The Lost Museum Archive

The Theatres, &c. - New York Times, April 21, 1865

President Abraham Lincoln died from assassin John Wilkes Booth’s bullet on April 15, 1865, and the nation plunged into mourning. After lying in state in Washington, D.C., Lincoln’s body was transported by a funeral train back to Illinois, where he was buried. The two-week journey traced in reverse the route that President-elect Lincoln had taken in 1861 as he traveled to his Inauguration. Cities and towns along the funeral train’s route held their own memorial parades and mourning rites to honor the slain president. The funeral train passed through New York City on April 23, 1865. While P. T. Barnum was a staunch Republican and supporter of President Lincoln, that did not stop him from opening his Lecture Room in the days after Lincoln’s death. This item from the New York Times criticizes Barnum for opening his theatre when all other theatres were shuttered; it also suggests the ways that the theatrical profession felt particular urgency to demonstrate its grief and patriotism since the assassination was carried out by an actor during a theatrical performance.

We have received many communications on the subject of the resolutions recently passed by the actors, and which we published yesterday. The impression is general that the least the actors can do is to append their names to the document as a proof not merely of their loyalty, but of their detestation for that member of the profession who has wrought so much mischief to the country. Who will be the first to commence?

The theatres, by a joint resolution of the managers, will remain closed until Wednesday next. We were shocked and surprised to find that notwithstanding this arrangement, and in spite of the order of Superintendent Kennedy, Mr. Barnum ventured yesterday to open the Museum. Whilst the city was humbled in prayer on one side of the street, Mr. Barnum’s players were mouthing it on the other. The various managers view the proceeding with disgust, and the public will look upon Mr. Barnum’s greedy haste with the contempt it merits.

Source: New York Times, April 21 1865.