John Wilkes BOOTH

Family tree of John Wilkes BOOTH

Actor, political murderer, terrorist

AmericanBorn John Wilkes BOOTH

American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865

Born on May 10, 1838 in Bel Air, Maryland, USA , United States

Died on April 26, 1865 in Port Royal, Virginia, USA

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Booth's parents, the noted British Shakespearean actor Junius Brutus Booth and his mistress Mary Ann Holmes, came to the United States from England in June 1821. They purchased a 150-acre (61 ha) farm near Bel Air in Harford County, Maryland, where John Wilkes Booth was born in a four-room log house on May 10, 1838, the ninth of ten children. He was named after the English radical politician John Wilkes, a distant relative. Junius Brutus Booth's wife, Adelaide Delannoy Booth, was granted a divorce in 1851 on grounds of adultery, and Holmes legally wed John Wilkes Booth's father on May 10, 1851, the youth's 13th birthday.

Nora Titone, in her book My Thoughts Be Bloody, recounts how the shame and ambition of Junius Brutus Booth's two illegitimate actor sons, Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, would eventually spur them to strive, as rivals, for achievement and acclaim — Edwin, a Unionist, and John Wilkes, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln.


The same year, 1851, that Booth's father married Holmes, he built Tudor Hall on the Harford County property as the family's summer home, while also maintaining a winter residence on Exeter Street in Baltimore in the 1840s–1850s.

As a boy, John Wilkes Booth was athletic and popular, becoming skilled at horsemanship and fencing. A sometimes indifferent student, he attended the Bel Air Academy, where the headmaster described him as "[n]ot deficient in intelligence, but disinclined to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered him". Each day he rode back and forth from farm to school, taking more interest in what happened along the way than in reaching his classes on time". In 1850–1851, he attended the Quaker-run Milton Boarding School for Boys located in Sparks, Maryland, and later St. Timothy's Hall, an Episcopal military academy in Catonsville, Maryland, beginning when he was 13 years old. At the Milton school, students recited such classical works as those by Herodotus, Cicero, and Tacitus. Students at St. Timothy's wore military uniforms and were subject to a regimen of daily formation drills and strict discipline. Booth left school at 14, after his father's death.

While attending the Milton Boarding School, Booth met a Gypsy fortune-teller who read his palm and pronounced a grim destiny, telling Booth that he would have a grand but short life, doomed to die young and "meeting a bad end". His sister recalled that Booth wrote down the palm-reader's prediction and showed it to his family and others, often discussing its portents in moments of melancholy in later years.

As recounted by Booth's sister, Asia Booth Clarke, in her memoirs written in 1874, no one church was preeminent in the Booth household. Booth's mother was Episcopalian and his father was described as a free spirit, preferring a Sunday walk along the Baltimore waterfront with his children to attending church. On January 23, 1853, the 14-year-old Booth was finally baptized at St. Timothy's Protestant Episcopal Church. Later in life, Booth became a Roman Catholic, possibly converted by his sister, Asia Booth Clarke. By the age of 16, Booth was interested in the theatre and in politics, becoming a delegate from Bel Air to a rally by the Know Nothing Party for Henry Winter Davis, the anti-immigrant party's candidate for Congress in the 1854 elections. Aspiring to follow in the footsteps of his father and his actor brothers, Edwin and Junius Brutus, Jr., Booth began practicing elocution daily in the woods around Tudor Hall and studying Shakespeare.

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Geographical origins

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