“Don’t wish to disturb you”
On the afternoon of April 14, 1865, just hours before he assassinated President Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth left this calling card for Vice President Andrew Johnson at his Washington D.C. hotel. Booth’s co-conspirator, George Atzerodt was to kill Johnson that night, but he lost his nerve and did not make an attempt. Historians continue to debate why Booth left his card with Johnson.
Calling card left by John Wilkes Booth. National Archives, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army)
Booth’s calling card is among the featured items at the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" exhibit now on display at the National Archives Museum.
Bullet Proof Coat
This beige coat worn by President Gerald R. Ford was designed not only to keep him warm and dry but also to protect his life.
This coat came with a bullet-proof vest liner along with more standard features like the six front buttons, adjustable sleeve cuffs, and pockets accessible from the inside. The zip-up bullet-proof vest is made of Kevlar and is covered with cloth identical in color to the coat. Together both pieces weigh 6 lbs., 15 oz.
A label sewn onto the front of the vest provides cleaning instructions and gives an issue date of October 1975, the month after President Ford survived two assassination attempts during separate trips to California.
-from the Ford Library
President Gerald Ford escaped the first of two assassinations attempts within a month on September 5, 1975, when Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme’s gun failed to fire during the president’s trip to Sacramento.
The Case of Dr. Samuel Mudd
On April 15, 1865, Dr. Samuel Mudd set the leg and allowed President Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice David Herold sleep at his house. Dr. Mudd was convicted of conspiring to help Booth escape because he did not alert the authorities to Booth’s presence at his farm. He was given a life sentence, but was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson on February 8, 1869 following his leadership and heroic action to help the sick during a yellow fever epidemic at Fort Jefferson where he was imprisoned.
Dr. Mudd’s grandson Dr. Richard Mudd worked hard to clear his grandfather’s of complicity in the assassination. He petitioned President Jimmy Carter who sent this reply on July 24, 1979.
"…Your petition and the petitions submitted to me on behalf of your grandfather by numerous members of Congress, several state legislatures, historians and private citizens have been exhaustively considered by my staff over the past two years. Regrettably, I am advised that the findings of guilt and the sentence of the military commission that tried Dr. Mudd in 1865 are binding and conclusive judgement, and that there is no authority under law by which I, as President, could set aside his conviction. All legal authority vested in the President to act in this case was exercised when President Andrew Johnson granted Dr. Mudd a full and unconditional pardon on February 8, 1869."
Read more documents about Dr. Samuel Mudd at the Jimmy Carter Library.
"This is the private box in Ford’s Theater, Washington, where President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, on the night of April 14, 1865. "
For another perspective on that evening, see the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police blotter of April 14, 1865.
"At this hour the melancholy intelligence of the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, President of the U.S, at Fords Theater was brought to this office, and information obtained from the following persons goes to show that the assassin is a man named J. Wilks [sic] Booth…"
The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police blotter of April 14, 1865.
Vice President George Bush’s Notes Regarding the Assassination Attempt on President Ronald Reagan, 03/30/1981
This item is a Flight Information Card produced by the 89th Military Airlift Group for use aboard Air Force Two. In addition to information about a flight from Austin, Texas to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, there are notes handwritten by Vice President George H. W. Bush during the flight. These notes record the Vice President’s thoughts after being notified that there had been an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
The President is Shot
On March 30, 1981, two and a half months after his inauguration, President Reagan is shot in the chest by would-be assassin John Hinkley.
When the shots begin outside of the Washington Hilton, Ronald Reagan is immediately pushed into the armored presidential car by Secret Service agent Jerry Parr. Before the President is completely inside, one of the bullets ricochets off the limousine into his chest. The shot hits a rib, punctures a lung, and stops one inch short of the President’s heart.
Three other men were also shot protecting the President, Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy, Washington D.C. policeman Thomas Delahanty, and White House Press Secretary James Brady.
Born on January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a key leader of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. President Lyndon B. Johnson issued this proclamation for a national day of mourning after King was assasinated on April 4, 1968. This year we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. with a Federal Holiday on January 16th.
On November 22, 1963, during a planned two-day, five-city tour of Texas, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while traveling in a motorcade through Dallas, Texas. This statement by President Lyndon B. Johnson was written aboard Air Force One during the flight back to the nation’s capital, just hours after the assassination, and after the the oath of office was administered to Johnson. The President delivered the statement upon landing at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, DC.
Listen to President Johnson’s remarks
Read more at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Honoring Representative Leo J. Ryan
Today is the anniversary of one of the saddest days in congressional history: the assassination of Representative Leo J. Ryan, the only sitting Member of Congress ever assassinated.
Congressman Ryan’s delegation, including current Representative Jackie Speier, who was then a member of Ryan’s staff, visited the People’s Temple Agricultural Community in Jonestown, Guyana, in response to concerns from constituents with relatives living in the community. Prior to the trip, Ryan wrote a letter to Clement Zablocki, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asking for permission to travel to Guyana as a representative of the committee to investigate the situation first hand.
After arriving at the People’s Temple the previous afternoon, Ryan spent the morning of November 18 speaking with members of the community. Following an attempted knife attack on Ryan at the compound, the party, which now included several residents who wanted to leave the People’s Temple, headed to the airstrip at nearby Port Kaituma for the flight back to Guyana’s capital. At the airstrip, Ryan and his party were preparing to board airplanes when a trailer of armed People’s Temple members drove onto the airfield and opened fire. Ryan and four others were murdered. Nine people, including Speier, were injured.
Ryan’s trip to Jonestown was emblematic of his crusading spirit. From his earliest days of public service he used his position to explore the needs and concerns of the less fortunate by conducting first hand investigations of complex issues such as the conditions in Folsom Prison and African American unrest in the Watts section of Los Angeles. Today we honor the life and service of Congressman Leo J. Ryan.
Letter from Congressman Leo J. Ryan, 10/4/1978, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
October 6, 1981 - Egyptian President Anwar Sadat is assassinated
Over his 11 years as Egypt’s third president, Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat charted a new course for the country. He expelled Soviet advisors from Egypt and began to reform the economy. On October 6, 1973, he launched a surprise attack against Israeli forces in the Sinai in order to reclaim this Egyptian peninsula captured during the 1967 Six Day War.
In spite of new western investment and U.S. aid, the economy continued to decline, resulting in work strikes and riots over food shortages. Sadat, convinced that war was too costly for his people, took an unprecedented step onto the world stage. He traveled to Jerusalem at the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and addressed the Israeli Knesset (parliament) on November 20, 1977, calling for peace in the Middle East.
The following year, the Camp David meetings began between Prime Minister Begin, President Sadat, and President Jimmy Carter. Three scheduled days turned into thirteen intensely frustrating ones. However, on September 17, 1978 the Camp David Accords were signed and the groundwork laid out for the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. Both Sadat and Begin were awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for their negotiations.
Three years later, in 1981, President Sadat was killed by fundamentalists dissatisfied with the concessions that had been made in the peace process.