Friday, April 26, 2013


Panorama of Penzance (Cornwall) by Mark Twyning.

Penzance (population: 21.000) is the most westerly major town in Cornwall, UK. In medieval times and later, Penzance was subject to frequent raiding by Barbary Pirates.


Penzance was the birthplace of the chemist Sir Humphry Davy. He invented the process of electrolysis, was the first person to discover laughing gas, and he proved (with Michael Faraday) that diamonds are made of pure carbon.

Penzance is the home of the pirates in Gilbert and Sullivan's famous comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance (1879).

The seal of Penzance with the head of St. John on a platter.

In June, during the Golowan Festival, a Mock Mayor is elected as a parody of the official office of Mayor ( a tradition found in a number of communities throughout the British Isles)

From Penzance you can fly or take the ferry to the Scilly Islands.

next episode: Scilly Islands

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gene Tierney

Gene Eliza Tierney

"With her blue-green eyes, brown hair, prominent cheekbones and what many young men of the 1940′s regarded as the most appealing overbite of the day (Miss Tierney said her movie contract stipulated that her slightly protruding front teeth were never to be fixed)" (NYT obituary)

next episode: back to Cornwall

Sunday, April 21, 2013

John Wilkes Booth's Grave

The unmarked grave of JW Booth with some Lincoln pennies on top (source).

John Wilkes was named after the English radical politician John Wilkes, a distant relative (Booth's uncle Algernon Booth is the great-great-great-grandfather of Cherie Blair, wife of former British PM Tony Blair). After the government released his remains to the Booth family in 1869, John Wilkes rests under a small unmarked stone at the corner of the family plot, dwarfed by the memorial obelisk at its center.
Gravesite of the Booth family at Baltimore’s Green Mount Cemetery where the famous actor Junius Brutus Booth and several other family members are buried (source).

Junius Brutus Booth (the father of John Wilkes) was named after the lead assassin of Julius Ceasar. He was born in London but ran off to America with a London flower girl (while married to a Belgium-Dutch wife) in 1821 to start a new family and career. They settled in Harford County near Baltimore and built a house named Tudor Hall which still survives.

Obelisk (source)

As a noted Shakespearean dramatist Booth helped popularize theatre in the United States. He also wrote a letter in a fit of drunken anger to president Andrew Jackson with the threat of assassination. He is the father of Edwin Booth, the foremost American Shakespearean actor of his day who founded The Players, a New York City actors' club which continues to the present day.

next episode: a brighter subject

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Diary of John Wilkes Booth

'I shouted Sic Semper before I fired''

After John Wilkes Booth was found and shot at Garrett's farm he reportedly whispered "Tell my mother I died for my country." He uttered his last words "Useless, useless" and died (source: wikipedia). The diary shown over here was found in his pockets.

'After being hunted like a dog through swamps, woods, and last night being chased by gunboats till I was forced to return wet, cold, and starving, with every man’s hand against me, I am here in despair. And why? For doing what Brutus was honored for. What made Tell a hero? And yet I, for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew, am looked upon as a common cutthroat.'


next episode: the final

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lincoln's Favorite Carriage

Abraham Lincoln's favorite carriage.

It was this carriage that took him, his wife Mary, major Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris to Ford's Theatre. The carriage is a 4-passenger barouche fabricated by the Studebaker Brothers. When the doors are opened, steps unfold. It's now part of their museum along with the carriages of Grant, Harrison, and McKinley.

The last photo of president Lincoln.

This photo was taken by Henry J. Warren during a photo session around the time of Lincoln's second inauguration. Mr. Warren took some candid photographs of crowd scenes on March 4th and two day later on March 6th Warren took this picture out on the White House Balcony.

next episode: in the theatre

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dress Circle Tickets

A ticket for reserved seating in the Dress Circle
for the April 14, 1865 performance at Ford’s Theatre (LOC).

The Dress Circle, or first balcony, seated 420 audience members in wooden chairs. Abraham and Mary Lincoln, being presidential, would be seated in their own private balcony. They invited several people to attend the performance with them. They invited general Ulysses Grant and his wife Julia. He had just arrived in Washington earlier in the week after general Lee's surrender at Appomattox. But he declined the invitation as Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Grant were not on good terms. Several other people were invited to join them, until finally Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris accepted.

Abraham Lincoln looking forward to an evening at the theater. 
Plays relaxed him, expecially comedy (photo by Alexander Gardner, 1863) (LOC)

more info: double-date

next episode: let's go to the theatre

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Fatal Playbill

A playbill from Ford's Theatre announcing Our American Cousin on April 14th, 1865.  
(Harvard University, Houghton Library)

The patriotic song and chorus 'Honor To Our Soldiers' is written by Ford’s Theatre orchestra director William Withers. It will premiere this night in honor of the presence of president Lincoln.

This playbill has been falsified a lot, see this excellent article.  

next episode: let's buy a ticket

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Zinaida Yussupova

Zinaida Yussupova by Christina Robertson, 1840

The Yussupovs are a Russian noble family descending from the Khans of the 10th century who, in the 18th and 19th centuries, were renowned for their immense wealth, philanthropy and art collections. Most notably, Prince Felix Yusupov II was famous for his involvement in the murder of Rasputin.

next episode: a fatal play


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