Henry Rathbone

The Lincoln assassination is a scary and tragic part of history. But one part that tends to get left out of the story is the life of Major Henry Rathbone, one of the individuals attending the play with Lincoln when the assassination occurred. The true history of Rathbone,_Henry_Reed (1)Henry Rathbone is chilling and seems like a tale out of a horror novel.

On April 14, 1865, Major Rathbone and his fiancee Clara Harris accepted an invitation to see a play at Ford’s Theatre from President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.

During the play, noted stage actor John Wilkes Booth entered the Presidential box and fatally shot Lincoln in the head with a pistol. As Rathbone attempted to apprehend Booth, Booth slashed Rathbone’s left arm with a dagger from the elbow to his shoulder. Rathbone later recalled that he was horrified at the anger on Booth’s face. Rathbone again grabbed at Booth as Booth prepared to jump from the sill of the box. He grabbed onto Booth’s coat, causing Booth to fall awkwardly to the stage, perhaps breaking his leg. Booth nonetheless escaped, and remained at large for twelve days.

Despite his serious wound, Rathbone escorted Mary Lincoln to the Petersen House across the street, where the president had been taken. Shortly thereafter he passed out due to blood loss. Harris arrived soon after and held his head in her lap while he lay semiconscious. When a surgeon who had been attending Lincoln finally examined him, it was realized that his wound was more serious than initially thought. Booth had cut him nearly to the bone and severed an artery. Rathbone was taken home while Harris remained with Mary Lincoln as Abraham lay dying over the next nine hours. This death vigil lasted through the night, until morning, when President Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865.

Rathbone eventually healed back up to full physical health but the events of the night would leave him mentally haunted until his dark end. As time passed by, seventeen years to be exact, Rathbone traveled to Albany, New York, to the office of his wife’s uncle. Hamilton Harris was the man a younger Henry Rathbone studied law with and on this day, Rathbone was on his way back to Europe with his family. This time was different though, as Harris thought, Rathbone was ill and when asked what was wrong, Rathbone simply said it was dyspepsia which is a chronic ailment of the stomach.

By the fall of 1882, Rathbone was 45 years old and was constantly plagued by mysterious medical problems. One doctor that treated him described the attacks as “neuralgia of the head and face” and heart palpitations and difficulty breathing were also symptoms Rathbone suffered from. These are symptoms that we now might recognize at PTSD. Rathbone had changed the night of Lincoln’s assassination, his youth and hopes of a happy family life we’re taken from him. His wife often attested that he was just different, moodier and at times abusive.

In 1870, Rathbone retired from the Army due to his sickness. After Rathbone’s visit to Hamilton Harris’s office, Rathbone and his family set sail to Germany. After their arrival Rathbone’s health continued to fail. He became depressed and some people called him erratic. His marriage also suffered more and was tense much of the time.  As Rathbone’s depression got worse he was convinced that his wife was leaving him and taking the kids. He couldn’t bare to lose any semblance of the life he wished he could’ve lived.

Just before dawn, on Christmas Eve of 1883, Rathbone grabbed his revolver and knife and walked to his children’s bedroom. His wife was able to distract him and had him follow her into their bedroom and closed the door. It was there that Rathbone shot and stabbed Clara until she died. Rathbone then turned the knife on himself, a failed suicide attempt. When the police arrived at the murder scene, the bloody and dazed Rathbone reportedly claimed there had been people hiding behind the pictures on the wall.

News spread fast about the tragic events that took place in Germany. Dr. Pope said, “He never was thoroughly himself after that night [the assassination]…I have no hesitation in affirming that the dreaded tragedy, which preyed upon his nervous and impressionable temperament for many years, laid the seeds of that homicidal mania.” Henry Rathbone was declared insane and was never allowed to be prosecuted for the crime of murder. Rathbone, after recovering from his wounds was sent to live out his days in the Provincial Insane Asylum where he died on August 14, 1911.

Sometimes the saddest and scariest stories are the true ones.


This post is apart of our 13 days of Halloween series. Checkout our other spooky posts:

  1. Washington Ghost Stories
  2. Out of Place Artifacts
  3. Henry Rathbone
  4. Charon and the Journey to Hades
  5. Post-Mortem Photography
  6. All Hallows Eve Divination Games
  7. Saved By The Bell and other Idioms
  8. Halloween Coins
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World
  11. Ancient Egyptian Alien Coins
  12. Superstitions Around the World
  13. A Brief History of Halloween

The Aero Club of America

The Aero Club of America (ACA) was a social club formed in 1905 by Charles Jasper Glidden and Augustus Post to promote aviation in America. It was the parent organization of numerous state chapters, the first being the Aero Club of New England. In 1905, few people believed powered aircraft would be feasible in the future. At the beginning, the ACA’s goal was to promote aviation in any way possible, as both a sport and a commercial endeavor. ACA’s early work helped advance aviation in its early years faster than it might have developed otherwise.

