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john w booth Essay

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A History of John Wilkes Booth

The name of John Wilkes Booth conjures up a picture of America's most infamous assassin, the killer of perhaps the greatest president of the United States. However, J. Wilkes Booth (as he was known professionally) led a very prominent life as an actor in the years preceding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. This period of his life is often forgotten or overlooked.

The Booth family name in the nineteenth century was strongly identified with the American theater scene; there was no greater name among American actors at this time. Junius Brutus Booth, Sr. came to the United States from England in 1821 and established the Booth name upon the American stage. He left his legacy to be carried by his sons
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He became more confident as an actor and was popular with his audiences. At the same time Booth became more enamored with the southern way of life, which helped to refine his southern political views. Booth also attended many important social functions in Richmond .

Booth briefly left the Richmond Theatre Company in 1859. He joined the Richmond Grays, gaining his only official military experience. He enlisted on November 20, 1859 with the sole intention of witnessing the December hanging of the fiery abolitionist John Brown in Charles Town, Virginia. Soon after witnessing Brown's hanging, Booth left for Richmond where he was discharged.

During the Civil War, Booth said he promised his mother that he would not join the Confederate army. Booth did however, undertake some action to support the Confederacy. According to some reports, Booth was actively engaged in smuggling medical supplies to Confederate forces in 1864.

Many people who came in contact with Booth mentioned the magnetism and power of his eyes. Sir Charles Wyndham, a fine comedian who witnessed the acting exploits of both Booth and his brother Edwin, wrote that Booth's "... eyes were striking features, but when his emotions were aroused they were like living jewels. Flames shot from them."

Booth was frequently seen in the company of many women, and in one passage author Samples wrote that Booth often
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