John T. Ford Manuscript Collection, 1832-1956, MS 371


Finding Aid to the John T. Ford Manuscript Collection, 1832-1956,  MS 371


H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Maryland Historical Society


Collection summary

Title John T. Ford Collection, 1832-1956      
Creator Ford, John Thompson (1829-1824)
Call number MS 371
Inclusive dates 1832-1956
Bulk dates 1865-1896
Extent 1 box
Abstract Summary: Manuscript collection of John T. Ford, owner and manager of Ford's Theatre in Washington at the time of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Includes correspondence of John T. Ford, Edwin Stanton, Henry Winter Davis, and Junius and Edwin Booth relating to the Lincoln assassination, Ford’s theater, and John T. Ford’s theatrical ventures. There are also notes and recollections Ford made relating to the assassination and subsequent trials. Newspaper clippings found in the collection contain material relating to the Lincoln assassination including accounts of Lincoln's death, accounts of the trials, and descriptions by witnesses of the assassination and of Mary Surratt's hanging


Administrative summary


Repository   H. Furlong Baldwin Library
  Maryland Historical Society
  201 W. Monument St.
  Baltimore, MD 21218
Access restrictions   There are no access restrictions
Use restrictions   Permission to quote must be received in writing from the Special Collections Librarian.
Provenance   Gift; Harford Historical Society
Accession number    
Processing note   Processed by Steven Rhodes; Finding Aid completed in April 2011 by Damon Talbot


Biographical Note

John T. Ford was born in Baltimore on April 16, 1829. After completing school, Ford left Baltimore to work for his uncle William Greanor, a tobacco merchant in Richmond, Virginia. Ford did not find the work to his liking and soon found employment with a book seller in the city. When he tired of that, he returned to Baltimore and found work as the road manager for George Kunkel’s Nightingale Minstrels in 1851. With this, Ford found his calling. After a successful tour of the company, Ford, Kunkel and another partner leased the Holliday Street Theatre in Baltimore and thereafter Ford was a theater owner, manager and promoter. In time, Ford would own the Holliday Street Theatre as well as a theater in Richmond, another in Philadelphia and three in Washington, DC including the one to which his name is most closely associated on Tenth Street. It was here that John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Ford was well familiar with the Booth family and knew most of the best stage performers of his day. Because of his association with the Booths, the site of the assassination and perhaps because he was from Maryland, as were most of the assassination conspirators, Ford and his brother were arrested in the wake of the assassination. The Federal government seized his theater, but released Ford after holding him for ten days. His close association with the events of the assassination would hold Ford’s interest for the rest of his life. The Federal government compensated Ford for the loss of his theater and he continued to be a success in the theater world. In addition, Ford was an active member of Baltimore civic and business life; he served as President of the Baltimore City Council, President of the Union Railroad Company, and was a member of the Board of Directors of the B&O Railroad. Ford was married to Edith Andrews of Hanover County, Virginia outside Richmond. They had eleven children who survived to adulthood. Ford died on March 14, 1894 and is buried in Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore.


Scope and Content

This collection consists of material collected by John T. Ford and his family relating to the Lincoln Assassination and Ford’s Theater. The collection is arranged chronologically, with the majority of items collected by John T. Ford. Ford maintained a lifelong interest in the Lincoln assassination, collecting correspondence, articles, and other items until his death in 1894. There is also material collected by Ford’s children following his death, primarily newspaper and magazine clippings. See the Container list for a detailed description of each item.

Of particular interest, are Ford’s handwritten notes and recollections on the assassination, the conspiracy surrounding it, the trial, his incarceration in Carroll prison, and his attempts to acquire compensation from the Government following the seizure of Ford’s Theater. Ford penned an essay on the conspiracy as well. There is also a statement by alleged conspirator Edmund Spangler regarding the assassination. These materials are found in Folders 6, 9, 10, 14, 25, 26, 32, 33 and 42. 

Much of the collection is comprised of correspondence relating to the assassination, the trial,  Ford’s attempts to reopen the theater and acquire compensation from the government, and Ford’s theatrical ventures. This includes Ford’s correspondence with various publications relating to Mary Surratt, correspondence with the Booth Family regarding theatrical productions, and letters between Maryland Congressman Henry Winter Davis and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton regarding compensation from the government for the seizure of Ford’s theater. Ford kept an interest in his lost theater for the remainder of his life. After some floors collapsed in 1893 killing some government workers, Ford wrote a letter to the Evening Star newspaper indignantly pointing out the faulty parts of the structure were added after the government took over the theater.

