John Wilkes Booth’s Other Victim

When William Withers, Jr., stepped up to the conductor’s podium at Ford’s Theatre that April evening, he believed the greatest triumph of his career was just a few minutes away

April 14, 1865, was an important day for William Withers, Jr. He was the orchestra leader at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., and that evening he was going to perform his song “Honor to Our Soldiers” for Abraham Lincoln. The President had accepted an invitation by the management of the theater to see the actress Laura Keene in Our American Cousin; Keene herself was to lead the audience and cast in singing Withers’s tribute to Lincoln. Read more »

He Wanted To Murder The Bugler

Fifty years ago America went into World War I—singing. Irving Berlin, who put some of the songs upon our lips, recalls for American Heritage those gallant and somehow marvelously innocent days.

At the beginning of 1917 the air in America was vibrant with a strong, unfocused, and oddly unwarlike patriotism. The war in Europe was fascinating and it closely touched American interests, but it was a long way off and it seemed like a good war to stay out of.Read more »