weeks prior), Closed Captioning, Sign interpretations, Assisted Listening Devices as well as Large print and Braille programming and Brochures. We also strive to create Sensory-Friendly experiences. For more information or questions about our accommodations, and for requests, please contact us at access@fords.org.

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OVERVIEW: More information

Ford's Theatre National Historical Site is one of over 400 areas in the National Park Service. To learn more visit www.n p s.gov. For more information including the theatre's performances and to purchase tickets, visit www.fords.org.


ADDRESS: 511 10th Street NW Washington, DC 2 0 0 0 4 

PHONE: 2 0 2-4 2 6-6 9 2 4 TTY 2 0 2-4 2 6-1 7 4 9 

WEBSITE: www.n p s .gov slash f o t h


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