Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Tudor Hall, the Booths of Maryland, and the Civil War 2015 Symposium

We’re very excited to announce that the Junius B. Booth Society (JBBS) and the Historical Society of Harford County (HSHC) are holding a one day, one-of-a kind symposium on Saturday, May 9, 2015, titled Tudor Hall, the Booths of Maryland and the Civil War from 8:00 AM to 4:45 PM at the Bel Air Armory in Bel Air, MD. Tudor Hall, the home of the theatrical Booths of Maryland, a short distance away will be open to the attendees following the symposium for tours till 7 PM. We are holding this timely symposium to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln Assassination and the end of the Civil War. The symposium will explore the complex theatrical Booths— who left their mark on America forever (good and bad), the history of Tudor Hall and the attitudes of Marylanders during the Civil War. As was true with many Maryland families during the Civil War; the Booths were truly a house divided. This is a fundraiser and the proceeds will be split between JBBS and HSHC. All proceeds to JBBS will be used for turning Tudor Hall into a museum.

We have a spectacular line-up of nationally recognized speakers on this fascinating subject:

Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth
By Terry Alford, author of Fortune’s Fool: The Biography of John Wilkes Booth. Terry Alford is a Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and is a recognized expert on John Wilkes Booth. His long awaited comprehensive biography of John Wilkes Booth, researched for decades, will be released early in 2015.

Edwin Booth During the Civil War
By Daniel J. Watermeier, author of American Tragedian: The Life of Edwin Booth. Daniel J. Watermeier has, through decades of tireless research paired with his own sharp insight, put together the most complete Edwin Booth biography to date. Watermeier’s book offers an in-depth look at the triumphal career and tumultuous life of one of the American stage’s most celebrated figures. His book is scheduled for release early in 2015. Daniel’s talk will focus on Edwin Booth during the Civil war.

A Brief Introduction to Tudor Hall
By Jim Garrett, author of The Lincoln Assassination: Where Are They Now? Jim is a recognized historian of the Lincoln Assassination and a tour guide at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. and gives special talks at Tudor Hall. Jim’s talk will focus on the history of Tudor Hall, home of the theatrical Booths of Maryland.

Booth’s Backstage Friends at Ford’s
By Thomas A. Bogar, author of Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination: The Untold Story of the Actors and Stagehands at Ford’s Theatre. Thomas Bogar tells the untold story of Lincoln’s assassination: the forty-six stage hands, actors, and theater workers on hand for the bewildering events in the theater that night, and what each of them witnessed in the chaos-streaked hours before John Wilkes Booth was discovered to be the culprit.

John Wilkes Booth and the Knights of the Golden Circle
By David C. Keehn, author of Knights of the Golden Circle: Secret Empire, Southern Secession, Civil War. David C. Keehn’s book provides the first comprehensive analysis of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secret southern society that initially sought to establish a slave-holding empire in the Golden Circle region of Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Keehn reveals the complex history of this mysterious group (John Wilkes Booth was a member), including its involvement in the secession movement and the Civil War. David’s talk will focus on John Wilkes Booth and his involvement in the Knights of the Golden Circle.

Saturday, May 9, 2015
8:00-8:45 AM   Registration and continental breakfast
8:45 AM   Opening remarks
8:55 AM    Morning Session
Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth by Terry Alford
Edwin Booth During the Civil War by Daniel Watermeier
A Brief Introduction to Tudor Hall by Jim Garrett
12:10-1:45 PM   Lunch on your own at area restaurants or bring your own lunch.
1:45 PM   Afternoon Session
Booth’s Backstage Friends at Ford’s by Thomas Bogar
John Wilkes Booth and the Knights of the Golden Circle by David Keehn
Speakers’ Panel (speakers answer questions from audience and each other)
4:45 PM   Closing remarks

Following the closing remarks the first floor of Tudor Hall is open to attendees till 7 PM.

Fees for Symposium 
Early Registration until April 24, 2015 ─$65.00
Includes continental breakfast and afternoon refreshments.

