John Wilkes Booth & The Russell House, Detroit


The above ¬†sketch is that of the Russell House in Detroit, Michigan. It is found in the book: History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan by Silas Farmer. From the picture, one gets a sense of what a magnificent hotel it must have been. It was located right in the heart of the downtown area. Author Arthur Loux has informed interested readers that John Wilkes Booth lodged there in November of 1861. I mentioned this fact in a posting two weeks ago. Loux writes about Booth’s Detroit stay in his book: John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day. Booth had an engagement at the 1,200 seat Metropolitan Theater “where he united with his friend John Albaugh, then a member of the theater’s stock company. Agnes Perry, wife of Harry A. Perry, manager of the theater, later became the third wife of Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. The terms of Booth’s engagement gave him fifty percent of each night’s proceeds after the first $60. Booth earned $116.92 for his seven performances, or $16.70 a performance.” That may not seem like much money nowadays but back then it was. Booth could certainly afford to stay at the Russell House. Thinking about the life he had already carved out for himself- even in 1861- it’s somewhat astounding that he was willing to give it all up a few years later to murder Lincoln. I wonder if Booth thought about that when he was on the run and being chased by the authorities. It didn’t matter by then, of course- he had done the deed- and there was no turning back. He had traded such luxuries as what the Russell House could offer for a hidden spot in the swamp in April 1865.


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