 (Note: The newspaper clipping found in Folder 56 does not appear to have any relevance to this collection; it may not have been part of the items donated).


Container List


Contents   Description   Date   Box Folder
Junius Brutus Booth to unknown   Undated letter from Junius Brutus Booth to unknown correspondent apologizing for an unnamed disagreement. Typed transcript of the letter included.   183?   1 1
Junius Brutus Booth to John Finlay, Esq.   Letter from Junius Brutus Booth hoping to sell the Adelphi Theater addressed to John Finlay, Esq. Typed transcript of letter enclosed.   September 12, 1832    1 2
Prayer for Mary Christine Adelaide Delaney   Prayer for Mary Christine Adelaide Delaney, (first) wife of Junius Brutus Booth. Death date given as March 9, 1858. Written on Ford’s stationary with date imprint of 187_.   March 9, 1858    1 3
Edwin Forrest to John T. Ford   Letter from Edwin Forrest to Ford agreeing to a meeting with Ford at the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia on the afternoon of the following Friday.   March 5, 1862   1 4
Affidavit of August Howell   Affidavit of Augustus Howell. Arrested March 20, 1865, Howell was questioned in connection with the Lincoln conspiracy. Typed transcript included in file.   March 20, 1865   1 5
John T.Ford's Record of his imprisonment   Handwritten account by John T. Ford of his imprisonment following the Lincoln assassination with excerpts from his Carroll Prison diary.   April, 1865   1 6
[E.] G. Thompson to John T. Ford   Letter from [E.] G. Thompson from Richmond, Virginia to Ford speaking of his situation and complaining of loss of liberties under the Confederacy. Includes typed transcript.   April 9, 1865   1 7
Provost Marshal General's Office Pass   Provost Marshal pass for Ford to travel from Fortress Monroe to City Point, Virginia.   April 12, 1865   1 8
Rough memoranda of events in Old Capitol Prison   Rough memoranda of events in Old Capitol Prison by John T. Ford with notes of Ford’s account.   April 18, 1865   1 9
John T. Ford's Statement   Hand written statement by Ford regarding his imprisonment, his opinion of John Wilkes Booth and what he learned of the assassination conspiracy while he was in prison. Writing dates from approximately 1877 as Ford states he offered assistance to Secretary of War Stanton 12 years previously. Typed transcript included.   April 18, 1865   1 10
John T. Ford to Mr. Hall   Letter from John T. Ford to his manager Mr. Hall from Carroll Prison requesting Hall contact various individuals including Reverdy Johnson and the Maryland Governor-elect.   April 19, 1865   1 11
John T. Ford to Mr. Wallis   Letter from John T. Ford to Mr. Wallis regarding settlement of financial affairs including some outstanding debts and the sale of the Holliday Street Theater.   May 1. 1865   1 12
The Baltimore American   Quotes from the May 10, May 11, May 15 and July 8 issues of the Baltimore American pertaining to the treatment of the conspirators in prison, particularly Mrs. Surratt.  

