Past Events

Lecture Series

The Commonwealth Museum & The Massachusetts Sesquicentennial Commission present a lecture series in commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln

On the night of April 14th, 1865 – Good Friday – Abraham Lincoln, along with his wife Mary, attended a performance of the comedy Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. Joining the President and his wife were Major Henry J. Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris, daughter of Senator Ira Harris of New York. Just five days earlier, General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in the parlor of Wilmer McLean's farmhouse in the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Shortly after 10pm, John Wilkes Booth, the famous American stage actor, slipped through the unlocked door in the rear of the President's theatre box and, with a single-shot derringer, shot him in the back of the head. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, died at 7:22am the next morning in a small bedroom of a boarding house across the street from the theatre.

In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's assassination, the Commonwealth Museum, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Sesquicentennial Commission, is proud to present a series of three lectures in which experts examine and interpret critical and compelling aspects of this important historical event.

Portrait of Lincoln
old fanshioned gun

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 6-7:30pm
The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt, Guilty as Charged
Less than three months after her arrest in April 1865 at her boarding house in H Street in Washington City, Mary Surratt would be convicted for her role in conspiring with John Wilkes Booth to kill President Abraham Lincoln. On July 7, 1865 Surratt would become the first woman ever executed by the United States government.

Kate Clifford Larson, PhD., noted historian and author, examines Surratt and her involvement in the conspiracy in a thought-provoking lecture that delves into the continuing debate as to her guilt or innocence.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 – 6-7:30pm
The First Living-Room War: Capturing, Executing, and Remembering Lincoln's Assassins: Photography's Crucial Role
The American Civil War has been called the first “Living-Room War.” With the advent of photography, graphic images – from the home front to the battlefield – brought the realities of the war to people on both sides of conflict in a way never before possible.

In a compelling presentation, Harvard Professor and renowned historian John Stauffer shows how photography was used to help capture Lincoln's assassins, document Booth's death, and offer closure and healing in the public execution of the conspirators.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 – 6-7:30pm
Military Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators: Justice or Justice Denied
The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln created many issues including how to treat the alleged conspirators within our justice systems – whether military or civilian.

Frank Williams, retired Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, considers the complex questions that arose in regard to the accused. Should they be tried in civil court or by military tribunal? What due process should be provided them? Does the fact that they were civilians and not military personnel make a difference? These issues and relevance to today's war on terror will be discussed.