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Preparations for the Presidential Party

In preparation for the occasion the acting manager, Harry Clay Ford, supervised the decorations of the President's box, situated on the south side of the stage. The partition between the two upper boxes was removed by Edman Spangler, the stagehand, converting it into a single box for the convenience of the Presidential party. Two American flags, each on a staff, were placed at either side of the box and two others were draped on the balustrades. The blue regimental flag of the U. S. Treasury Guards was suspended at the center pillar on a staff. An engraving of George Washington was hung in front of the pillar as an added touch to the decorative scheme.

During the afternoon General Grant informed the President that he and Mrs. Grant would be unable to go to the theatre. Late in the day they left by train for Philadelphia on the way to visit their children at Burlington, N. J. Lincoln then asked several other persons to join the theatre party, but all, including Robert Lincoln, declined. At the last moment Miss Clara Harris, daughter of Senator Ira T. Harris of New York, and her fiance, Maj. Henry R. Rathbone, accepted the invitation.

It was close to 8:15 p. m. when the Lincoln carriage left the White House grounds and drove toward the residence of Senator Harris, at Fifteenth and H Streets. It was about 8:30 p. m. when the carriage drew up in front of Ford's Theatre. The performance had begun at 7:45 p. m. The house was filled, except for the boxes. Only the state box was reserved that evening.

There were five doorways opening into Ford's Theatre. The stairway leading to the family circle (gallery) was reached by the doorway on the extreme south. The doorway next on the north was the main entrance. The box office, with windows on the north and south, was located between these two doors. The other three doorways on the north were used as exits.

Entering the lobby of the theatre by the main entrance, the Presidential party ascended the stairway at the north end to the dress circle. Charles Forbes, the footman, and John Parker, a special guard waiting at the theatre, were in the parry. Passing in back of the dress circle seats, they proceeded down the aisle to the vestibule leading to the double box.

The door to Box 7, on the left side of the vestibule, was closed. The party entered through the open door to Box 8, at the far end of the passage. In the afternoon, a sofa, a high-backed chair, and a black walnut rocking chair upholstered in red damask were placed in the box. The rockers of the rocking chair fitted into the angle of Box 7, behind the closed door, and nearest to the audience. The President took this chair with Mrs. Lincoln on his right, toward the center pillar of the double box. Miss Harris was seated in the right-hand corner of Box 8 and Major Rathbone at her left on the sofa.

When the President entered the theatre, William Withers, Jr., the leader of the orchestra, signaled for "Hail to the Chief." The audience then caught sight of the President and, rising as a body, cheered again and again. In acknowledgment, the President came to the front of the box and smilingly bowed to the audience. After the Presidential party was seated, the play was resumed.


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