A composite image showing Ford's Theatre as it looked on the night of April 14, 1865.


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byron ed

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#9
Missed this from last year- it sure helps make sense of Booth's leg-breaking jump. And how chilling, too. It was all right there. This stuff always gets to me.
That jump was never proven to be a leg or ankle breaker, it made for good press at the time and has become a bit of legend since then. Whatever else Booth was, he was quite athletic and physically resilient, according to period accounts. In any event no one came up with the torn curtain as a memento; and there were plenty of personal mementos taken from the scene of less significance. And Booth apparently was not at all slowed in mounting on his horse and riding vigorously away -- actions requiring pressed weight on the stirrups. Also, the wanted posters out of Washington never mentioned a hurt leg or limp, something that would have been on a wanted poster. Some claim it was an incident shortly after he crossed over into Maryland that damaged his leg.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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#10
That jump was never proven to be a leg or ankle breaker, it made for good press at the time and has become a bit of legend since then. Whatever else Booth was, he was quite athletic and physically resilient, according to period accounts. In any event no one came up with the torn curtain as a memento; and there were plenty of personal mementos taken from the scene of less significance. And Booth apparently was not at all slowed in mounting on his horse and riding vigorously away -- actions requiring pressed weight on the stirrups. Also, the wanted posters out of Washington never mentioned a hurt leg or limp, something that would have been on a wanted poster. Some claim it was an incident shortly after he crossed over into Maryland that damaged his leg.

Oh I don't know. You had me until the athletic thing- Booth was a lady's man disinclined to personal effort. It wasn't an active life in the way that evolves into any remarkable athletic ability. As an argument, the whole riding vigorously away thing doesn't mean much either. Any horsey kid gallops vigorously bareback as soon as they know where to push the on button on a horse. Stirrups not required.

Never heard Booth tore the flag, only that he caught his heel in it as he jumped.
 

byron ed

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#11
Oh I don't know. You had me until the athletic thing- Booth was a lady's man disinclined to personal effort. It wasn't an active life in the way that evolves into any remarkable athletic ability.
It was an active life. Booth was known to be quite athletic on stage, even remarkable in that respect. It was part and parcel to his career, and his way of making up for the greater gravitas his father Junius and his brother Junius had as actors. Here's an excerpted comment from an actor on stage the night Lincoln was shot (underlines mine):

"I was on the stage at the time of the firing & heard the report of the pistol. My back was towards the Presidents box at the time. I heard something tear & somebody fell & as I looked towards him he came in the direction in which I was standing & I believe to the best of my knowledge that it was John Wilkes Booth...“He ran toward me, and I seeing the knife, thought I was the one he was after. I did simply what any man would do: ran off the stage and up a flight of stairs. … He made his escape out of a door in the rear of the theater, mounted a horse and rode away..." (Harry Hawk, Ford's Theatre Actor, various sources).

Pretty frisky for a man with a broken leg, it would seem, but no proof either way. Anyway notice the mention of a tearing sound - the curtain of course, yes?


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As for Booth's athleticism, a sampling:

"Booth also had a reputation as an athletic and gymnastics-inclined performer —for a routine scene in Macbeth, he decided to jump off a high mound of rocks... a dozen people saw Booth running toward the side of the stage, and few of them described him limping in pain. One witness said Booth "ran with lightning speed across the stage" and "...Those who argue Booth didn't injure his leg at Ford's Theatre believe he later fell off a horse or twisted his leg in a stirrup. At least one doctor swore in court that Booth said his horse fell on him." (https://www.vox.com/2015/4/14/8416939/abraham-lincoln-assassination).

"...Booth was athletic and popular, and he became skilled at horsemanship and fencing..." and "...at the Richmond Theatre in Virginia, where he became increasingly popular with audiences for his energetic performances..." (Wikipedia / John Wilkes Booth).

"...Blessed with extraordinary looks and an athlete’s grace..." (https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/2014/01/01/john-wilkes-booth-2/).

"...John was athletic and popular as a boy and was skilled in horsemanship and fencing..." (https://www.legendsofamerica.com/ah-johnwilkesbooth/).
 
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#12
That jump was never proven to be a leg or ankle breaker, it made for good press at the time and has become a bit of legend since then. Whatever else Booth was, he was quite athletic and physically resilient, according to period accounts. In any event no one came up with the torn curtain as a memento; and there were plenty of personal mementos taken from the scene of less significance. And Booth apparently was not at all slowed in mounting on his horse and riding vigorously away -- actions requiring pressed weight on the stirrups. Also, the wanted posters out of Washington never mentioned a hurt leg or limp, something that would have been on a wanted poster. Some claim it was an incident shortly after he crossed over into Maryland that damaged his leg.
I've known people to break a bone in their ankle from lower jumps and even having put weight on their foot when it was asleep (they just got out of their boot last week). And athleticism wouldn't play a role in whether he would have broken a bone or not. How he landed would determine the injury much more than athleticism would.
 

byron ed

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#13
I've known people to break a bone in their ankle from lower jumps and even having put weight on their foot when it was asleep (they just got out of their boot last week). And athleticism wouldn't play a role in whether he would have broken a bone or not. How he landed would determine the injury much more than athleticism would.
Or, athleticism did play a role in whether Booth had broken a bone or not. Let's not miss the point that Booth was accustomed to jumping on stage in other roles, and by period accounts he had maintained his athletic prowess. Though none of that would guarantee he wouldn't break his leg, his chances were better because of his training. and experience. Keep in mind that it's not even for sure that he jumped the 12 foot distance from a standing position on the box rail. Eyewitnesses merely said he jumped onto the stage, which he could have done from a hanging (climbing down) position.

No point in projecting either way what actually happened. There's no historical slam dunk to be had here.
 
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