Saturday, April 14, 2012

College Paper on the Ford's Theatre in D.C.

College Paper

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Appreciating Ford's Theatre

Two blocks north from the National Museum of Natural History, on 10th Street, people gather in line to enter the historical Ford's Theatre. The theatre, tucked by the surrounding historical buildings, is located in the downtown area of Washington, D.C. At first arrival to this part of town might bring some concern on security, but the area is protected by the national security of the surrounding federal buildings.

The theatre is located at least three blocks from four different Metro (subway) stations. The National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American Art are two blocks east of the theatre on F Street, and the Hard Rock Café is just adjacent from the theatre. Souvenir shops are popular on this street block. In fact, it is easy to find a five inch Washington Monument for three dollars or three D.C. printed t-shirts for ten dollars at one of these souvenir shops.

Booth had an earlier plot, a month earlier, to kidnap the president but failed. The president had changed his plans to stay in the White House instead of going to a hospital in the outskirts of Washington, D.C. to watch a play.

Booth's anger turned to hatred when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia on the ninth of April -- five days before the president's assassination. That same day, President Lincoln addressed the press from the White House. John Wilkes Booth was present at the press conference. In the speech, Lincoln mentioned the idea of letting certain black vote. Filled with hatred, Booth turned his plans of kidnapping the president to killing him. He believed that by assassinating the president it would be a victory for the Confederacy.

Ford realized his theatre was at a downward spiral to close. The theatre use to attract people and it was expected to succeed, but various disasters contributed to the barrier of success. One of its disasters was the fire of 1863, but Ford's determination and dedication to the theatre reopened months later. A friend of John T. Ford, who worked with the Lincoln administration, recommended inviting the president and the general to the theatre. With the two gaining popularity after the successful war, it was no doubt that their attendance would bring popularity to the theatre.

On the morning of Apri114, Booth learned that the President and the General were going to attend the evening production of Our American Cousin. He gathered with his fellow conspirators to plot a plan to assassinate not only the President and General but also the Vice President and Secretary of State. All the attacks were to be simultaneous at 10:15 p.m.

When the public heard the news of the president and general's attendance to the theatre, ticket purchasing was quick. Although the maximum occupancy of the theatre was 1,500, it is said that more than 2,000 people filled the aisles and corners of both levels of the theatre. People were waiting to see the two most powerful people of the time, and Ford was benefiting from the people's delight.

Ford tried to delay the play until his guests would arrive, but the anxious audience were growing tired of waiting. Some even doubted their arrival. Relying on his watch, Ford signaled the stage manager to start the production no later than 8:30 p.m. The guest arrived minutes after the play had started. General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife were unable to attend; instead, they went to visit their children in New Jersey. In his place, General Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris accompanied President Lincoln and his wife Mary to the theatre. The two couple walked through the back up the stairs onto the second level of the theatre. As the audience grew aware of his arrival, the production stopped and everyone raised and the orchestra played, "Hail to the Chief."

While the President was watching the production, Booth was at the tavern, next to the theatre, drinking — it was common for actors of the theatre to come to the tavern and have a drink. What is ironic is that the president's coachman, valet and bodyguard were also drinking at the salon. Historians believe the three men were at the tavern drinking when the president was assassinated.

A year before John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln, Robert Lincoln - - the son of Abraham and Mary -- was saved by Edwin Booth -- the brother of John. Robert was at a railroad station in Jersey City waiting to purchase a place in a sleeping car when the train began to move. Since he was leaning onto the car of the train, his body twisted when the train moved.

To own a T-shirt which reads, "HARD ROCK CAFE - Washington, D.C.," is every tourists goal to own.

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