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His goal was to be a famous actor like his father had been. In August 1855, Booth made his stage debut playing the Earl of Richmond in Shakespeare's Richard III. In 1857 Booth also played in Philadelphia, but he often missed cues and would forget his lines. He continued to move torwards his dream, however, and reached it in 1858 as a member of the Richmond Theatre. It was in Richmond where he truly became enamored with the Southern people and way of life. As his career took off, many called him "the handsomest man in America." He stood 5-8, had jet-black hair, ivory skin, and was lean and athletic. He had an easy charm about him that attracted women. In 1859 Booth was an eyewitness to the execution of John Brown, the abolitionist who had tried to start a slave uprising at Harper's Ferry. Temporarily wearing a militia uniform, Booth stood near the scaffold with other armed men to guard against any attempt to rescue John Brown before the hanging. The photograph to theleft is from Asia Booth Clarke's The Unlocked Book.In 1860 Booth's career as an actor took off. Soon he was earning $20,000 a year. He invested some money in the oil business. He was hailed as the "youngest tragedian in the world." He was playing the role of Duke Pescara in the Apostate at the Gayety Theater in Albany, New York, as President-elect Abraham Lincoln passed through on his way to Washington. Over the next several years he starred in Romeo and Juliet, The Apostate, The Marble Heart, The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, Othello, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, and Macbeth among others.In the spring of 1862 Booth was arrested and taken before a marshall in St. Louis formaking anti-government remarks. He told Asia, "So help me holy God! My soul, life,
and possessions are for the South." In the of 1864 Booth occasionally stayed at the McHenry House in Meadville, Pennsylvania. It is known that he registered at the McHenry House on June 10, 1864, and again on June 29, 1864 to make railroad connections. Scratched on a window pane in Room 22 in the McHenry House were the words "Abe Lincoln Departed This Life August 13th, 1864 By The Effects of Poison." After the assassination, these words drew much attention because of Booth's association with a druggist's clerk with easy access to poison. Although there has been much speculation as to who may have scratched these words, Booth had never been an occupant of the room where the words were scratched. The matter was ignored at the time. The person who scratched the words remains a mystery to this day.In the late summer of 1864 Booth began making plans to kidnap Abraham Lincoln. The President would be seized, taken to Richmond, and held in exchange for Confederate soldiers in Union prison camps. This would be a way of swelling the dwindling ranks of Confederate armies. Booth began recruiting a gang of conspirators. Within several months, he had recruited Michael O'Laughlen, Samuel Arnold, Lewis Powell (Paine), John Surratt, David Herold, and George Atzerodt. On March 15th Booth met with the entire group at Gautier's Restaurant on PennsylvaniaAvenue about 3 blocks from Ford's Theatre to discuss Lincoln's abduction. Shortly