When I throw out the name John Wlkes Booth what comes to mind? The end of Lincoln’s hopes for a kind Reconstruction, assassin, actor, murderer, Confederate sympathizer, member of the anti-immigration Know Nothing party, located in a barn, died on a porch, and maybe you even know he was thought of as one of the handsomest men in America in the 1860s.
But what about the romantic Booth? Did anyone have his heart?
Someone most certainly did.
1. In 1864, he exchanged photos and letters with 16 year old Isabel Sumner from Boston Massachusetts. He gave Isabel a ring, set with a pearl, which was inscribed "J.W.B. to I.S." When Booth was sick in New York Isabel sent him flowers. It seems the romance was short-lived, and there is no evidence it lasted beyond the summer of 1864.
2. Sometime in late 1864 or early 1865, Booth entered into a serious romance with Lucy Lambert Hale, daughter of John Parker Hale, a Senator with abolitionist leanings from New Hampshire. However, an American Heritage article states that Lucy began receiving anonymous notes from Booth as early as Valentines’ Day, 1862. Lucy had been pursued by several men including Oliver Wendell Holmes. An image of Lucy is seen below.
3. In January,1865, the paths of Ms. Hale and Mr. Booth crossed when they both found themselves residing in the National Hotel in Washington D.C.
4. Ms. Hale and her father were making preparations to move to Spain as the Senator had been attempting to get President Lincoln to appoint him as minister to Spain.
5. By March, Hale and Booth were secretly engaged. They were often seen together in the National Hotel and there were reports of them kissing and touching, The Senator, Lucy’s father, denied any connection between Lucy and Booth when inquiries were made. In fact, many historians report that Senator Hale hoped to unite his daughter in marriage with Robert Todd, President Lincoln’s son.
6. The young lovers’ behavior was quite scandalous since Lucy Hale was the daughter of one of the nation’s best known Senators. A liason was beneficial for Booth because Lucy could give him access to many movers and shakers of the time.
7. Much as been made throughout historical accounts of those days leading up to Lincoln’s assassination including the fact that Booth attended Lincoln’s Second Inaugural on March 4th. What many don’t realize is Booth attended as the invited guest of Lucy Hale. Many historical resources quote Booth’s good friend, Samuel Knapp Chester relating that Booth said of the ceremony, “What an excellent chance I had to kill the President, if I had wished, on inauguration day!” Booth can be seen in the picture below. Find him in the image below...top row….right of center.
8. President Lincoln appointed Senator John P. Hale to the position of American Ambassador to Spain. Hale instantly accepted the position since after 20 years as New Hampshire’s senator he had lost his re-election bid. He also saw how moving to Spain would be just what he needed to seperate Booth and his daughter.
9. Many detailed histories of the events leading up to the assasssination of Lincoln state that Lucy Hale and John Wilkes Booth were seen in conversation at the National Hotel at the same time her father was meeting with the President.
10. It was that very night that President Lincoln attended the performance of “My American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater and Booth carried out his assassination plot.
11. After shooting the President Booth leaped to the stage shouting “Sic semper tyrannis” breaking his leg along the way. Still, Booth is able to get away from the theater unaccosted.
12. When Booth was finally apprehended he had a picture of Lucy Lambert Hale in his chest pocket.
13. …..and what happpened to Lucy? She spent the next five years with her father in Spain and was never questioned regarding her relationship with John Wilkes Booth. She eventually married William Chandler who also served as a New Hampshire Senator.
There is an interesting article regarding Senator Hale by J. Dennis Robinson titled "Hail Hale, the Hype's All Here", and you can learn more about the home of Senator Hale here
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