Description

    [Lincoln Assassination]. Jeannie Gourlay Struthers Autograph Letter Signed. Two pages, 8.25" x 10.75", Media [Pennsylvania], February, n.y. [circa 1923]. The nation's capital was alive for the first time in years on the evening of April 14, 1865. News of the surrender of Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia five days earlier was a sign, at least for most, that the bloody struggle with their Southern brethren was finally reaching its end. A sense of optimism prevailed and even the president, described by Hugh McCulloch, the secretary of the treasury, as "...cheerful and happy..." that morning, stepped out for a night on the town, catching a special performance of the comedy "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre. What very few realized was that within twenty-four hours, the president would be dead.

    Twenty year old actress Jeannie Gourlay Struthers (1844-1928), playing the part of Mary Meredith, was on stage that night when the assassin struck. Here she writes to teacher M. J. Boyer relating the events of the evening as she saw them, in part:

    "I am willing to give you a statement of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I played that night. there was five members of my family in the Theatre that night. My father sister and myself on the stage, and two brother[s] in the audence [sic]. it was nearing Ten Oclock when I came on for an important scene between Asa Trenchard [one of the characters in the play], and myself, Mary Meridith [sic], that I saw John Wilkes Booth standing in the Lobby of the Theatre. he looked so pale I sarcely [sic] knew him. We went on with our scene. I looked again and he was gone. he had gone up the stairs to the Dress Circle, and made his way to the Box. at the end of my scene, I was standing talking with the Leader of the Orchestir [sic]. we were on the opposite side from the President Box, and near the back of the stage from which there was a door that lead out into the Alley. we were only a few feet from this door. we heard a shot and great shouting. I was facing down to the Front entrance. Mr Withers [the orchestra leader] was standing facing me. When I saw coming with a large knife Booth. he slashed with the knife at Mr Withers, pushed me against the scene and went out the back door where a boy was holding his Horse and rode away. after Booth shot the president, he jumped from the Box, rushed to the center of the stage raising the knife, shouted to the audence [sic] Sic Semper Tyranas [Tyrannis], before leaving the stage. this is [illegible] by eye witnesses among them my own family. Mr Withers went home with us that night and it was in our house that he discovered the cuts in his clothes made by the knife in his [Booth's] hand. that coat is now in Washington, at Mr O. H. Oldroyds Collection 516 Tenth St Washington D. C. [the address of the home where Lincoln died]...I think I have made thing[s] plain, and all for your benefit and the pupels [sic]. (this is not to be given for publication)..."

    Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on the morning of April 15. Jeannie rarely talked about her experience that night and only went public with it after the death of her husband, Robert Struthers, in 1907. Smoothed folds. Light overall toning; small circular stain at lower left, not affecting the text. An important firsthand account of a pivotal moment in American history.




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    Auction Dates
    April, 2013
    11th Thursday
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