Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Romantic Rivals: John Wilkes Booth and Robert Todd Lincoln

Robert Todd Lincoln
A series of events have linked John Wilkes Booth's family with Abraham Lincoln's family over the years. Not only did John's brother, Edwin Booth, save the life of Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, shortly before John assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865, but Robert and John also competed for the affection of a senator's daughter named Lucy Hale.

In 1862, around the same time Lucy Hale, daughter of U.S. Senator John Parker Hale of New Hampshire, met Robert Todd Lincoln, then a college student in Boston, she also met John Wilkes Booth, then a famous theater actor who was performing at the Boston museum.

Although Hale and Lincoln's relationship never became romantic, Lincoln reportedly had feelings for her. Coincidentally, so did Booth.

John Wilkes Booth
Shortly after their first meeting, Booth sent Hale a letter on Valentine's Day telling her “You resemble in a most remarkable degree a lady, very dear to me, now dead and your close resemblance to her surprised me the first time I saw you.” Their relationship progressed quietly, although a few select members of the Booth family knew about it, and they were secretly engaged a few years later.

Although Booth was an outspoken supporter of the Confederacy, Hale knew nothing of his plans to harm the president and the assassination came as a major shock.When Booth was killed in a stand off two weeks after the assassination, police discovered several photos of young women in Booth's pocket, including a photo of Lucy Hale.

In 1878, a Chicago newspaper discovered that Booth and Lincoln were once romantic rivals for Lucy Hale's affection and published an article suggesting this rivalry was “a new motive for Booth's action in regard to President Lincoln.” The paper later printed a denial of the story by Robert Todd Lincoln and an explanation that although he was friends with Lucy, their friendship never progressed further than that.

Lucy Hale eventually married U.S. Senator William E. Chandler and Robert Todd Lincoln married Mary Eunice Harlan.
Photo of Lucy Hale that was found on Booth's body

American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies; Michael W. Kauffman; 2005

American Heritage; They All Loved Lucy; Richard Morcom; October 1970

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