[LINCOLN, Abraham -- ASSASSINATION]. Ford's Theatre...Friday Evening, April 14th, 1865. Benefit! And Last Night of Miss Laura Keene...Tom Taylor's Celebrated Eccentric Comedy...Our American Cousin...," Washington, D.C., H. Polkinhorn & Son [14 April 1865. Folio broadside, 19 x 5¾ in. THE GENUINE FIRST ISSUE OF THE APRIL 14 FORD'S THEATRE PLAYBILL. [With:] Ford's Theatre...Friday Evening, April 14th, 1865. Benefit! And Last Night of Miss Laura Keene...Tom Taylor's Celebrated Eccentric Comedy...Our American Cousin...Patriotic Song and Chorus "Honor to our Soldiers," 19 3/16 in x 5 3/16 in. neatly mounted on a leaf on the Lambert album, last 6 letters of "Theatre" in top line poorly inked. THE GENUINE SECOND ISSUE OF THE APRIL 14 FORD'S THEATRE PLAYBILL. The two neatly mounted on folios 1 and 3 of the Lambert album (see below). Walter C. Brenner, The Ford Theatre Lincoln Assassination Playbills (Philadelphia, 1937); LC Information Bulletin, 6 Nov. 1981.
LINCOLN'S LAST HOURS: THE MAJOR WILLIAM LAMBERT COLLECTION OF FORD'S THEATRE PLAYBILLS, UNTRACED SINCE 1914, CONTAINING BOTH GENUINE ISSUES
The remarkable Lambert album contains fine copies of both the genuine first and second issues of the April 14 playbill for the fateful performance of the popular comedy "Our American Cousin," at which John Wilkes Booth carried out his plan to assassinate the President.
Additional contents of the album: 5 handbills for previous Ford's performances (on 6, 10, 11, 12, and 13 April), 12 Ford's Theatre broadsides (7 of which announce appearances of Junius Brutus Booth in various roles), 4 spurious reprints of the 14 April bill, several letters regarding the printing of the two genuine broadsides (2 from H.F. Oldroyd to Lambert, 1902), a small proof printing of the type used to print the word "Laura Keene"; clippings from early auction catalogues (1894-1901), etc. All mounted on blank sheets in a folio album, bound ca. 1900 for Lambert in half green morocco, spine gilt-lettered "Play Bills Ford's Theatre April 14, 1865." Fine condition.
The April 14th playbill for Ford's Theatre is known in two distinct issues. At some time in the morning on the 14th, the printer had run off a batch of handbills for that evening's performance (constituting the first issue), probably in numbers not exceeding by much the number of seats available at the theatre. But about mid-day, a White House messenger brought news to the theater management that Lincoln had accepted an invitation to attend the play that night (news overheard by John Wilkes Booth, there to pick up his mail.) In Lincoln's honor, it was decided to add to the program the patriotic song "Honor To Our Soldiers." Orders were given to the printer, Polkinhorn, to reset part of the standing type for the handbill, adding notice that the patriotic song would be featured (copies with the addition constitute the second issue). On the fateful night, copies of both versions were in circulation among the audience. BOTH ISSUES ARE VERY RARE: ABPC records only one copy of the first issue (1990, $13,000) and one of the second (1997, $4,200 for a damaged copy). Lincoln's own copy, now at LC, was of the second issue. Lambert went to considerable effort to assemble this unique collection of genuine April 14 handbills and other materials relating to their printing. In his 1937 article, Brenner took note of Lambert's album, reprinted its description verbatim from the sale (Anderson Galleries, 14 January 1914, lot 299) and lamented that it was now probably "perdu in some library or broken up." It is good to report that Lambert's album is no longer perdu and survives, intact, with its two genuine April 14 playbills.