John Wilkes Booth was an American stage Actor who assassinated the 16th President Abraham Lincoln, U.S. at “Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865.
Born on – 10th May 1838, Bel Air, Maryland, United States.
Died on – 26th April 1865, Port Royal, Virginia, United States.
Spouse – Izola Martha Mills (Married 1859 – 1865)
Known for – Assassination of the President Abraham Lincoln
Parents – Junius Brutus Booth, Mary Ann Holmes
Siblings – Edwin Booth, Junius Brutus Booth Jr. Joseph Adrian Booth
Both his parents Junius Brutus Booth and Mary Ann Holes are famous Shakespearean actors. They moved from England to United States in the year 1821, They purchased 150 acre farm near Bel Air, Maryland where John Wilkes Booth was born in a 4 room log house on May 1838, the ninth of the ten children. He was named after English radical politician John Wilkes, a distance relative.
Booth’s father built Tudor Hall (an historic home built of painted bricks) on the Hanford County as the family’s summer home in 1851, while also maintaining a winter residence on Exeta Street in Baltimore. The Booth Family was listed as living in Baltimore in 1850 census.
As a boy Booth was popular in athletic and skilled in horsemanship and fencing. John Wilkes attended Bel Air academy and in 1850 – 1851, he joined Quaker-run Milton Boarding school for Boys located in Sparks, Maryland, later St. Timothy’s Hall a military academy in Catonsville, Maryland. At the Milton School students were trained in reciting classical works by the authors like Cicero, Herodotus and Tacitus. In St.Timothy’s students were subject to a regime of daily formation drills and with strict discipline. Booth left the school at the age of 14 after his father’s death.
John Wilkes Booth Profession – As an Actor
By the age of 16, Booth was interested in the Theatre and politics; he followed in the footsteps of his father and his brothers (Edwin and Junius Brutus Jr.) He began practicing his elocution only in the woods around Tudor Hall and studying Shakespeare.
Booth made his stage debut at the age of 17 in the year 1855 as a supporting role of the Earl of Richmond in Richard III at Baltimore’s in Charles Street Theatre.
Booth frequently performed in Holiday street Theatre owned by John T. Ford.
In 1857 he joined the stock company of the Arch street Theatre in Philadelphia where he played for a full season. He became popular with audience for his energetic performances.
In all Booth performed 83 plays in 1858, Booth said of all Shakespearean characters, his favorite role was Brutus, the slayer of a tyrant.
Some critics called Booth as handsome man of America and a natural genius and noted having an astonishing memory. He appeared 5 feet 8 inches tall, had jet black hair, was lean and muscular. Booth stage performance was often characterized by his contemporaries as acrobatic and intensely physical with him leaping upon the stage and gesturing with passion.
By the end of the year 1858, Booth was becoming wealthy as an actor earning $20,000 per year.
In 1860 Booth embarked on his first National Tour as a leading actor after finishing the 1859 – 1860 theatre seasons in Richmond Virginia. By mid of 1860 he was playing in the cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, St.Louis, Columbus Georgia, Alabama and New Orleans.
John Wilkes Booth’s Political Interest
When the civil war began on April 12, 1861, Booth was starring Albany, He was outspoken in his admiration for the south session, publicly calling it “heroic” this made the local citizen very furious and the demanded that Booth should be banned from the stage for making “treasonable statements”.
As the civil war raged across the divided land in 1862, Booth appeared mostly in Union and Border States. This was the period he did most famous plays of Romeo & Juliet, The Stranger, Hamlet, The Apostate and The Lady of Lyons.
Starting in January 1863, he returned to Boston Museum for a series of plays. He was billed as “The Pride of the American People, A star of the first magnitude and the critics were equally enthusiastic. At the beginning of July 1863 Booth finished the acting season at Cleveland Academy of Music as the battle of ”Gettysburg” raged in Pennsylvania.
John Wilkes Booth hatred for The President Abraham Lincoln
- Booth was a supporter of Slavery.
- He believed that Lincoln was determined to over throw the constitution and to destroy his beloved south.
- In 1864, Booth tried a plan of kidnapping the President but failed. After several attempts had miscarried, Booth resolved to assassinate the President Abraham Lincoln and other officers at the same time by his team members.
- On April 14, 1865 The President with his family attended the evening performance of the comedy “Our American Cousins” at Ford’s Theatre in the Capital. Booth already got the information and made the arrangements, he was waiting for a chance and when the body guard went out to relax he entered the Presidents Box and shot him at the back of his head and jumped to the stage landing with his left leg bone broken. The President died the next morning.
- On 26th April 1865, Federal troops went to Virginia when John Wilkes Booth hiding himself in a tobacco barn. He was shot by a soldier in the neck and got paralyzed and died after 2 hours.
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