May 10-15, 1865

July 8, 1865

John T. Ford's reflections on Lincoln Assassination   Ford’s memoirs, opinions and reflections on the assassination of Lincoln and his time in prison. According to Ford, Mrs. Surratt’s execution was a miscarriage of justice, but he adds that he did not know her before his imprisonment.   July 6, 1865   1 14
Winfield Scott Hancock to Major General J.F. Hartra[u]ft   Note from Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock allowing “Mr. Cunningham” entrance to the prison (unnamed, but probably Carroll or Old Capitol).   July 7, 1865   1 15
“One of Many Determined to Prevent It” to John T. Ford   Letter to Ford from “One of Many Determined to Prevent It” cautioning him not to reopen his Washington theater.   July 9, 1865   1 16
Henry Winter Davis to Edwin M. Stanton   Letter to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from Henry Winter Davis informing him that Ford was well within his legal rights to reopen the theater despite the Secretary’s objections.   July 18, 1865   1 17
Edwin M. Stanton to Henry Winter Davis   Stanton’s reply to Henry Winter Davis informing him Ford’s Theater was seized by the government, but Ford was entitled to compensation.   July 19, 1865   1 18
A Statement from John T. Ford   A handwritten statement from Ford claiming that from July 10, 1865 to February 1, 1866 his Washington theater would have brought in $10,000. Consequently, Ford felt the government owed him $100,000 in compensation.   July 21, 1865   1 19
T. Austin Brown to John T. Ford   Letter to Ford from T. Austin Brown of the New York Clipper stating a portrait of Ford would appear in the next issue and requesting biographical information.   August 9, 1865   1 20
Ms. Mitchell to John T. Ford   Letter to Ford from a Ms. [Cassie] Mitchell asking for terms to appear in Baltimore and Washington.   August 26, 1865   1 21
Edwin Clarke to John T. Ford   Letter from Edwin Clarke stating Ford has Secretary Stanton’s permission  to remove articles from the Washington Theater.   October 24, 1865   1 22
Recollection of Carroll Prison   John T. Ford’s memories of Carroll Prison concerning conditions and his treatment and Ford’s assessment of Louis J. Weichmann.   1865   1 23
H. Clay Ford to John T. Ford   Letter to John T. Ford from H. Clay Ford stating he cannot obtain permission for a visit from Edith and elaborates on his efforts to win John’s release including his intention to contact Henry Winter Davis.    1865   1 24
Notes   Notes made by John T. Ford regarding the Lincoln assassination. A typed transcript is included in the file.   1865   1 25
Trial of Conspirators   Observations by John T. Ford based on the trial transcript of the Lincoln conspirators.   1865   1 26
Diagram of Ford Theater and environs   Diagram of Ford Theater and environs. Includes handwritten notes. According to a note on the back, this diagram was used during the trial of Spengler.   nd   1 27
William Spengler to his Son   Letter from William Spengler to his son asking for news and the truth. Also complains about his health.   1865?   1 28
Edwin Stanton to A. Stirling, Esq.   Letter from Edwin Stanton to A. Stirling, Esq. agreeing to continue monthly payments to Ford until the government purchases his theater.   February 1, 1865   1 29
Envelope - "Statement for Wilkes Booth"   Empty envelope with legend “statement for Wilkes Booth.”   nd   1 30
John T. Ford ? To "Editors of the Gazette"   Draft of a letter to “Editors of the Gazette” on the Booth family written in response to an article on the “Surratt Trial.” Much of the manuscript deals with Booth’s personality and characteristics. John T. Ford is the presumed author. Includes typed transcript.   nd   1 31
Ford, John T. - Manuscripts   Manuscripts by Ford on the assassination. First, seven pages of musings on the assassination with a six page typed transcript. Secondly, four pages of notes on Pittman’s Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators, labeled A, B, C. and D, with a one page typed transcript of excerpts from the four pages.   nd   1 32
Spangler Statements   Two manuscripts in pencil, one three pages long, the other seven, on statements regarding the assassination by Edmund “Ned” Spangler. Probably a transcript, but after his release from prison, Spangler worked for Ford at the Holliday Street Theater.   nd   1 33
Programs - Edwin Booth   Playbills for Edwin Booth in various plays at the Holliday Street Theater in Baltimore.   1867   1 34
W.F. Florence to John T. Ford   W.F. Florence notifies Ford he has purchased rights Falconer’s play “Eileen.”   July 7, 1871     35
Mrs. Surratt, Mary E. - Newspaper Clippings   Newspaper articles on Mary Surratt, some without date or publication name, including the Baltimore Sun, Cincinnati Enquirer, and the Washington Star.   1873 to 1915    1 36
Edwin Booth to John T. Ford   In a letter dated January 14, 1874, Edwin Booth declines Ford’s offer to tour. Booth reverses himself in a January 28, 1875 message agreeing to appear for one week at Ford’s theater in Baltimore, listing the characters he might play. Includes typed transcripts.  

