Did John Wilkes Booth ever perform on stage in Detroit?



The answer: Yes!  As found in the book Lust for Fame: The Stage Career of John Wilkes Booth by Gordon Samples- Booth played in Detroit at Mrs. H.A. Perry’s Metropolitan Theater in November 1861. What makes it even more interesting is the fact that the Civil War was in full swing while Booth, the future killer of Abraham Lincoln, was playing to a Northern audience.  As it turned out, Booth played at a lot of Northern cities during the war. Besides Detroit, he played in such places as Portland, Me., Cincinnati, Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, and New Haven. Of course, he performed in many Southern towns and cities, as well, during the same period.

The Detroit crowds, apparently, loved Booth. A newspaper at the time-The Detroit Daily Advertiser-announced the coming of Booth to the city with the following statement, as revealed in the book by Samples:

“Mr. J.W.Booth.-The brother of the great Edwin Booth is engaged by Mrs. Perry and will appear tonight. He is said to be both like and unlike his father Junius Brutus Booth, and his famous brother Edwin, and is by nature and education an actor. If all that we hear about him is true, he is the greatest tragedian on the American stage-the genius of the Booth family has been bequeathed to this third son-John Wilkes-without being diminished in fullness or dimmed in luster.”


After opening night for Booth in Detroit, the Detroit Free Press echoed agreement with the statement of the Detroit Daily Advertiser. The Free Press reporter made the comment that Wilkes Booth “bids fair to be almost equalled by that of his father…”  Booth’s Detroit season occurred as listed:


Monday, November 11: as Julian St. Pierre in The Wife

Tuesday, November 12: as Macbeth in Macbeth

Wednesday, November 13: as Othello in Othello

Thursday, November 14: as Othello in Othello

Friday, November 15 (benefit): as Richard in Richard III / as Romeo Jaffier Jenkins in Too Much For Good Nature

Saturday, November 16: as Hamlet in Hamlet

Monday, November 18: as Richard in Richard III


John Wilkes Booth did not perform again in Detroit after the November 1861 gig.  Another interesting note to this story is found in the book Nineteenth-Century American Woman Theater Managers by Jane Kathleen Curry. She mentions that Mrs. H.A. Perry managed Detroit’s Metropolitan Theater for only a short time-and that she herself was also an actress.  In 1867, she married Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. -and was afterward known as Agnes Booth. Even more weird, prior to her marriage to Junius Brutus Booth Jr., she made her Broadway debut in 1865 (the year Wilkes Booth murdered Lincoln) by portraying Florence Trenchard in Our American Cousin.

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One Response to “Did John Wilkes Booth ever perform on stage in Detroit?”

  1. Greg Cummings says:

    Where was the H.A. Perry’s Metropolitan Theater?


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