Peterson House - White House Body Bearers

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Roger Norton:
Joe, did you see the page here!

We aren't the only ones confused. Quoting from that page:


"For Laura Keene to get to the state box – William J. Ferguson indicated he led her there –she would have had to come down from the front of the stage into the Orchestra level, head across the pandemonium of people rushing for the exits as well as pressing into the theatre, get through the doors adjacent to stairway “B”, ascend the stairs to the level of the Dress Circle – and then move across approximately 100 feet of the crush of people – just to get to the outer door of the State Box (“M”).  It is highly questionable whether she would have been able to get off the stage in full dress gown and move through an angry mob.
For Laura Keene to get to the State Box by the route “known to the regular members of the cast” as indicated by Jeannie Gourlay, she would have had to move across the stage through several layers of scenery – in her full dress with hoop skirt – go out the door at “D”, turn left and go out the door at “F”.  She then would be outside the safety of the theatre and in the alley area behind the theatre – where Booth had just escaped.  From “F” she had to travel another 40 feet (if the path were direct and clear), and ascend the stair beginning at “G”.  There is a question about whether access was possible between “F” and “G” as another drawing shows what appears to be a building abutting the corner of Ford’s Theatre preventing passage into the yard behind the south wing and to the stairway at “G.”  If this building did abut the theatre, it would have been impossible for Laura Keene to get to the foot of the stairway at “G” from door “F.”
Refer again to the Dress Circle plan.  At the top of the stair, Laura Keene encountered a door “I” which, if she was able to open from the outside, led into a vestibule and stairway area approximately 20 feet in length – to another doorway or opening at “J.”  Then, she had to go up some steps to the door at “L.”  At this point, if she was able to move through what must have been a crush of people at “L”, she still had about 40 feet to go behind the Dress Circle chairs – and down at least four levels of risers -  before she would get to the first entrance at “M”  – and then she still had to get through the door at “N.”  Is it possible that she was able to do this in the pandemonium that followed the shot?  And all in full dress complete with hoop skirt?
Some tellers of this story have Laura Keene carrying a pitcher of water to the state box.  Imagine that!  Perhaps she had time to stop in the saloon to get the water before exiting at door “F.”  Or, perhaps she went back into the Green Room (next to her dressing room) to get the water – adding more time, more obstacles, and more distance to the journey to the state box."


I do own a book - Lincoln's Last Night - which says she did get the water from the Green Room. No footnote, though. The book also says she got to the box by going up a set of back stairs. Again, no footnote.

     Thanks, Roger. Those guys certainly beat that horse to death, didn't they?

Roger Norton:

Roger Norton:
Quote from: BoothBuff on November 09, 2011, 09:49:39 PM

An interesting thing I read about Rathbone is that when he died he was muttering about not being able to stop the man with the knife. It was in "Lincoln's Last Night" and this is the only reference I've seen about that.

That is two of us, Joe. You were referring to the same book I mentioned above. The author claims Rathbone's last words in 1911 were, "The man with the knife! I can't stop him! I can't stop him!" Like you I do not recall seeing that in any other book I have.

Roger Norton:
I decided to write Ford's Theatre about our confusion. I thank Eric Martin for his very quick response which I share:



In reply to your email inquiry concerning the above, Laura Keene on the night of April 14th, 1865 it is believed would have made her way up to the "theatre dress circle" from the theatre back stage area via a stairwell which was situated just inside the next door building adjacent to the historic theatre where the Star Saloon was.  There was a back stairwell to the immediate rear of Peter Taltavul's Saloon whereby one could use to reach a reception room used by the Ford Brothers and then from there, one could enter through a doorway onto the Ford's Theatre Dress Circle (i.e., the balcony level of the theatre).  Once on the Dress Circle, the only way by which one could enter into the presidential box where President Lincoln was shot would be to enter through the same vestibule passageway in which Lincoln, the others with Lincoln and Booth himself entered.  Two sources that I would refer you to in order to document this are The Lincoln Assassination Encyclopedia by Edward Steers, Jr., page 319 and there is also an illustrative diagram showing this area in Blood On The Moon:  The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln by Edward Steers, Jr., page 115.  Please let me know if you should have any further questions.
Eric Martin
Interpretation/Educational Coordinator   
Ford's Theatre Na. Historic Site


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