Last Eye Witness to the Lincoln Assassination

We sometimes forget how brief American history has been in terms of the entire history of mankind.  Samuel J. Seymour was five years old when he was taken by his godmother to Ford’s Theater in Washington to see the comedy Our American Cousin on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. 

Seymour heard the shot fired by John Wilkes Booth, saw Lincoln fall forward in his seat and  Booth leap from the Presidential box on to the stage.  Seymour lived to appear on I’ve Got a Secret in 1956 in the above video, less than a year before I was born. 

Ironically Seymour’s father, George Seymour, was an overseer of 300 slaves on a Maryland plantation.

Seymour would die soon after his appearance on the show, on April 13, 1956, just one day shy of 91 years  from Lincoln’s assassination.  One example as to how times have changed:  The grand prize on the game show was $80.00 and a carton of cigarettes!

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  1. Great post and a wonderful piece of history. I forwarded
    the link to my son who is studying history at UNC Chapel
    Hill. I also sent it to each of my daughters.

    I was almost 2, then; too young to have remembered the
    show even if I saw it, but I do remember Gary Moore and
    that show.

  2. Just last night, my daughter and I were watching Lonesome Dove, which provoked a discussion about how times have changed and how long ago those Wild West days were.

    However, it occurred to me while we were talking that those days weren’t so long ago after all. My grandfather’s grandfather would have been alive during those days; he would have been an adolescent, but he would have experienced them first-hand nevertheless.

    This means that he could have passed on first-hand knowledge to my grandfather, who could have told the tales to me as a child.

    As I teach American History at a public high school, I constantly remind my students that history is not a subject – something that occurs in a book. It is something lived out and passed along through our families.

    Unfortunately, many of my students do not have an opportunity to learn history this way. They come from broken and divided families – and the greatest division is intergenerational. They often tell me that they don’t sit down with parents and grandparents to look at old family photos. They are becoming cut off from history.

    It has often struck me that an important part of the problems in our societies is that our children are cut off from themselves. There is a piece of themselves that has become lost – and this is mirrored in our society.

  3. I like how the reward was $80 and a carton… and the Winston logo front and center the whole time. That just would not happen on TV today. I bet the people on that show never thought that there would be a day when a carton would actually cost you $80.

  4. What was his mother thinking, taking her son to see a play on GOOD FRIDAY??? Why was a play staged on good Friday…?

  5. ‘Ancient’ history is indeed much closer to us in this young country. I’m 57 years old. My father was born in 1910. My paternal grandfather was born in 1856. My father recounted to me his father’s vivid recollection of being hoisted on the shoulders of my great grandfather to witness the largest mass hanging to ever occur in the United States on December 26, 1862 in Mankato Minnesota. 38 Santee Sioux warriors were executed for murder and other depredations. Needless to say it made a lasting impression on a six year old boy 1862, as well as the eight year old who heard the story in 1961.

  6. I was a Junior in high school when this was aired. I was too busy in those days to watch T.V. but that is very interesting. Wasn’t that the Gary Marr show? I remember watching a few episodes.

  7. I was close. It was Gary Moore, he hosted ” I’ve got a Secret ” for over 10 years. I think I will go back and watch some episodes.

  8. Amazing to see a witness to Lincoln’s assassination. I was a regular viewer of I’ve Got a Secret and the similar show What’s My Line? hosted by John Charles Daly, and I freely admit I thought the shows were fixed. Of all the possible historic events this 96 year old gentleman could have witnessed, notice how quickly Bill Cullen zeroed in to the right track. That was a common feature o the program. That said, I enjoyed the guests and their secrets, including the 80+ year old woman whose secret was that she was a great-great-great grandmother.

  9. The big events of the early 20th century are quickly passing from living memory as we speak.

    Both of my grandfathers (born in 1893 and 1896, respectively) enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War I, but only one saw any combat. One died in 1963, before I was born, and the other died in 1982.

    Now, according to Wikipedia there are just three — count ’em, three — verified living veterans of the First World War: Claude Stanley Choules, 109, of Perth, Australia; Florence Beatrice (Patterson) Greene, 109, of Norfolk, England; and Frank Woodruff Buckles, 110, of Charles Town, W. Va. Choules is also the last living veteran of BOTH World Wars, having served in the Royal Navy during World War I and in the Australian Navy during World War II.

  10. I saw this show, back in the ’90s, when the local PBS station was showing old game shows, during the late night hours.

    I was amazed by what I had seen. As I watched, I quickly firgued out that my parents would have been 14 and 12 at the time this aired. Then I realized my grandparents were alive while there were still many Civil War verterans around. My granpa may have talked to one when he was younger.

    Then it occured to me that those veterans could have known people, like Preident Lincoln, who were alive when Presidents Adams and Jefferson, and other members of the Founding generation, were still alive.

    This means my granparents could’ve talked to people, who talked to people, who talked to veterans of the War for Independence! History stopped seeming so remote after seeing this episode of To Tell the Truth.

    The funny thing is, I was telling my sister about this very same episode with Mr. Seymour just last week. Weird.

  11. @ Mariosw:

    It probably had to do with the fact that American Protestantism, particularly in Presbyterian, Congregational, and Baptist forms – the descendants of the Puritans – often did not follow a liturgical calendar, and often did not observe even Christmas and Easter. April 15, 1965 may have been Good Friday to Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans, but to many of their Calvinist countryman, there was no Lent, and April 17 was just another Sunday. And given the recent surrender of General Lee, and the impending collapse of the Confederacy, I suspect the mood was quite festive.

    Even today there are evangelical Protestants who refuse to celebrate Christmas and Easter or else only celebrate the holy days because they have become part of the cultural landscape.

  12. “My grandparents could have talked to people, who talked to people, who talked to veterans of the War for Independence!”

    Actually, some of the great Fathers of the Church were in the same position with regard to Christ… if I’m not mistaken saints like Polycarp and Irenaeus in the 2nd century A.D., for example, knew people who had been personally acquainted with one or more of the Apostles.

  13. I believe St. Polycarp actually had been taught by St. John the Apostle.

    OTOH, I believe that a “brother of Jesus” was captured by Roman authorities and presented to an Emperor in the 2nd century. Obviously, this person had never seen our Lord during his earthly ministry, but was identifiable as a descendant of one of our Lord’s kinsmen.

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