Laura Keene's Bloodstained Cuff


On the evening of Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln decided to spend a relaxing evening at the theater. The Lincolns and their two guests, Clara Harris and Maj. Henry Rathbone, arrived late to Ford’s Theatre for a production of Our American Cousin. As the president entered the theater, the crowd wildly cheered and the orchestra played “Hail to the Chief.” Lincoln set his silk hat on the floor, and the actors resumed where they had left off.

At about 10:15 p.m., John Wilkes Booth entered the presidential box, pointed a derringer pistol at the back of the president’s head and fired. Booth then pulled out a knife, slashed Rathbone, and jumped onto the stage, declaring “Sic semper tyrannis”—“Thus always to tyrants,” the Virginia state motto. Despite breaking his leg as he hit the stage, Booth escaped backstage and onto a waiting horse.

The play’s leading actress, Laura Keene, rushed with water to the president’s box. As she cradled the president’s head, drops of his blood stained her cuff. She gave the cuff to her nephew, M. J. Adler, who preserved it throughout his life.

Bequest of Virginia Adler Thompson, daughter of M. J. Adler, 1962

Associated Person: Keene, LauraLincoln, Abraham

Location: Currently not on view

Associated Place: United States: District of Columbia, Ford's Theater

General Subject Association: National Symbols


See more items in: Political and Military History: Political History, General History Collection, Government, Politics, and Reform, Selections from the Abraham Lincoln Collection


Exhibition Location:

Related Publication: Rubenstein, Harry R.. Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life

Credit Line: Virginia Adler Thompson

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PL.242707.01Catalog Number: 242707.01Accession Number: 242707

Object Name: sleeve cuff

Physical Description: fabric (overall material)white (overall color)Measurements: overall: 3 in x 9 in; 7.62 cm x 22.86 cm


Record Id: nmah_513668

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