Feb 5, 2009


“Manhunt: Chasing Lincoln’s Killer” Opens Feb. 14 at the Newseum

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 — Abraham Lincoln, who rose from rail-splitting Illinois lawyer to U.S. president, is an American legend. His assassination is an American tragedy.

A new exhibit at the Newseum reveals how Lincoln’s death and the hunt for his killer also marked a turning point in how news was reported. “Manhunt: Chasing Lincoln’s Killer” opens Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

The exhibit was created in collaboration with James L. Swanson, Edgar Award-winning author of the New York Times best-seller “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer,” and features 40 artifacts and documents from Swanson’s personal collection, many of which are being displayed publicly for the first time. Artifacts on display include an original Ford’s Theatre playbill for “Our American Cousin,” the play Lincoln was attending the night John Wilkes Booth shot him; an original poster advertising a $100,000 reward for the capture of the assassins; rare newspaper extra editions reporting the assassination; mourning memorabilia that marked the nation’s sense of loss; and a decorative flagpole that adorned Lincoln’s catafalque. Two priceless artifacts — a fragment from the dress worn by “Our American Cousin” lead actress Laura Keene and stained with Lincoln’s blood, and a lock of Lincoln’s hair framed with flowers from his coffin — will join the exhibit for a limited time beginning April 14, the 144th anniversary of the assassination of President Lincoln.

The news of Lincoln’s assassination swept the country with a speed that would have been impossible before the invention of the transcontinental telegraph in 1861. The exhibit follows the story of the presidency and death of Lincoln in the same way that Americans who were alive in the 1860s learned about it: through reports in the press. Newseum visitors will see original newspapers chronicling the assassination and the 12-day chase for Lincoln’s killer and will learn how the news was reported and transmitted across the nation.

Manhunt” also features dramatic historic photographs taken by Mathew Brady, whose Civil War photography paved the way for modern photojournalism, and Alexander Gardner, his protégé-turned-rival. These images include Gardner’s photograph of Lincoln’s second inauguration ceremony; Brady’s photographs of Lincoln, Booth and Boston Corbett, the soldier who fired the shot that killed Booth; and Gardner’s exclusive photographs of the captured conspirators and their execution.

Manhunt” is organized into more than a dozen sections, each introduced by a newspaper headline from the era. The exhibit begins with a look at early images of Lincoln that appeared in the press and continues through Lincoln’s second inauguration in March 1865 and the celebrations of the end of the Civil War. It traces events from Booth’s plotting of the assassination of not only Lincoln, but also the vice president and secretary of state; to Booth’s infamous act and the nearly two-week search for the assassins.

The Newseum itself has a unique connection to Lincoln’s assassination. The museum is located on the site of the National Hotel, a favorite of John Wilkes Booth. Booth stayed in Room 228 before he shot the president at Ford’s Theatre, and investigators later found evidence in his room connecting him to the assassination.

Manhunt: Chasing Lincoln’s Killer” will be on display through Dec. 31, 2009.

Public Programs

The Newseum will mark the opening of “Manhunt: Chasing Lincoln’s Killer” with a special “Happy Birthday, Honest Abe!” Family Day on Saturday, Feb. 14. The activities scheduled for that day include:

  • Inside Media: Chasing Lincoln’s Killer with James L. Swanson.” Author and Lincoln scholar James L. Swanson will talk about the wild chase for the assassin through the streets, swamps and forests of the Washington, D.C., area and will sign copies of “Manhunt” and “Chasing Lincoln’s Killer,” Swanson’s newly released book for young adults.
  • Talk and Draw.” Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist David Horsey brings his drawing skills and keen political insight for a lively discussion and demonstration of how to draw cartoons that make us laugh and make us think.
  • Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers.” Local WJLA-ABC 7 reporter Sam Ford reads the true story of how 11-year-old Grace Bedell wrote to Lincoln and made her own mark on history.

Other activities include a hands-on arts and crafts session where young visitors can make their own stovepipe hat; telegraph demonstrations; historical enactors; News Bingo and gallery talks.

All family day activities are free with paid admission to the Newseum, but space for individual programs may be limited on a first-come, first-served basis. For a complete schedule of family day activities and additional details, visit newseum.org.

Family Fun Deal

From Saturday, Feb. 14, through Monday, Feb. 16, the Newseum will be offering its special Family Fun Deal promotion. Up to three kids (under age 18) will be admitted free of charge for each paid adult general admission. Adult must be present at time of entry.

About the Newseum

The Newseum — a 250,000-square-foot museum of news — offers visitors an experience that blends five centuries of news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits.

The Newseum features seven levels of galleries, theaters, retail spaces and visitor services. It offers a unique environment that takes museum-goers behind the scenes to experience how and why news is made.

The Newseum is located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., on America’s Main Street between the White House and the U.S. Capitol and adjacent to the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. The exterior’s unique architectural features include a 74-foot-high marble engraving of the First Amendment and an immense front wall of glass through which passers-by can watch the museum fulfilling its mission of providing a forum where the media and the public can gain a better understanding of each other.

The Newseum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors (65 and older), $13 for youth (7 to 18). Press Pass annual memberships also are available. For additional information, the public may call 888/NEWSEUM (888/639-7386) or visit newseum.org.

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