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John Wilkes Booth's Family
John Wilkes Booth, Edwin Booth, & Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. in Julius Caesar
John Wilkes Booth, Edwin Booth, & Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. in Julius Caesar

When John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, he was already famous as part of a well-known theatrical family. His father, Junius Brutus Booth, had been a noted Shakesperean actor in England before immigrating the the United States in 1821, where his continued success kept the family financially well-off, even with 10 children. One of John's brothers, Edwin Booth, was considered by some historians to be the greatest American actor of the 19th century, particularly in the role of "Hamlet." Another brother, Junius Brutus Booth, Jr., was well known for his roles as "King John" and as "Cassius" in Julius Caesar. Junius, Jr.'s wife, Agnes Booth, was a successful stage actress in her own right. Junius, Sr. toured with this sons Edwin and Junius, Jr. through California in 1852, but passed away that year. John began acting around that time, and he intially asked to be billed as "J. B. Wilkes" to avoid riding on his family's coattails. In 1864, one year before shooting Lincoln, he played alongside his brothers for the first and last time in a production of Julius Ceasar (see photo). Ironically, John Wilkes Booth played Marc Antony, friend to the assassinated Ceasar.

Booth, Sr. instilled in his sons not only a love of theatre, but also a strong anti-authoritarian streak. John Wilkes Booth was named after the English radical politician John Wilkes, a distant relative of the family. There's also a family connection to more recent British politics: John Wilkes Booth's uncle was the great-great-great grandfather of Cherie Booth Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 12:45 pm
as a booth cousin, i beg to differ with the anti authorative comment. junius booth sr. taught his children from the bible, the torah and many religious books as well as many quaker teachings. his family, then and now were taught respect for all of God's creatures and as a child three generations later we were taught to not kill bugs, mice, etc. junius had his demons ( wife and child in england )and combined with his melancholy and drink seemed posessed and demented himself. wilkes as the family called him, was greatly beloved by his mother and sisters and known to have a passionate side and his friends spoke about his great loyalty and passions. As a blood cousin to JWB and Edwin Booth, and the great niece to Joseph Booth, the younger son, we have a direct account of happenings within the Booth family and home.Neither mad, or jealous of Edwin, Wilkes set out on a course that he thought would change the course of US history, and thought he would be a conquiring hero, but change it did,
Submitted by: jOANNE hULME