Ford’s Theatre Museum: Student Tour

(music plays) My name is Isabella. I’m standing below the historic Ford’s
Theatre where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Below the
theater is the Ford’s Theatre museum where you will learn the story of Abraham
Lincolns’ presidency during the Civil War. Today, some friends
and I are going to show you a few highlights from this remarkable
collection. As you enter the museum, you’ll see a mannequin that shows how Abraham Lincoln
was dressed when he arrived in Washington. It’s pretty different from the
appearance of a stovepipe hat that you might expect. In February, 1861, Lincolns’
advisors heard a plot to assassinate the president when his train to Washington stopped in
Baltimore. The advisors convinced Lincoln to wear a disguise and sneak into the
capital at night. Some newspapers called Lincoln a coward for sneaking in, but he
arrived safely. Now, Anniya will tell us what life was
like in the White House. During the 1860’s, Washington city was seen by many as
unclean and chaotic. Cattle wandered freely around the city, the Washington monument was unfinished
due to lack of funds, and the Capitol dome was still under construction. Office
seekers loitered at the White House. These people waited for President
Lincoln in the hopes he could offer them a job. During the Civil War, Mary Todd Lincoln, the presidents’ wife,
made it her mission to change the Executive Mansion from a rundown
building to a sign of the Union’s power. She convinced Congress to grant her
twenty thousand dollars, more than 500,000 in todays’ dollars to repair and
refurnish the White House. The museum features some of the items she purchased,
and other objects from the White House including images of the Lincoln sons
Willie, Tad, and Robert. The Lincoln son, Eddie, died before the Lincolns moved to
Washington, and Willie died during Lincolns’ time in the White House,
putting even more strain on the Lincoln family while the Civil War raged on. Lena
will tell you how the lives of hundreds of thousands of African-Americans were
affected by the war. Just past the White House artifacts is
Freedom Road which marks major events on the countrys’ path to emancipation. At
the time of President Lincolns’ first election, there were about four million
slaves in the United States. Lincoln hated slavery, but he didn’t believe he
had the legal authority to end it. With the Unions’ victory at Antietam in
September, 1862, Lincoln was finally able to announce his plan to free the
slaves. In January of 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect. The
Proclamation freed all slaves living in rural states and allowed African-
Americans living in the Union to serve in the military. More than 180,000 African-Americans
would sign up to fight for the Union. The museum also features two of
President Lincolns’ most famous speeches: The Gettysburg Address on November 19th,
1863, and Lincoln’s second inaugural address on March 4th, 1865. Did you know that John Wilkes Booth, the
man who shot President Lincoln, was in the crowd watching him deliver his
second inaugural address? This took place just one month before the president was
assassinated. Hi, I’m Josh. My favorite parts of the
museum are the stories and artifacts of the conspirators. By 1864, the tide of war
was shifting towards a Union success. A group of Confederate supporters, led by
John Wilkes Booth, planned on creating a southern victory by kidnapping the
president. They met at Mary Surratts’ house, less
than a mile from the White House. However, when Booth learned that Abraham
Lincoln was attending Ford’s Theatre on April 14th, in 1865, he decided to kill him
instead. That same night, Booth sent fellow
conspirators, David Herold and Lewis Powell, to kill the Secretary of State, William
Seward, at his house. Fortunately, Seward survived the attack,
but Harold and Powell were later tried and hanged. Booth put George Axelrod in charge of
killing Vice President Johnson. Fortunately, he got scared and never made
it past the lobby of the Kirkwood House Hotel, where Vice President Johnson lived.
Here, you can see some of the artifacts that were used by the conspirators. Some
of the more famous items are the diary, the switchblade, and compass that Booth
carried with him when he escaped after the assassination. You can also see the knife that he used
to stab Major Henry Rathbone, one of the presidents’ and Miss Lincolns’ guests at
the theater that night. Finally, the museum contains the 44
caliber derringer that Booth used to shoot Lincoln. Just a single bullet from this
gun can send an entire nation in the mourning and change the world of history
forever. Now, Nadia will show you a few more artifacts
during the night of the assassination. On April 14th, 1865, Abraham and Mary Lincoln
attended a performance of Our American Cousin here. The theaters’ owner, John T. Ford, decorated
the box seats where the president and his guests would sit. The president arrived
at the theater wearing this suit. When Booth entered the box to assassinate
President Lincoln, he used a piece of a broken music stand
to jam the door shut. After shooting the president and stabbing Major Rathbone,
Booth jumped from the box to the stage, but a spur on his boot caught on a
Treasury guard flag that Mr. Ford had used to decorate the box. The orchestra master, William Withers Jr.,
tried to stop Booth from escaping the theater, but Booth attacked him and slashed his coat. At this point, the president was still
alive, but doctors knew he would not survive for long. They carried him across the street to
the Petersons’ boarding house where his blood stained this pillow. After visiting the museum, you can go to
the theater to see where the assassination took place. Today, you’ve seen just a few
highlights. I hope you enjoyed your brief peek into
the Ford’s Theatre museum. To find out more, visit
We hope you plan a visit to see for yourself where Lincolns’ legacy lives! (music plays)

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