Monday, July 27, 2015

Who REALLY Killed Lincoln?

A few days ago, my friend Becky gave me an Edgar Allan Poe finger puppet. This was cool, because it's an Edgar Allan Poe finger puppet. But it's also cool because when we went to the Abraham Lincoln museum, my 3-year-old chose Lincoln and Grant finger puppets as his souvenir for the day, so it was nice to be able to add another puppet to the mix.

Sure enough, when I handed Poe to my son, he ran off to go find Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. He played with the three puppets for a minute, then stuck them all together with the magnets in their heads and left them on the coffee table. A while later my 10-year-old walked by and saw the new puppet. "Oh, is that John Wilkes Booth?" he asked.

Of course my son's comment made me realize that with a Lincoln puppet and a Booth doppelgänger, I had the ability--nay, the responsibility--to use my children's other toys to recreate that tragic evening at Ford's Theater.

I was also reminded of a passage from Sarah Vowell's book Assassination Vacation, in which she visits sites related to the first three presidential assassinations. In one part, she's visiting Booth's grave in Baltimore after having just been to Poe's grave across town, and she's musing about the similarities between the two men. Besides both having lived in Baltimore, and both having similar dark, brooding appearance, they were both the sons of actors and both spent significant time in Richmond, Virginia. Booth was shot by federal agents after having killed Lincoln. Poe died after an election day likely spent as a "repeater," someone hired to vote repeatedly for particular candidates. Vowell says, "In other words, both Booth and Poe died thwarting the will of the electorate."

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