AN EXCEEDINGLY RARE FORD’S THEATER BOND SIGNED BY JOHN FORD; IT FUNDED THE ORIGINAL RESTORATION OF THE THEATER
JOHN FORD (1829-1894). Ford, a Baltimore born bookseller, was the owner of the infamous Ford’s Theater; after Lincoln’s assassination, the government seized the theater from Ford. DS. 1pp. 14 1/4” x 9 1/4”. Washington. August 5th 1863. A very rare and possibly unique Ford’s Theater bond signed “John T. Ford”. It certified “that there is due to J.P. Bartholew the sum of FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS, payable at any time within ten years from date, with interest payable annually. The said J.P. Bartholew is entitled to free admission to all dramatic performances given in said Theater until payment of said debt and interest.” Bartholew signed the document on the verso. The 10th Street site originally was a church, but abandoned when the congregation merged with another. Ford turned it into a theater against the wishes of many residents, and nine months after it opened in 1861, it was gutted by a fire. Ford needed money not only to rebuild the theater, but to enlarge and create his dream, one of the finest theaters in the country that could hold 2,500 people. To do this, he sold bonds and the cornerstone was laid on February 28, 1863 and the first performance of The Naiad Queen was done on August 27, 1863. It quickly became one of Washington’s most popular places; Lincoln saw eight plays there and May saw even more. In an ironic twist, Lincoln witnessed on November 9, 1863 The Marble Heart, starring a young actor named John Wilkes Booth. The document is in very fine condition. It has a light green background and an elaborate “Ford’s Theater” logo at the top; it boasts that it is “A First Class Structure Possessing All The Acoustic & Optical Advantages of an Academy of Music”. There is a lithographed vignette of the theater front in the upper left corner, as well as a number of other small theater-related vignettes. Although difficult to ascertain if this is a unique piece, it is certainly exceedingly rare and a fine Lincoln assassination item.