Although the ACA officially began in 1905, there are photos of high society and adventurers printed in 1902 with the stamp, “Aero Club”. Charles Glidden, Homer Hedge, Dave Morris, John F. O’Rourke, and Augustus Post, members of the Automobile Club of America, in the summer of 1905 founded the Aero Club of America. They were avid balloonists but found little support in America for the sport of aviation. With determination they established a new club with an organization similar to the Automobile Club but whose purpose was to promote aviation, much like the Aero Club of France. Homer Hedge became the first President and Augustus Post the first secretary.

Three different conventions were held in New York among aeronautical clubs and societies in 1910. The National Council of Affiliated Clubs of the Aero Club of America, was formed. Thirty-nine delegates, representing constituencies from Pasadena, California, to Boston, met at the Aero Club and formed the parent organization of various state chapters.

BelmontParkAirShow

1910 Belmont Park Air Show

At the Belmont Air Show in October 1910, a considerable controversy arose between the Englishman Claude Graham-White and the American J. B. Moisant. In one race around the Statue of Liberty, Graham-White won by several minutes, but due to a technicality, the race and considerable prize money was awarded to Moisant. John Armstrong Drexel made public statements accusing the organization of favoritism toward its own members, and Drexel held a competing dinner banquet at the same time as the awards banquet of the organization. The schism among the membership threatened the integrity of the organization, but was ultimately resolved with Drexel’s resignation.

In 1911, the Aero Club of New York put on the First Industrial Airplane Show that was held in conjunction with the 11th U.S. International Auto Show at Manhattan’s Grand Central Palace, in New York City. It was a spectacular event with prominent speakers, and an enthusiastic large crowd that would gaze upon a full-size airplane for the first time. It started December 31, 1910, until mid-January 1911.

In 1919, the rules for a transatlantic flight competition between New York and Paris were written by the secretary of the club, Augustus Post. He worked with wealthy hotel owner Raymond Orteig in securing the $25,000 for the Orteig Prize. The $25,000 prize was to be awarded “to the first aviator of any Allied Country crossing the Atlantic in one flight, from Paris to New York or New York to Paris”. After five years of failing to attract competitors, the award was then put under the control of a seven-member Bryant Bank board of trustees, which awarded it to Charles Lindbergh for his successful 1927 flight in the Spirit of St. Louis.

Glenn_Curtiss's_pilot_license

Glenn H. Curtiss’ Pilot License

The Club issued the first pilot’s licenses in the United States, and successful completion of its licensing process was required by the United States Army for its pilots until 1914. Some of the later licenses issued by the ACA even bore the printed signature of Orville Wright; Wright served for a time as Chairman of the Aero Club of America’s Contest Committee.

Pilot’s licenses were not required by law (except by some states) until well after World War I. AMA licenses were required for participation in sporting events and demonstrations sanctioned by the ACA and FAI, and they gave credibility to pilots seeking to perform demonstration flights for hire, but many American pilots never applied for a license, which required a demonstration of flight proficiency. The ACA was also notorious for the inflexibility of its licensing process, which required,  a letter of application, a photograph of a candidate, appointment of an ACA examiner, and his report of examination, all of which had to be submitted in the correct form and sequence for a license to be issued, whether the candidate passed the flight test or not.

In present day the Aero Club of America is now the National Aeronautic Association (NAA). The primary mission of NAA closely aligns with the original Club’s mission; the advancement of the art, sport, and science of aviation and space flight by fostering opportunities to participate fully in aviation activities and by promoting public understanding of the importance of aviation and space flight to the United States. On their website the Association states that in carrying out this mission, National Aero Club of the United States, will:

“Develop opportunities to strengthen the mutual objectives of NAA and its corporate members, air sport organizations, chapters and affiliates, including the formation of affiliated aero clubs in U.S. cities where such organizations do not now exist; Represent U.S. aviation throughout the world as a member of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale; Encourage, coordinate, document, and promote competition and record-making aviation and space events in accordance with the rules prescribed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, of which NAA is the official U.S. representative; Recognize and reward those who make outstanding contributions to the advancement of aviation and space flight through presentations of awards and other honors; Endorse sound national programs and other efforts designed to help the United States remain a leader in aviation and space flight; Support and encourage aviation and space education programs; Promote and encourage public participation in, and appreciation of, U.S. aviation and space activities.”


Whether your into  history, aviation, or apart of the current National Aeronautic Association; this Aero Club of America envelope addressed to the 1911 president of the club is a an artifact to treasure. It is available now in our Ebay store. 

s-l1600 (11)