• Interior Water Color of Ford's Theatre

    Ford's Theatre

    National Historic Site District of Columbia

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cost for visiting?

There is no charge to visit the site. However, if you would like to make an advance reservation you can do so at www.fords.org there will be a convenience fee.

How many people visit the park?

Nearly one million people visit the site each year.

How do I get around?

The park suggests that the visiting public make use of the Metrorail/Metrobus system within D.C. as parking is at a premium throughout the city.

Why is the Theatre closed sometimes?

Ford’s Theatre is a working professional theatre, and there will be occasions when visitors will not be able to enter the theatre itself due to rehearsals, set load-ins, and matinee performances.

Historical Questions:

How many people were in attendance on the night of Lincoln’s assassination?

Approximately 1,700 people attended on the night of the assassination. We will never know the exact count due to bench seating in the balcony (the Family Circle) section of the theatre.

What were the prices of tickets at the theatre when Lincoln was assassinated?

There were three prices for tickets that evening; they are

· Family Circle – 25cents

· Dress Circle – 75 cents

· Orchestra Level – 1 dollar

With the exception of State Box, where the President and his guests were seated, the boxes were not in use that evening. A ticket for the upper boxes was ten dollars and a ticket was six dollars for the lower boxes.

Where was Secret Service when President Lincoln was shot?

Secret Service was not assigned to protect the president until 1901. There was a lone Washington, DC police officer assigned to escort the President from the White House to Ford’s and back. Lincoln did not seek any form of personal protection but Secretary of War Stanton had two military units escort President Lincoln’s carriage on its travels in the city.

Was John Wilkes Booth able to roam the theatre at will?

Booth was a personal friend of the theatre owner John T. Ford, and because of this relationship it was not unusual for Booth to be seen around the theatre.

Is Ford’s a working theatre? (Do they still have shows?)

Ford’s Theatre reopened in 1968 as a living memorial to Lincoln. The site is a national historic site as well as a working theatre. For more information about the productions, visit www.fords.org.

Who died here? What happened here?

On April 14, 1865, actor John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln during a performance of “Our American Cousin.”

Are these the original chairs in the theatre?

No, these chairs have been designed to look similar to the type of chairs used in theatres towards the end of the 19th-century.

Why is there a picture of George Washington on the State Box?

The picture was placed there to decorate the box when Lincoln came to the theatre that evening. We believe this to be the original portrait that was here on April 14, 1865. It is interesting to note that the state box had never been decorated before, this was the first time.

How can I get tickets to visit and/or see a play at the Ford’s Theatre?

Call the Ford’s Theatre box office at (202) 347-4833 or visit www.fords.org.

Where was President Lincoln shot?

The bullet entered behind his left ear, traveled through the brain, and lodged behind his right eye.

How old was President Lincoln when he was shot?

He was 56 years old.

Is the furniture in the Petersen House original?

The furniture is original to the period, but not original to the Petersen House.

The original bed is on display at the Chicago Historical Society in Chicago, IL. This bed however is similar in size and design. Lincoln was six feet four inches tall and was placed on the bed diagonally.

Why was President Lincoln brought to the Petersen House?

The house was a boarding house. One of the boarders, who lived upstairs, heard the commotion, came down, opened the front door and said, “Bring him in here!”

Did Lincoln ever regain consciousness?

No.

What happened to Booth after the assassination?

Soldiers from the New York State volunteers surrounded a tobacco barn on Garrett Farm near Port Royal, Virginia. Inside the barn were John Wilkes Booth and David Herold, one of Booth’s accomplices. Herold surrendered. Booth refused to surrender, was shot, and died several hours later. He died in the early morning hours just before sunrise on April 26, 1865, twelve days after he assassinated President Lincoln. His body was wrapped in an army blanket and placed on a tugboat for transport to the Washington Navy Yard about 80 miles north of Port Royal, Virginia.

There was an autopsy performed on April 27 and a handful of people, who knew Booth by sight, identified his body during the autopsy. The doctors removed a small portion of Booth’s spine containing the bullet that tore through his body. This bone fragment is on display, today in a museum on the grounds of the Walter Reed Hospital.

Is the coat in display original?

The original greatcoat, made by Brooks Brothers, Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated on April 14, 1865, is displayed in the round exhibit case located in lobby. The original coat is displayed open on a mount showing an embroidered eagle and the phrase: One Country One Destiny. When the original coat is removed for conservation, an exact replica of the greatcoat, made by Brooks Brothers, is displayed on a mannequin along with reproductions of the hat and boots Lincoln would wear.

