Our American Cousin

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On 14 Apr 1865 President and Mrs. Lincoln attended an evening performance of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. Halfway through Act III Scene 2, actor Harry Hawk - playing the lead role of Asa Trenchard - uttered the comedic line: "Don't know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal - you sockdologizing old man trap!"

During the ensuing laughter, actor and Confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth - who was not a part of the cast - raised a Derringer pistol and fatally shot the President in the back of the head. Booth then leaped from the President's box onto the stage and made his escape through the back of the theater to a horse he had left waiting in the alley.

Project Goals

The goal of this project is to create and develop profiles for each of the now mostly forgotten Our American Cousin actors, musicians, managers and crew members employed at Ford's Theater on the night President Lincoln was assassinated. In the days, weeks, and months that followed this tragic event, these individuals were caught up in a terrifying round of arrests and interrogation that, for many, would profoundly impact the trajectory of the remained of their lives.

If you would like to join this project, simply post a comment here on this page, in G2G, or send me a private message.


Our America Cousin was a three-act face by English playwright Tom Taylor. Its story centers on an unrefined American named Asa Trenchard, who is introduced to his aristocratic English relatives when he travels to England to claim a large estate.


(c) = Connected to the Big Tree


John T. Ford, theater owner (c)
James R. Ford, business manager (c)
Harry Clay Ford, daily manager (c)
Henry B. Philips, acting manager
Thomas J. Raybold, house manager
Joseph S. Sessford, ticket agent
John S. Lutz, Laura Keene's husband-manager (c)


Laura Keene, Florence Trenchard (c)
John Dyott, Abel Murcott
Willian Henry "Harry" Hawk, Asa Trenchard
Thomas C. Gourlay, Sir Edward Trenchard
Edwin A. "Ned" Emerson, Lord Dundreary (c)
John Matthews, Mr. Coyle
William J. Ferguson, Lt. Vernon
Charles Francis Byrne, Capt. DeBoots
George Gaines Spear, Binney
John H. "Johnny" Evans, Buddicomb
John L. DeBonay, prompter, John Whicker
George A. Parkhurst, Bailiff
L. Johnson, Bailiff
Jeannie Gourlay, Mary Trenchard
Helen Muzzy, Augusta
Helen Trueman, Mrs. Mountchessington
May Hart, Georgiana
Kate Evans, Sharpe
Maggie Gourlay, Skillet
Edwin Hunter Brink, uncredited
Courtland Van Rensselaer Hess, uncredited (c)


William S. Billy" Withers Jr., orchestra conductor
Christopher P. Arth, violin
George M. Arth, double bass
Joseph A. Arth, drums
Isaac S. Bradley, violin
Samuel Crossley, violin
Henry Donch, clarinet
Scipione Grillo, baritone horn
Luke Hubbard, triangle and bells
William Musgrif, cello
Salvadore Petrola, cornet
Paul S. Schneider, possibly violin or trumpet
Henry Steckelberg, cello
Louis Weber, bass
Reuben Withers, drums


Catherine "Kittie" Brink, backstage helper
John E. "Buck" Buckingham, doorkeeper
Joseph "Peanut John" Burroughs, errand boy
Louis J. Carland, costumer
James Johnson Gifford, head carpenter
Edward Gorman, gasman
Joseph H. Hazelton, program boy
Henry M. James, stagehand
James Lamb, scenic artist
James L. "Jimmie" Maddox, head property man
John Miles, stagehand
William H. "Billy" Otis, Laura Keene's personal assistant
Jacob "Jake" Rittersbach, stagehand
John T. Selecman, property assistant
Joe Simms, stagehand
Edman "Ned" Spangler, stagehand
John Burroughs Wright, stage manager
  • Hawk and Doytt were members of Laura Keen's personal entourage. All other cast members belonged to Ford's stock company.


The management, cast, and crew lists above come directly from Thomas A. Bogar's terrific book, Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination: The Untold Story of the Actors and Stagehands at Ford's Theater (Washington, DC: Regenery History, 2013).

The orchestra list comes from Dave Taylor's 11 Aug 2018 blog entry, The Ford’s Theatre Orchestra at LincolnConspirators.com. As no list of orchestra members was ever compiled at the time of the assassination, Taylor cautions that evidence supporting the presence of each of these individuals "is, overall, extremely weak and varies greatly from man to man. Every name must be taken with a grain of salt and, aside from William Withers, we cannot guarantee that any of these men were actually present."


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