Registration after April 24, 2015 ─$75.00

The speakers’ books will be for sale at the symposium.

The symposium will be held at: 
Bel Air Armory
37 N. Main Street
Bel Air, MD 21014
Handicapped access
Limited parking is available in the back. Parking is also available nearby at the Historical Society of Harford County at 143 N. Main Street and on the street.

Register early for this spectacular symposium. We look forward to seeing you there.

2015 Symposium Registration Name(s)___________________________________________________
City, State, Zip _____________________________________________
Phone Number _______________________________
email _______________________________________

Early Registration $65.00 x _____ people= _________
Late Registration $75.00 x ______ people= _________
Total Due _________

Please make checks payable to:
The Historical Society of Harford County
Mail to:
The Historical Society of Harford County
143 N. Main Street
Bel Air, MD 21014
Attn: 2015 Symposium

You can also register at:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Make Plans To Visit Tudor Hall 2015

The historic Tudor Hall is a fascinating piece of our nation's history. When you visit, you'll connect to the story of the Maryland Booths who left their mark on America forever. You'll walk where they walked, lived, played, worked and dreamed. When you visit, this part of history comes alive.

The property and first floor of Tudor Hall will be open to visitors for tours in 2015 at 1:00 & 2:00 PM on the dates listed below. This year there are some special talks replacing the 2:00 tours on the dates listed with a (*). All 1:00 and other 2:00 tours will feature the general tour. All tours and talks last about 45 minutes. See below for details of the special talks and regular tours.

April 12* & 26*, May 17* & 31*, June 14* & 28, July 12* & 26, August 9 & 23, September 13* & 27, October 11 & 25, November 8
*April 26, June 14, July 12 at 2:00 PM:
John Wilkes Booth and Tudor Hall
by Jim Garrett, a life-long Lincoln Assassination and Booth enthusiast, a tour guide at Ford’s Theatre and co-author of The Lincoln Assassination: Where Are they Now? A Guide to the Burial Places of Individuals Connected to the Lincoln Assassination in Washington, DC.

*May 17, May 31 at 2:00 PM
The Loyal Servants of the Booths: Joe and Ann Hall
by Jim Chrismer, a Harford County Historian who focuses primarily on African American and Civil War history of Harford County. Jim has been associated with the Harford Historical Bulletin in one way or another since 1991 and has served as Assistant Editor, Editor, Publication Chairman, Writer and Researcher.

*April 12, September 13 at 2:00 PM
Edwin and John Wilkes Booth: A House Divided
by Dave Taylor, the creator and administrator of Dave is a Lincoln Assassination writer, researcher and speaker.

The cost for each tour and each talk is $5.00 cash for those age 13 and older. For more information:
443-619-0008 or or
Tudor Hall is located at 17 Tudor Lane, Bel Air, MD 21015

You can also follow us on Facebook for tour updates, news and much more at

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Junius Brutus Booth Rescued From a Watery Grave