What is the distance from the Presidential Box to the stage?

The distance from the theatre box wooden balustrade where the American flag is draped across to the stage floor is approximately 12 feet.

How did Booth escape the theatre?

J.W. Booth escaped out of the theatre itself by exiting out a rear back door by the extreme rear left back side of the stage area which led out to an alley way.

Did theatre visitors witness the shooting?

Virtually no one inside the theatre actually witnessed the shooting except one recorded eye-witness account. An individual by the name of Fergusen stated that he did notice a flash inside the box and that at that instant, Lincoln's head was leaning slightly forward and turned somewhat to his left.

What happened to Mrs. Lincoln and their guests after the shooting?

Mrs. Lincoln, very shortly after Mr. Lincoln was shot became hysterical and terrified. She followed the doctors outside of the theatre who ordered that President Lincoln be carried to the closest house with a bed. Major Rathbone, who was seated with the Lincolns inside the box, was stabbed by J.W. Booth and was initially frantic and then went into shock from loss of blood after following Mrs. Lincoln and Clara Harris over to the Petersen House where President Lincoln was carried.

All three of them would never again fully recover emotionally from what happened. Mary Todd lived out her remaining years in seclusion and died July 16, 1882.

Clara Harris and Major Rathbone married and had three children. In 1883, Major Rathbone shot his wife, leaving three young children to be raised by their mother’s sister. Rathbone was committed to an asylum for the insane near Hanover, Germany. He remained in the institution for the rest of his life until his death in 1911. Their son, Henry Riggs Rathbone entered politics and represented Illinois in the 68th Congress. He was instrumental in getting a bill passed which authorize the government to purchase and house the Olydroyd Collection of Lincoln memorabilia, including items associated with the assassination of President Lincoln. The new museum, built in the basement of Ford’s Theatre to accommodate the Olydroyd collection, opened February 12, 1932.

What happened to the Ford’s Theatre building after the assassination?

The building was saved from destruction when Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, ordered a 24-hour guard be placed around the brick building to protect it from an angry crowd wanting to burn it down because of the assassination.

In July of 1865, theatre owner John T. Ford was ready to resume performances but emotions ran high against the reopening; the theatrical operations did not resume. At the same time, Washington’s YMCA announced in the newspapers its intention to purchase the building and to open Ford’s Theatre in its décor of April 14, 1865; it would be renamed “The Abraham Lincoln Memorial Temple”. Within a few weeks this plan faded away due to lack of financial support.

The federal government managed to negotiate a deal with Ford to rent the building with an option to buy. In the fall of 1865, a Brooklyn firm removed the entire interior of the building and converted it into a federal office building for $28,000. No alterations were made to the façade but three floors of the office space were created inside. The option to buy was exercised in 1867 and the government purchased the structure for $100,000.

The building operated as an office until June 9, 1893 when the interior of the historic building collapsed. Twenty-two clerks died in the tragedy and sixty-eight others were seriously injured. Within a year the damage was repaired and the former theatre was remodeled into a government warehouse; again the original was altered.

The building remained in this form until 1931 when workers returned to modify the first floor. It was converted into a museum dedicated to displaying artifacts of the life of our sixteenth president. Many of the museums artifacts were from the Osborn Oldroyd collection which had been purchased for $50,000 in 1927 including dozens of unique items associated with the assassination.

During the 1950’s a bill was introduced in Congress to fund the restoration of Ford’s Theatre to its 1865 appearance. In 1968, the fully restored Ford’s Theatre reopened as a working theatre, 103 years after the assassination of President Lincoln. Also in 1968, the Ford’s Theatre Society became a partner with the national park service.

In October 2008, Ford’s Theatre became an independent unit of the National Park Service system managed by a park superintendent with a staff consisting of park interpreters, maintenance and curatorial support along with volunteers who help tell the story of the theatre and the National Park Service mission. Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site is co-managed by the National Park Service and the Ford’s Theatre Society.

Did You Know?

John Wilkes Booth

Young, talented, handsome, and charismatic, Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was a popular attraction at theaters throughout the country. John Wilkes was the son of Junius Brutus Booth and the brother of Edwin Booth, both famous Shakespearean actors.