On April 15, 1865, a shroud of grief descended upon Boston as the city awoke to learn of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The bells of Boston’s churches tolled for an hour at the news of the president’s murder, and the assassin’s older brother heard every peal of anguish as he stared at his cold breakfast. For as John Wilkes Booth was taking center stage in an American drama at Ford’s Theatre the night before, Edwin Booth stepped before the footlights of the packed Boston Theatre to star in “The Iron Chest.” Little did the country’s most famous thespian know that the lines he had exclaimed as a villain draped in black velvet — “Where is my honor now? Mountains of shame are piled upon me!” — would become his searing reality the following morning.
Suspicions of complicity enveloped the Booth family. With John Wilkes still on the run and news spreading that the assassin had visited Boston just days earlier, Edwin increasingly feared for his safety. What would happen to him in the abolitionist hotbed of Boston? The answer turned out to be quite unexpected. Listen to the story on this episode of Our American Stories.