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Civil War and the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
John Nickinson had produced and EJ Phillips performed in the first production of Uncle Tom's Cabin in Canada in 1853 at the Royal Lyceum in Toronto. The theatre closed in 1859 and they seem to have moved to the US shortly afterwards. John Nickinson died in in Cincinnati in Feb 1864, leaving EJ Phillips little, if anything to support her and their two young children. She was leading woman in Pike's Stock Company in Cincinnati, playing in the Shakespearean and "standard drama", one of the “excellent resident dramatic company”.
In April EJ Phillips played Emelia
in Othello. The
play was billed as “Last Night But Two of the Eminent Tragedian Junius Brutus
Booth Received Nightly with Admiration by Crowded and Delighted Audiences who
will appear this Thursday Evening April 13 1865, and Tomorrow, Friday Farewell
Benefit”. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14th .
According to cousin Charles Seymour Jr. "Directing Theater is a
Did the April 14th performance take place as the playbill promised? Did the entire acting company have to leave town under cover? How soon were they able to work again? EJ Phillips’ was a single parent with small children to support. We know little of her years in Cincinnati during the Civil War.
Othello playbill April 1865, Pike's Opera House, Cincinnati, Ohio
Junius Brutus Booth Jr. [1821-1883] was the youngest son of Junius Brutus Booth, and brother of Edwin and John Wilkes. EJ Phillips worked with his third wife Agnes Booth in the Madison Square Theatre Co. I have this playbill and also have a crazy quilt made of squares EJ Phillips embroidered during her many Union Square, Madison Square Theatre Company and other stock company train trips, twelve of them between New York and California. One square has lavender brocade from a ball gown worn by the wife of theater proprietor and manager Samuel N. Pike at a reception for the Prince of Wales in 1860 in Cincinnati. When EJ Phillips was playing at his Opera House Mr. Pike brought the dress to her saying it was too conspicuous for his wife to wear often, and if she could use it, she might have it. She wore that dress in plays for many years.
Life on the Stage," 1901,Clara Morris Harriott, S. S. McClure Company, New York http://www.authorama.com/19th-century-actor-autobiographies-5.html includes an excerpt from Some Recollections of John Wilkes Booth, providing some insight.
I'd like to learn more about her life during the Civil War, acting and theaters in Cincinnati and any specifics about actors needing to leave town in a covered wagon after Lincoln's assassination.
Pike's Opera House was built by Samuel Pike in Cincinnati in 1859. "here was where Wendell Phillips was chased from the building after expressing his views on slavery; James Murdoch read "Sheridan's Ride" only a few hours after it had been written by Thomas Reed; and Junius Brutus Booth who had to sneak out of town after learning that his brother had shot President Lincoln. It should be noted that the person working at the Western Union telegraph office who received the message on Saturday, April 15, 1865 that Lincoln had been assassinated was 17-year-old Thomas Alva Edison." http://www.cincinnativiews.net/entertainment.htm What is the source of the Junius Brutus Booth "sneaking out of town" quote?
Cincinnati, A guide to the Queen City, Federal Writer's Project 1943 [reprinted 1973] gives the location of the theater as the east side of 4th St near the intersection with Vine St. and describes Samuel Pike as "a wealthy liquor dealer" who heard Jenny Lind sing and "vowed he would build a theater worthy of such a voice." This book notes that "The news of Lee's surrender brought great rejoicing to the North. At Pike's Opera House in Cincinnati, where Junius Brutus Booth Jr. was playing a two week engagement, theatergoers wondered when the other generals would lay down their arms. Appearing for rehearsal on the morning of April 15, Booth was told that his brother had shot the President. "My God, can it be possible?" he exclaimed and fell in a faint. When he recovered consciousness he left the theater and stole out of the city. Flags at half mast and black bunting everywhere the city mourned the dead Lincoln. On April 17 formal memorial services were held at Pike's Opera House. Hundreds had to be turned away." http://books.google.com/books?id=g9vJrsMSnEQC&vq=booth&dq=%22samuel+pike%22+theatre&source=gbs_navlinks_s Did EJ Phillips try to go? Had she left town as well?
Wikipedia used to say "Junius Brutus Booth, Jr., himself was briefly imprisoned in Washington, DC, after his brother assassinated Abraham Lincoln. At the time of the assassination, he was fulfilling an acting engagement in Cincinnati, Ohio. Even so, he was arrested and hurried by train to the Old Capitol Prison." citing the Cambridge Guide to Theatre, 1995 Cambridge University Press. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junius_Brutus_Booth,_Jr. [no longer on the web]
http://www.cincinnativiews.net/images-3/Pike%201.jpg This theater burned in 1866, but was rebuilt in 1867, and burned again in 1903. Pike's Opera House was built in New York City in 1868.
Othello enjoyed tremendous popularity in both the South and the North before the Civil War. In fact, Othello was performed so frequently in the United States that it was sometimes called “Shakespeare’s American Play” (Kaul 8). Elaine Brousseau, Othello, Shylock and the Face of White Anxiety, Univ. of Massachusetts at Amherst dissertation, 2002 http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~elaineb/Chapter.html
Lincoln Assassination witnessed
EJ Phillips never mentions the Civil War but she did know William Jason Ferguson (1841-1930) who was famous as the actor who saw Lincoln shot. His stage career had begun at Ford's Theatre as a call boy. "The construction of the Theatre supports the claim that Ferguson was the sole witness. His description has been accepted as the most reliable account of the shooting (Sat Evening Post and NY Times (Apr 18, 1915)" and his book I Saw Booth Shoot Lincoln (1930)"
EJ Phillips knew him from when they were both in the Union Square Theatre Company. He played Joseph Pinglet in The Gay Parisians going on the trip west in Aug 1896 with EJ Phillips. "Mr. Ferguson caught cold, has a sore throat this Morning. [Grandson] Jack could not be more childish over it than he is."
Ferguson reports "There was much animosity shown against the actors and employees of the theater, it being supposed that they were imp0licated in the murder. Some of them were arrested. manager John T. Ford was among the number. Hew as imprisoned for forty days, and then released, entirely exonerated. A shopkeeper whose place of business was near the theater vigorously defended our people, and was with difficulty rescued from the intensely angered crowd that assailed him. A rope was actually tied about this neck."
It would not be surprising if actors were chased out of town in Cincinnati as well.
"Grand Army" EJ Phillips did mention this.
1886 San Francisco
1894 Rochester "
Centennial History of Cincinnati, 1904 Chapter XLIII Cincinnati in War Time http://books.google.com/books?id=eJxABLtxX60C&q=theatre#v=snippet&q=war%20time&f=false
William Jason Ferguson, I saw Booth Shoot Lincoln, Pemberton Press 1969
Last Updated March 27, 2011
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