Introducing the Assassins: John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth. Image from the United States Library of Congress.
John Wilkes Booth was born in Maryland in 1838, one of ten children of America’s preeminent nineteenth-century actor, Edwin Booth and his former mistress, Mary Ann Holmes. Raised outside of Baltimore, Booth had an erratic life before taking to the stage at age seventeen, and quickly becoming a matinee idol. A Confederate sympathizer, his plan to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln to force a prisoner exchange escalated into an assassination plot. Booth carried out the murder during a performance of the English comedy Our American Cousin at Washington’s Ford’s Theatre on Good Friday in April 1865. Booth evaded a massive manhunt for twelve days before being shot to death by authorities in a Virginia barn. Booth was only twenty-six.
New York actor Danny Binstock makes his PlayMakers debut in this unforgettable role. Recently on Broadway in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Danny brings his accomplished musical theatre background to our stage for Assassins.



Q 1. What distinguishing feature was the coroner able to use as proof of Booth’s identity?f his rhis rightrmance.oth was familiar with both Ford’inthe  of his right hand.
Q 2. After the assassination, under what alias did Booth travel while seeking refuge?
Q 3. What line of dialogue in the English comedy Our American Cousin had Booth planned as his cue for the Lincoln killing?
JWB Wanted Poster. Image courtesy of Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.
A 1: As a boy, Booth had tattooed his initials between the thumb and index finger of his left hand. Like much of Booth’s history, this fact is widely contested.
A 2: James W. Boyd, a Confederate officer.  (Booth also adopted the fairly transparent disguise of a false beard.)
A 3: “You sockdologizing old man-trap!”: an insult line that never failed to elicit a roar of laughter from audiences. Booth was familiar with both Ford’s Theatre and that current play in performance.