Mary Todd Lincoln Issues 1865 Invitation to Presidential Box at Fords Theatre – for Play Starring John Wilkes Booth’s Brother-in-Law

Autograph Letter Signed
1 page
SMC 229
Lincoln, an avid theater-goer, had seen the play in Chicago eight years before; now he wanted to see it again, albeit this time, with a different actor. The February 1865 production of Toodles, at Ford’s Theatre, starred John S. Clarke, a famous comedian and member, by marriage, of the illustrious Booth family - John Wilkes Booth, in fact, was his brother-in-law...  So Mrs. Lincoln, elated by the Union victories which presaged the end of the war, gaily put forth the invitation:

What will you say, to the queer proposition I am going to make you? Mr. L. proposes going to see Clarke the Comedian this evening in Toodles & Mrs. Dennison thinks also of going, if Miss Lane & yourself will accompany us. I shall feel quite inclined to go myself - you remember the Large double box, we occupied before at Ford's.


Mentioned, too, are some of Washington’s glittering social circle: Mrs. Dennison was the wife of Postmaster General William Dennison; Miss Harriet Lane the niece and hostess of President Buchanan; and Mrs. Sprague, the socially-influential daughter of ex-Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, whom Mary loathed.

The Lincolns are known to have attended Ford’s Theatre some seven times before their fatal visit on the night of April 14, 1865. The outing described here, however, is apparently unrecorded.
Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page, octavo, no place [Washington], no date [c. February 1865]. To Madame Berghmans.
Read transcript Bookmark