Archives

Happy Birthday, James Madison!

Today in American history…James Madison was born on March 16, 1751. He was the fourth President of the United States. Mr. Madison was also an American statesman and also one of our founding fathers. He is ultimately known as the “Father of the Constitution” for his role in drafting and promoting the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Oh and he was married to the fabulous Dolley Madison. Happy Birthday, Mr. Madison!

IMG_6207

Advertisements

The Historical Traveler: Ford’s Theatre and The Peterson House

For my second historical visit, I traveled to Ford’s Theatre and The Peterson House in Washington, DC: the sites of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and death.

Since the assassination, Ford’s Theatre has been converted into a museum where you can learn everything about the assassination including the many attempts on his life before the fateful night in April 1865. You learn about the foreshadowing of the assassination from both President Lincoln and the man who shot him.  You also learn of the lives and about the trials of those who conspired to (and were then charged with and then put to death) kill President Lincoln.

fords-theater2                                 A young picture of Abraham Lincoln on display at Ford’s Theater

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States with 40% of the votes in a four-way contest.

During a speech the following year Abraham Lincoln concluded his speech with these words:

“…if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle (freedom)…I would rather be assassinated on the spot than to surrender it…”

There were many attempts on President Lincoln’s life including one from a group who named themselves the “Plug Uglies.” After this attempt, President Lincoln was advised to stay armed and carry a weapon on his persons.  He refused to do this and stated, “would not for the world have it said that Mr. Lincoln had to enter the National Capitol armed.”

fords-theater

These are the actual weapons given to President Lincoln that he refused to have on him

John T. Ford opened Ford’s Theatre in 1863 under the name Ford’s New Theatre after it having been converted from a First Baptist Church.  Ford’s New Theater became a popular escape for entertainment during the depressing years of the Civil War.  Many popular actors of the day performed at Ford’s Theatre including John Wilkes Booth.  John Wilkes Booth was very famous and was known for his athleticism and his southern pride. He came from a famous Theater family and his father was the popular actor Junius Booth.

fords-theater3 John Wilkes Booth father: Junius Booth.  On display at Ford’s Theater.

Interesting Fact: During a performance of The Marble Heart, John Wilkes Booth directed his threatening lines towards the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre while President Lincoln was in attendance. He knew President Lincoln was watching and Booth hinted publicly his dislike of President Lincoln.

john_wilkes_booth-portrait

John Wilkes Booth in 1865

The conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln started in the boarding house of Mrs. Mary Surratt where she and other conspirators plotted the assassination. Of the conspirators who were put on trial following the assassination, four were sentenced to death: including Mrs. Surratt. She unfortunately is known as the first woman to be executed by the US government.

Ford’s Theatre has the stories of each individual conspirator on display as well as statues representing their likeness.  I found that I am personally a lot taller than the conspirators but am of course, much shorter than President Lincoln – who was 6’3″

fords-theater5

Here I am standing next to one of the conspirators!

The theatre itself is very spacious and open.  The stage is not too high off the ground and the circular design of the room works really well.

Pictures of the theatre including seats, ceiling and stage

Although visitors are allowed to walk around the theatre, the Presidential Box where President Lincoln was assassinated is closed off.

fords-theater10

Picture of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre

You can go through the door frame where John Wilkes Booth entered and waited to assassinate President Lincoln was really neat to see.

fords-theater7

Picture of the outside of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre

Across the street from Ford’s Theatre is The Peterson House, which is where President Lincoln was carried to upon being assassinated and where he took his last breath.

peterson house.jpg

Me standing in front of The Peterson House

The Peterson House remained a boarding house for immigrant families after the death of President Lincoln. After the owner passed away, The Peterson House was stripped of all the interior decorations and converted into a newspaper headquarters.  After being purchased by the government, The Peterson House was converted into a museum along with Ford’s Theatre.  Unfortunately, the decorations and furnishings inside the home are mostly not original pieces.

fords-theater11

Picture of the room where President Lincoln passed away. The bed was on the far right.

The room where President Lincoln passed away is furnished almost identically to how it was when he was carried over from Ford’s Theatre.  They have recreated the room with a photograph taken the evening of the assassination.

The Peterson House is an extension of the museum which chronicles the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth and the impact of President Lincoln on the world.

fords-theater13

Picture of the John Wilkes Booth manhunt trail

You can follow the trail he took from Washington, DC into Virginia where he was finally caught and shot – which he then succumbed to his wounds.

Through The Peterson House is a spiral staircase with a statue of Abraham Lincoln books in the center and every flight of stairs down is another part of Lincoln’s legacy.  One floor showcased the despair felt across the Nation by telling the details of the many funerals held for President Lincoln across the United States. Funerals were held in Washington, DC, Boston, Baltimore, Harrisburg and Philadelphia – just to name a few cities.

Interesting Fact: The turnout for these funerals were astounding averaging 100,000 people per funeral, and reaching over 1 million in New York.

President Lincoln was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

Following the same stairs downward was a room where people who passed by can leave notes describing their ideas on what qualities Abraham Lincoln possessed including courage, ideals for equality and integrity.

The staircase ends where the bottom of the statue begins and concluded my self guided tour of Ford’s Theatre and The Peterson House. There is so much more information and so many lessons to learn from going through these museums.  Tickets are easy to purchase although you will probably want to plan your trip in advance online here because the theatre is still used for productions to this day.

Ford’s Theatre is a 100% MUST SEE visit! I promise you will have a great time and learn so much along the way.

fords-theater14 Picture of the statue of books

The Historical Homemaker Give-a-Way/Contest on Facebook

We are doing a give away/contest in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s upcoming 208th birthday – this Sunday! All you have to do to enter is like this post on our Facebook page, share the posting and then write “shared” in the comments below (all done on Facebook). This is for the book published in 1908 (super vintage!) titled, Abraham Lincoln: The Boy and the Man. We will announce the winner at 7PM EST Sunday evening. Good luck to you all!

Contest details click right here…

61D86249-A521-458E-BC0F-6F5230B562F3.jpg

In the Kitchen Tonight…Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake

We wanted to do something special tonight in the kitchen to honor and remember the wedding anniversary of Abraham and Mary Lincoln who were unitedin marriage on November 4, 1842.  

I have read ALOT of books about the lives of both Abraham and Mary Lincoln and what has always seem to peak my interest about these two is how they both came from such diverse backgrounds – she grew up with servants and living in a beautiful home in Lexington, Kentucky while he was born in a log cabin in the backwoods of Kentucky.  Somehow they simply found one another and with the trials and tribulations of courtship (their previous engagement was broken off and her family was not thrilled about her marrying someone “beneath” her) they decided that in the end, they simply wanted to be together.  

Mary Lincoln made a white cake for Abraham Lincoln while they were courting and it was one of his favorites after they were married. So, with yesterday being their wedding anniversary, I felt it was very fitting to make something that was dear to both of their hearts (and their taste buds!)

The recipe that I used was from the book, Lincoln’s Table, by Donna D. McCreary and was adapted by Janice Cooke Newman. 

Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup blanched almonds, chopped in a food processor until they resemble a coarse flour

  • 1 Cup butter

  • 2 Cups sugar

  • 3 Cups flour

  • 3 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 Cup milk

  • 6 egg whites

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • confectionary sugar

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan.

  • Cream butter and sugar.  Sift flour and baking powder 3 times. Add to creamed butter and sugar, alternating with milk.  Stir in almonds and beat well.

  • Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter.  Stir in vanilla extract.

  • Pour into prepared pan and and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Turn out on a wire rack and cool.  When cool, sift confectionary sugar over top.

  • A basic white frosting sprinkled with almonds was also popular.