This Day in Gun History: President Lincoln Was Shot

President Lincoln loved the theater. I mean, really loved the theater. By all accounts, Lincoln had never seen a play before he moved to the nation’s capital. From his first theatrical visit until his final full day on Earth, The Great Emancipator watched over 500 performances. The medium appealed to Lincoln on the deepest levels, tapping into his irrepressible sense of humor (which not even suicidal tendencies could extinguish) and his need to understand the relationship between the governing and the governed. As you’d imagine he had a particular fondness for Shakespeare. He was a fan of actor Edwin Booth, who performed Hamlet for the President. And why not? Booth was considered one of the—if not the—greatest actor of his time. As he did for many a thespian, Lincoln entertained Mr. Booth at the White House. Or was it vice verse?

A little known fact: Edwin Booth also saved Lincoln’s son Robert from being crushed by a train. In any case, Edwin’s acting talents over-shadowed that of his brother and fellow actor John Wilkes Booth, “the handsomest man in America”—and the man who fired the shot that struck President Lincoln during a performance of My American Cousin at the Ford Theater. (April 14, 1865) Lincoln died the next day. The President would have appreciated the irony, if there had been any.