January 14, 1874

January 28, 1875

  1 37
J. Jefferson to John T. Ford   Note to Ford from J. Jefferson enclosing a cheque for $225 (not included in file).   May 22, 1875   1 38
Newspaper clippings    Clippings of articles from various newspapers on a variety of topics apparently of interest to John T. Ford. Includes one empty envelope.   1882-1892, nd   1 39
Plaque of Keys   Photograph on cardboard of a plaque of keys presented by Mayor of Baltimore F.C. Latrobe to visiting New York firemen with a typed note speculating on the origin of the picture.   1885   1 40
John T. Ford to Hay   A note from John T. Ford letting “Hay” know he is ready to settle his debt.   February 26, 1885   1 41
"Behind the Curtains of a Conspiracy"   A copy of “Behind the Curtains of a Conspiracy,” North American Review, no. 389 (April 1889), p. 484-493. An article on the Lincoln assassination by John T. Ford.   April 1889   1 42
"Our American Cousin" - Playbill, Facsimile   Facsimile of playbill for “Our American Cousin” printed circa 1890.   1890   1 43
"Abraham Lincoln: A History"   A copy of the article “Abraham Lincoln: A History,” Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, v.34, no.6 (April 1890), 428-452 by John G. Nicolay and John Hay. This is the conclusion of a multi-part article and deals with the assassination.   April 1890   1 44
John T. Ford to Horatio King; John T. Ford to the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine   John T. Ford responds to a letter from Horatio King published in the April 1890 issue of Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine in a ten page manuscript dealing with the innocence of Mary Surratt, pages 6 and 8 are missing. With a one page typed transcript of excerpts from the manuscript. A later version of the manuscript, originally five pages in length, but missing page 1. A handwritten letter to the editor of the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine by Ford criticizing the article “Justice to General Holt,” three pages in length. One page of handwritten notes.   April 2, 1890   1 45
David M. Dewitt to John T. Ford   Note to John T. Ford from attorney David M. Dewitt, who is reviewing the case of Mrs. Surratt and asks a number of questions regarding the trial and the conspirators.   December 9, 1890   1 46
San Francisco Evening Post   From the San Francisco Evening Post (April 16, 1892) comes this clipping of comments by James R. and John T. Ford on whether or not Lincoln’s blood was on his program from "Our American Cousin." With a receipt for the clipping from Henry Romeike’s Bureau of Press Cuttings.    April 16, 1892   1 47
Jphn T. Ford to The Evening Star   In the wake of a floor collapse at his old Washington theater, Ford composed this rough draft of a letter to the Evening Star, attesting to the soundness of the structure as built.   June 10, 1893   1 48
James P. Brandt to John T. Ford   Manager of the United Press office in Baltimore James P. Brandt sends Ford clippings and a note stating the floors failed in that part of the Washington theater built after the government seized control.   June 10, 1893   1 49
"In Memory of Lincoln"   Clipping entitled “In Memory of Lincoln” from an unidentified newspaper announcing the home where Lincoln died is open to the public as a museum.   September 24, 1893   1 50
"Funeral Services of the late John T. Ford"   A clipping from the Evening Star dated March 15, 1894 concerning the funeral of John T. Ford.   March 15, 1894   1 51
"He was at Ford's"   An article from the Boston Sunday Journal dated September 22, 1895 on Capt. Silas Owen who was at Ford’s theater the night of the assassination.   September 22, 1895   1 52
The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine   “The Four Lincoln Conspiracies” by Victor Louis Mason in Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, v.51, no.6 (April 1896). Including the Booth conspiracy, Mason finds there were four serious plots to assassinate or kidnap Lincoln.   April 1896   1 53
Newspaper Accounts of Lincoln's Assassination   These accounts of Lincoln’s assassination and related subjects come from newspapers in New York, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, among other cities.   1881-1927   1 54
Newspaper Clippings describing the Assassination Trial   Newspaper clippings on various aspects of the Lincoln assassination and trial. Some of the stories are taken from Baltimore papers, but many not identified as to origin.   1891-1915    1 55
Harry F. Byrd to Mary Ford Talley   Virginia Governor Harry F. Byrd writes to Mary Ford Talley of Atlee, Virginia stating he cannot intervene in a matter not named in the letter and recommends she contact Richmond city authorities.   47211   1 56
New York Times Book Review   New York Times Book Review from December 8, 1940 featuring a review of Newman Ivey Hite’s biography of Percy Shelley, Shelly, v.1 New York, NY: Alfred Knopf, 1940.   December 8,1940   1 57
Frank T. Gartside to John T. Ford (Jr.)   A representative of the U.S. Dept. of the Interior writes to John Ford (Jr.) that the agency will examine the John T. Ford papers.   August 31,1943   1 58
Postal Receipt for John F. Sollers   Postal receipt for manuscript sent to John F. Sollers of Appleton, Wisconsin.   May 8,1951   1 59
George Ford to Frank Ford and John T. Ford (Jr.)   Letters from George Ford to cousin Frank Ford and John T. Ford (Jr.) requesting information on John T. Ford (Sr.) for book George is writing. Also a handwritten excerpt from a passage on John T. Ford (Sr.) in Baltimore: Its History and People (1912), p.183.   March 24,1955   1 60
Melvin Frahm to John T. Ford III   Letter to John T. Ford III from Melvin Frahm, Detroit, Michigan with questions regarding the Ford family and their connections to Henry Ford the automaker and any relationship of the Booth acting family to the Booths of the Salvation Army.   April 6,1956   1 61


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