Booth & The Incident at Lincoln’s 2d Inaugural

Lincoln’s 2d Inaugural, by Alexander Gardner (Library of Congress)

Few people know that John Wilkes Booth was involved in an incident at President Lincoln’s second inauguration in March of 1865.  It was seen as a mere scuffle in the crowd at the time, but gained added significance when six weeks later Booth assassinated Lincoln.  The story is told in a letter written by Benjamin French in 1865.  Michelle Krowl, a historian in the Library of Congress’s Manuscript Division, says of the Benjamin French letter:  “Commissioner of Public Buildings Benjamin B. French wrote this to his son shortly after Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. He recalls in some detail having helped thwart an incident with an aggressive spectator at the March 4, 1865 inauguration, and upon being shown a photograph of John Wilkes Booth after the assassination, was certain it was the same man he saw at the inauguration.”

The Library of Congress’s digital collection “I Do Solemnly Swear” includes over 400 items relating to presidential inaugurations, up to and including materials from President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

From “Digital Collection Features Inauguration Treasures,” Susan Manus, Jan. 22, 2013, The Signal (Library of Congress Digital Collections Blog).


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