Last Saturday (April 3) I went to my first ever Echoes in Time theatre at the Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society). This event is new to me, but according to the coordinator Mike Follin, it has been running for about six years. That’s six years of me missing out, you guys.
The topic for this talk was “Who Really Killed Lincoln?” which of course piqued my interest given my work-in-progress. I had to ask, why were they asking who killed Lincoln, don’t we know this for sure? Well, yes, and so we learned from Mike who played the “investigator.”
The Echoes in Time Set Up
This particular Echoes in Time theatre started with the room set up to look like an 1800s personal study. Our seats were stadium style in the other half of the room, probably enough to hold 30 or 40 people. I made sure to pick a spot near the aisle and under a light, since I figured I’d be taking copious notes (I did) and didn’t want to distract anyone (pretty sure I didn’t). The audience was a range of ages, mainly on the elderly side, but there was one family with school-age children. I was the only young professional, as it were.
Once we were seated, an Ohio History Connection rep came to welcome us, thank us for attending, and mention the topics coming up for the theatre. There’s going to be a talk about the Reconstruction era in June, which is already on my calendar.
After that, our investigator shuffled into the room and was surprised to see he had an audience. He accused us of sneaking into his office, which elicited chuckles. Then he realized his opportunity, and he announced that since he had our captive attention, he was going to chat about the conspiracy theories, which is exactly what we wanted.
The Conspiracy Theories
The question, therefore, was not, “who pulled the trigger?” Come on, we all know that was John Wilkes Booth. The question instead was, “Who put John Wilkes Booth up to pulling the trigger?” That, of course, is a far more interesting question. Was Booth the mastermind we’d all like to believe? Was Booth a cog in the wheel? We learned there are five major popular theories about Booth’s participation, listed below:
- Grand theory
The Confederate government hired Booth to kidnap Lincoln to force negotiations to end the war. When the war ended, the plan turned to assassination.
- Simple theory
Booth was a Confederate patriot and racist who meant to kidnap Lincoln, not kill him. When kidnapping plans fell through because the war had ended, he turned to revenge and shot Lincoln. Using his acting prowess (he was the George Clooney of his day), he manipulated others into realizing his plan, and taking the fall with him.
- Eisenschiml’s theory
Secretary of War Stanton was behind the assassination, because he didn’t do enough to stop it, and he didn’t like Lincoln anway. Evidence shows Stanton respected and admired Lincoln, and no one expected this, so he did his best to shut down the city to catch Booth.
- Banker/Jews theory
Important European bankers like the Rothschilds offered Lincoln loans to finance the war, but he found other means; what an insult! Plus, Lincoln’s Reconstructionist policies were mild, which would have destroyed Rothschild commodity plan to take advantage of a crippled American agriculture.
- Pope theory
Lincoln won a case for a Catholic father against a Bishop in his early lawyer career, and apparently the Catholics never forgave him. It’s a long game, and a long shot because there’s absolutely no evidence to support this since no one can confirm if Booth was Catholic or had any religious affiliation.
The presentation was great, mainly because Mike is an entertaining historian. He had side comments that had us chuckling the entire time, and yet I still managed to scribble down four A4 (letter sized) pages of notes. He shuffled out of his office, thanking us for listening to his ramblings, and we applauded. Then he returned as Mike the historian (rather than the “investigator” character), welcoming questions and talk of other theories he didn’t have time to mention.
One guy was super into talking about how the United Kingdom probably helped the plot because they wanted to support the Confederacy. Mike shot that down pretty quickly with some interesting facts, and saying you can always find a connection if you really want to. I made a point of chatting with Mike after everyone left, and he was kind enough to give me contact information so I can shoot him a question whenever. So helpful for my new book!
All in all, I’m excited to attend my next Echoes in Time. If you’re in town, make sure to look up the Ohio History Connection’s event calendar. It’s affordable (only $10) and well worth the time. Plus, you can wander around the free rotating exhibits for the rest of the day, which is always fun.
P.S. Since I’m sure you’re curious, historical evidence supports the Simple Theory.