News | October 5, 2023

Used Our American Cousin Tickets from Lincoln's Assassination Sold for $262,500

RR Auction

Pair of used dress circle tickets to Ford’s Theatre’s production of Our American Cousin on April 14, 1865.

Two used tickets for Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. stamped April 14, 1865 - the night of Abraham Lincoln's assassination - have been sold for $262,500 by RR Auction.

The tickets are two of only three used ones for that evening's performance known to RR Auction to be in existence. The other is part of Harvard University’s collection.

Seated in section D in seats 41 and 42, the playgoers would have been in the dress circle’s front row, giving them a perfect view of the assassin John Wilkes Booth as he jumped from Lincoln’s box to make his escape, though based on the seating chart not of the exact moment of the assassination. 

Originally auctioned at Christie’s as part of the Forbes collection in 2002 where they sold for $83,650, this sale was the first time they had been to auction in two decades. Bidding began at $60,000 during the live auction, with bids climbing until they realized a price of $262,500.

Theatregoers could purchase tickets that were stamped with the date of the performance they were sold for, and were valid for that evening only. The patron’s seat section and number would be written out in pencil on their respective lines. Both the Harvard example and RR Auction’s tickets feature this exact stamp showing the date April 14, 1865. The writing on all three tickets bears a striking resemblance to each other. These three Ford’s Theatre tickets are the only known examples to RR Auction to have been torn and have their seating assignments written on them, and only a handful of authentic tickets from April 14, 1865 are known to exist.

The right corners of both tickets are missing, indicating that they were presented to the ticket taker and clipped to confirm their admission. Annotated in pencil are the section – section D – and the seat numbers – 41 and 42. Looking at the dress circle seating chart, these ticket holders would have sat in the front row of the dress circle.

These tickets were originally part of the collection of collector Malcolm Forbes, also known as the founder of Forbes magazine.