by Tom Fink

From time to time Junius Brutus Booth displayed signs of brief insanity. At such times those close to him tried to help him. The Charleston Courier for March 12, 1838 reported one of these incidents:
     “Mr. Booth went on board the…packet, in a company with his friend, Mr. Flynn, the well-known Comedian, on Wednesday evening last [7 March], and on the passage showed evident symptoms of insanity, but being carefully watched by his anxious friend, had no opportunity of escaping his vigilant eye, and appeared to improve gradually under Mr. Flynn’s friendly care, until the afternoon of Friday last when 36 miles N.E. of Frying Pan Shoals, during dinner, when Mr. Booth excused himself from the table, took advantage of his friend’s absence, and lowered himself from the promenade deck, which attracted the attention of the men. Capt. Pennoyer, Mr. Flynn, and the rest of the passengers being called from dinner, endeavored to persuade him to return on board, when he not only refused, but immediately plunged into the ocean. Capt. Pennoyer instantly stopped the boat, which was then going at the rate of eleven miles an hour, and by his prompt exertions and presence of mind, a safety buoy was thrown over, and a safety boat immediately launched. The gallant Captain took the helm, and Mr. Booth, though then half a mile from the boat, was rescued from a watery grave.”
     Junius had asked Mr. Flynn to alert him when they approached the area where William Augustus Conway, a failed tragedian, had drowned himself. William Conway came to America in 1823 from England and had been a favorite actor at the Covent Garden Theatre in London. Because of the extremely fast popularity he gained in London, some of his jealous professional contemporaries ridiculed him publicly and conspired to drive him from his position on the stage. Because of his sensitive nature he chose to pursue his profession in America. In 1826, William decided to quit the stage and study Divinity. After three years he met with some personal opposition from the then Bishop of New York “from the fact of his having been an actor.”  During his voyage to Savannah to visit Bishop White “to take orders in the church,” Conway suddenly had a fit of despondency and jumped from the deck of the ship and drowned himself.
     When Junius reached the spot where Conway had drowned, he jumped overboard with a “message” for Conway. As Flynn pulled Junius into the safety boat, Booth warned, “I say Tom, look out: you’re a heavy man, be steady; if the boat upsets we’ll all be drowned.”

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Was the Booth Farm Used to Help Runaway Slaves?

By Tom Fink
President, Junius B. Booth Society

While visiting with Elwin Penski (founder of the Junius B. Booth Society) one afternoon, he mentioned to me that he believed Richard Booth, the father of Junius Brutus Booth, had assisted escaped slaves when he resided at the Booth farm in Bel Air, MD, though he couldn’t recall a source to back up his belief. His statement piqued my curiosity and I immediately decided to investigate that claim. Not only could this change the way the general public perceives the Booth family, but it could possibly shine a new light on the history of the Booth farm.
     To make a long story short, while I was in correspondence with Dr. Terry Alford, a history professor at Northern Virginia Community College and a Booth historian (his biography of John Wilkes Booth will soon go to print) he directed me to a manuscript written by John T. Ford (who built and owned the theatres named after him in Baltimore and Washington) housed at the Maryland Historical Society.
     I followed his lead and found the manuscript located in the John T. Ford Manuscript Collection, MS 371, Maryland Historical Society. In a folder titled FORD MANUSCRIPTS: The Booth Family, there is a penned letter he wrote to the Editors of the Gazette. Whether he sent this letter or not, I do not know; however— it is a goldmine.
     The following is an excerpt from Ford’s manuscript just as he wrote it, including the words he crossed out with a single line:

“Editors of the Gazette
In the report of the “Surratt trial” published in yr paper on Thursday I notice a gross inaccuracy that I presume was the fault of the Reporter rather than the mistake of the eloquent counsel for the defense (Mr. Bradley).  I will correct the statement as briefly as I can by saying that it was the Grandfather Richard Booth not J.B. Booth Sr. that allowed the Red Republicanism of which he was so fully imbued to in   was a thorough Red-Republican.  He lived in its day and was himself an ardent admirer of “John Wilkes” of the North Briton.  He came to this country and state an old man and settled in Harford County with his son. He was an extremely brilliant but very erratic man and commenced here practically to develop his ideas of right in that direction by aiding slaves servants to escape into Pennsylvania.  His evident sincerity in the cause of human rights, his unbalanced mind and the popularity of his son together saved him on several occasions from prosecution although the son (J.B.B. Sr.) did on more than one occasion pay for the a escaped runaway.”

