[LINCOLN, Abraham, ASSASSINATION]. FORD'S THEATRE, Washington D.C. Two printed Dress Circle tickets for Seats 41 and 42, Section"D," for the performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre on the evening of April 14, 1865.
Two tickets, (each 2¾ x 4¼ in.), printed on thick card stock with a bright green surface, seat and section numbers pencilled in on dotted lines, both with large circular ink stamp "Ford's Theatre This Night only Apr. 14 1865," top right corners cut away on the diagonal (when presented for admission), small chip to one corner of seat 42 ticket. [With:] Envelope (in which they were originally delivered?), with ink inscription in a contemporary hand "Front Seats - Dress Circle Reserved Complimentary Ford's Theatre April 14, 1865..." 5½ x 2 in. Together 3 pieces, matted and framed together.
TICKETS FOR FORD'S THEATRE, 14 APRIL 1865
Two very rare tickets to the fateful performance of the sentimental English comedy "Our American Cousin," on Good Friday, April 14, 1865: the performance during which John Wilkes Booth carried out his threat to assassinate President Lincoln. On the left-hand portion, each ticket carries the bold caption FORD'S THEATRE. FRIDAY. Dress Circle!," with the seat and section numbers beneath. On the right-hand side, the tickets carry the printed signature of "Jas. R. Ford, Business Manager." The proprietor of Ford's Theatre, John Thompson Ford (1829-1894) owned popular, well-attended theaters in Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. Originally, he had leased the former First Baptist Church and converted it for the purpose, but when it burned, in 1863, he erected a new, specially designed, brick theatre able to accomodate some 2,500 theater-goers. It quickly became a focal point of evening social life in the bustling war-time capital. At 11:30 on Good Friday, April 14, a messenger from the White House called at the theater to report that the President and First Lady had accepted the long-standing invitation of the Ford family to attend the theater, for that night's performance. John Ford, the proprietor, was away from the city (in Richmond), so his son Harry took charge of preparations for the Presidential visit that evening, furnishing double boxes 7 and 8 with three arm-chairs, a sofa, a walnut rocker and several other chairs. He also decorated the balustrade in high patriotic style, draping it with two American flags and blue Treasury Guard flag, topping it off with a framed engraving of George Washington. When John Wilkes Booth called at the theater that morning to retrieve mail being held for him, he learned of the Presidential visit that night and at 6 p.m. revisited the theater to make his own preparations for the evening. The stage was set, not for comedy, but for tragedy.
VERY RARE. The Presidential box occupied by the Lincolns was also located on the dress circle, more or less directly across from the front row seats represented by these two tickets. Reportedly, only four other pairs of tickets for this performance are extant. One pair on blue stock, with seat numbers blank, is in the Ford's Theater collection, National Parks Service (which also exhibits a variant, on white paper, without spaces for seat and row). Another variant is in the Smithsonian Institution, illustrated in A Glorious Burden: The American Presidency, p.128).
Provenance: Anonymous owner (sale, Superior Galleries, 16 November 1992, lot 546).