John Wilkes Booth Facts and Trivia

John Wilkes Booth was almost 27 years old when he shot President Lincoln on April 14, 1865 — it was two weeks before Wilkes’ May 10th birthday.

John Wilkes Booth was his father’s favorite child (out of 10 children), according to his brother, Edwin.

Junius Booth died 9 days before John Wilkes Booth’s 14th birthday in 1853.

The spurs John Wilkes Booth was wearing when he assassinated Lincoln were the same ones Junius Brutus Booth had lent to Edwin Booth for Edwin’s first stage appearance as an actor.

During the Civil War, John Wilkes Booth smuggled quinine, an important anti-malaria drug, to the south.

On November 9th, 1863, President and Mrs. Lincoln attended Ford’s Theater  and saw the play The Marble Heart.  John Wilkes Booth portrayed the villain in the play.  Lincoln was impressed with Booth’s performance, and passed along word that he’d like to meet the actor.  Booth refused the invitation.

In the summer of 1864, John Wilkes Booth and two partners invested in a Pennsylvania oil well near the town of Franklin.  The well didn’t produce enough to cover expenses, so Booth liquidated his assets in the company in the fall of 1864, losing some $6000 of his investment.

Actor Junius Booth, Jr. learned his brother had shot President Lincoln in the middle of his performance at Cincinnati’s Pike Opera House.

John Wilkes Booth starring as Romeo

10 items, including photographs and playbills featuring John Wilkes Booth, went on auction in the Peter Gilsey Collection in 1903.

John Wilkes Booth was 5′ 8″ tall.

President Lincoln died from his wounds in a bed that John Wilkes Booth once slept in.

Thomas “Boston” Corbett, the man who fatally shot John Wilkes Booth, received $1,653.84 as his share of the reward money in Booth’s capture, even though he disobeyed the order to bring Booth in alive. It was less money than John Wilkes Booth was making per week as an actor.

John Wilkes Booth witnessed the execution of abolitionist John Brown.  Brown had led an attempt to seize the U.S. arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, VA, (now West Virginia) in October 1859 in the hopes of starting an armed slave revolt.  Athough Booth was pro slavery, he told his sister that Brown was “a brave old man” and he felt sorry for him that he had been abandoned by his followers.

Tennnessee attorney, Finis L. Bates toured the country with the mummified body of a man named David E. George, claiming it was the “real” John Wilkes Booth and appearing at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

In 1907, Finis L. Bates wrote “The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth” to support his claim that the mummy of George was, in fact, the corpse of Booth. Many people still believe John Wilkes Booth escaped from the barn in Virginia and some even think they are descended from him.

In a nine month stretch in 1854-55, Edwin Booth was part of an acting company that toured Australia, Hawaii, and the South Pacific.  One of the actresses in that company was Laura Keene.  She was performing in the play Lincoln was watching on the night the President was  assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

A horse thief who was hanged for his crimes willed his skull to Junius Brutus Booth for use as Yorick’s skull in Hamlet.  The skull was passed on to Edwin Booth.  The skull is now in Edwin Booth’s room in the Player’s Club in New York City.

Edwin Booth once saved the life of the President’s oldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, by pulling him up when he slipped between a train platform and a railroad car.  Traveling with Edwin Booth that day was John T. Ford, owner of Ford’s Theatre in Washington where President Lincoln was assassinated.

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