John T. Ford was well acquainted with the Booths. Junius, Edwin, and John performed at his theatres and he had a working relationship with them, and no doubt a personal relationship as well. Though John’s manuscript is not dated, it was obviously written at the time of the Surratt trial, so the events of the assassination and his relationship with the Booths would be fresh in his mind. I believe John Ford is a solid, credible source and to be believed.
     Richard Booth moved to America in 1822 and resided with his son Junius. When Junius obtained the Harford County land for his farm in 1824 and moved a log house to the property, his father, Richard, remained with his son and lived at the Booth farm till shortly before his death in 1839. This leaves at least a 15 year time frame for Richard to help slaves to escape to Pennsylvania. The Booth farm was basically isolated and is located along a route that led to Pennsylvania. The farm was mostly wooded and fairly large, 177 acres by 1825 (see note) and would provide sufficient cover to shelter runaway slaves during their exodus to Pennsylvania.
     During the years Richard resided at the farm, it was extremely dangerous to assist escaped slaves—in fact it was criminal. Richard and Junius risked everything by helping them. Obviously, because of the danger in being discovered, they would not have told anyone what they were doing, unless they had absolute trust in whom they confided. Likewise, the slaves would not have revealed who their benefactors were for the same reason.
     By the time John Ford wrote this manuscript, Richard and Junius were no longer living; the Civil War had ended; the thirteenth amendment was in place, and more than twenty-five years had passed since they aided the runaways.
     This information adds to the history of the Booths and the Booth farm. For the general public who are only familiar with John Wilkes Booth, Ford’s statement shines a new light on the Booth family. The Booths were truly a house divided.

Note: I contacted Michael Pierce, an experienced Harford County historical research mapmaker, and he offered to help me map out the original Booth farm. With detailed research and using the latest mapping software, he determined that Junius obtained 159.25 acres in 1824. The following year he obtained a little over 17 acres—expanding the farm to about 177 acres, not the 150 acres that some authors claim. Mike is currently working on creating a map of the original farm that will be framed and displayed in Tudor Hall.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Share Your Love of History—Become a Volunteer

The historic Tudor Hall is a fascinating piece of Maryland and our nation’s history. Visitors to Tudor Hall explore the story of the Maryland Booths who left their mark on America forever. By volunteering with Spirits of Tudor Hall, you become a part of sharing this part of history. Spirits of Tudor Hall is the Junius B. Booth Society volunteer organization created to establishing a docent program at Tudor Hall and opening the house for public tours on a regular basis.  As a volunteer, it doesn’t require a lot of time—just a love of history, and a desire to share in keeping the story of Tudor Hall alive.

We need you. There’s a place for everyone who volunteers—whether you want to lead tours, greet visitors, or do odd jobs—we will gladly match you up with your interests and skills. From time to time there are also opportunities to help with special events at Tudor Hall.

 If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact
Jill Redding, Volunteer Coordinator 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Give the Gift of History

The Junius B. Booth Society and The Historical Society of Harford County are offering a unique opportunity. You can now own a piece of historic Tudor Hall─ the house that Junius Brutus Booth built for his family.
     The chimney at Tudor Hall was structurally unsound and it was removed so that a new chimney could be built. Vintage photographs reveal that the original chimney, which dated to the construction of the house which began in the fall of 1851, was repaired and modified at least once in the years after Samuel A. S. Kyle purchased Tudor Hall in 1878 from Mary Ann Holmes Booth, widow of Junius Brutus Booth, Sr. The exact date of these repairs and modifications is unknown at this time.
     As a result, the age of any of the bricks removed from the chimney in July 2009 is uncertain. All that can be said with certainty is that the bricks were part of the chimney at Tudor Hall for many years.  We are offering 400 of the bricks from the old chimney at Tudor Hall for sale to the public. Proceeds will go to support the Junius B. Booth Society and The Historical Society of Harford County, in part, to catalog and preserve materials related to the Booth family and Tudor Hall. The Junius B. Booth Society and The Historical Society of Harford County are nonprofit organizations which work to make the public more aware of the individual members of the Booth family and Tudor Hall.
     The brick for sale comes with a numbered Certificate of Authenticity and a pictorial history of the Tudor Hall chimney and makes a great gift. The cost of each brick is $40.00 (tax included) and $15.00 for shipping/handling. To purchase this unique piece of history, send a check for $55.00 made out to: The Historical Society of Harford County, Inc.

Mail to:
The Historical Society of Harford County
Tudor Hall Brick
143 N. Main Street
Bel Air, MD  21014

If you would like to pick it
up in person, call 410-838-5257