As the laughter in the theater reached a fever pitch, the assassin — carrying a pocket pistol inlaid with silver — crept up behind the 6-foot-4-inch man and fired a single shot into the back of his head.
One hundred fifty years ago Wednesday, President Abraham Lincoln died in a humble boarding house across the street from Ford’s Theatre, in Washington D.C., where the 16th president had gone with his wife and two guests for some comedic relief — the play “Our American Cousin.”
“This was devastating for most people in the north – they couldn’t have imagined that anything like this would ever occur,” said Ian Hunt, historian for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation in Springfield. “The closest approximation I can give in the modern era as to how it affected the nation are the 9/11 tragedies.”
The pistol used by John Wilkes Booth to shoot Abraham Lincoln is on display at the Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership in Washington, D.C. | Getty Images
A number of events are planned in the coming days both in Springfield and Chicago to commemorate the anniversary of Lincoln’s life and death.
In the state capital, the presidential library foundation plans a noon celebration Wednesday of Lincoln’s life set to include a U.S. Navy flyover, a military brass band and a talk by comedian and Harvey native Tom Dreesen. For more information, log onto www.alplm.org and then click on “news & events.”
Chris Wills, a spokesman for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, said Lincoln-related events there this year have been “well attended.”
“We had an art contest for children. We thought we’d get a couple of hundred entries. We got 1,200,” Wills said.
So far this year, the museum has seen an uptick in attendance, with 46,423 people coming through the doors in the first three months, a 8.2 percent increase.
In Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra brass quintet is set to perform a collection of Lincoln-inspired songs at the Chicago History Museum on Monday, April 20, at 10:30 a.m.
Also at the history museum, a program Friday, May 1, at 7 p.m. with noted Lincoln actor Fritz Klein, who will give a one-hour presentation focusing on Lincoln’s vision for America and “his effort to move the nation’s focus from a Civil War to civil rights.
For more information on Lincoln events at the Chicago History Museum, people can call (312) 642-4600.
The Petersen House, across the street from Ford’s Theatre, is where Abraham Lincoln died the morning of April 15, 1865. | AFP PHOTO/Saul Loeb/Getty Images
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
A life-sized figure of the 16th president stands outside a facade of the White House at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. | Associated Press