On the night of April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln went to Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. He and Mrs. Lincoln sat in a special box above the stage.

During the play, a man entered the box. He was a famous actor named John Wilkes Booth. Booth was upset over how the Civil War had ended. He blamed Lincoln. He aimed a gun at Lincoln and fired. Chaos followed.

Booth quickly leaped onto the stage. On the way down, one of his boots caught the edge of a flag. Booth stumbled and broke his leg.

Booth shouted in Latin, “Thus always to tyrants.” Then he fled and jumped on his waiting horse outside.

Today, many of the artifacts, or objects, from that night have been preserved. They are a link to our past. They help us learn— and remember.

Abraham Lincoln

one of the boots John Wilkes Booth wore

Preparing for Important Guests

The flag that Booth caught his foot on is one such item. That morning, a messenger from the White House requested tickets for the evening’s performance. The president and first lady would make important guests.

Flags from the Treasury Department would adorn the presidential box. Four of the flags were the American flags of the day. The fifth flag had a hand‑painted eagle on dark blue silk. It was attached to the box by a flag pole. As Booth fell, his spur tore the edge of the flag. The tear remains today.

The flag is kept at the National Park Service’s Museum Resources Center in Maryland. It is one of more than six million artifacts to be cared for in the collection. All have historic significance. All come from places in and around Washington, D.C., such as Ford’s Theatre.

Only a small percentage of these artifacts can be shown. Some are too fragile. Others, too large. What cannot be displayed must be carefully stored in a safe, secure, and environmentally stable way.

Booth carried this compass during his escape.

Ford's Theatre

Ford’s Theatre opened in August 1863. After the assassination, the theater was closed. In 1968, it was renovated and reopened. However, the presidential box is never occupied.

The Ford’s Theatre Museum beneath the theater has many items related to the assassination. These include the pistol Booth used and Booth’s diary.

Booth's diary is the only record of his personal thoughts after the assassination.

Powell had his toothbrush with him when he was arrested.

The collection also includes Thomas Powell’s toothbrush. Who was he and why display his toothbrush?

Powell was a Confederate soldier. He conspired with John Wilkes Booth to harm the president.

A toothbrush might seem like a strange artifact for a museum. Yet, ordinary objects can take on greater meaning. Especially when they are connected to an infamous person!

In this case, the toothbrush was used as evidence against Powell during his trial. Another co‑conspirator testified that Powell always carried his toothbrush with him.