A series of objects laid out on a wooden table: Two cards from Ford's Theatre, a small leather bag, a pair of white gloves, a handwritten invitation, and two theatre tickets.
Photo by Carol Highsmith.

A Night at the Theatre

The night of April 14th, 1865, attendees of Ford’s Theatre expected to see a regular performance of Our American Cousin. Little did they know that what they would see that night would change the course of American history.

Playbills printed on April 14, 1865 announced President Abraham Lincoln’s attendance at a performance of Our American Cousin. With an end to the Civil War finally in sight, the President wanted to spend a night out with his wife, Mary, to celebrate the Union victory with the people. The President and Mary Lincoln invited a young couple, Major Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris, to join them in the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre.

After John Wilkes Booth shot the President, mundane, everyday objects inside the theatre immediately became important historic relics by association.

Examine the Evidence: What could these objects reveal about a typical night at the theatre for the President, First Lady, and other attendees? Reflect about a time when you felt joyous. How did you celebrate?

Moments Before Assassination

The night of April 14, 1865, at Ford’s Theatre wasn’t supposed to be tense or suspenseful–just another night at the theatre. Take a closer look at the scene.

Protect Our History

The night of April 14, 1865, forever changed our national history. Together, Ford’s Theatre Society and the National Park Service partner to protect the artifacts from that night. Through these objects, we can better understand how that single event transformed our nation. Give to Ford’s Theatre to help continue sharing the stories that shaped a nation.