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 the April 14 announced President Lincoln’s attendance of Our American Cousin. The theatre was packed and tickets were selling out. The President and Mary Todd invited their friends, Major Henry Rathbone and his  fiancée, Clara Harris.

For all attending, that night was supposed to be a night of relaxation and much-needed happiness. 

But after John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln and yelled, “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” Ford’s Theatre and everything in it became a part of history. Mundane, everyday objects inside the theatre immediately became important historic relics by association.

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.

A photograph of a slightly burnt piece of paper with the words "Henry R. Rathbone, U.S. Army" written on the front.
Photo by Carol Highsmith.

Rathbone and his fiancée, Clara Harris, attended Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre with the Lincolns.

A photograph of a pair of thin white gloves.
Photo by Carol Highsmith.

Major Rathbone wore these gloves the night of Lincoln’s assassination.

Photograph of an empty case for a pair of opera glasses. There is German writing on the inside of the lid.
Photo by Carol Highsmith.

Mary Todd Lincoln might have had a difficult time seeing the production of Our American Cousin from the Presidential Box. She used this case to hold her opera glasses.

A photograph of a yellow ticket for the Ford's Theatre orchestra section.
Photo by Carol Highsmith.

Tickets for reserved seating in the Orchestra—lower section—of Ford’s Theatre the night of April 14, 1865.

A photograph of two tickets for Ford's Theatre, one orange and one purple. They both read "Ford's Theatre, Erected A.D. 1863."
Photo by Carol Highsmith.

Used the night of April 14th, 1865, these colorful tickets gave theatre-goers entry to the comedy, Our American Cousin, making them witnesses to Lincoln’s assassination.

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.