Take Edwin Thomas, for instance. Edwin Thomas Booth, that is. At age fifteen he debuted
on the stage playing Tressel to his father's Richard III. Within a few short years he was
playing the lead in Shakespearean tragedies throughout the United States and Europe. He
was the Olivier of his time. He brought a spirit of tragedy that put him in a class by
himself. Edwin had a younger brother, John, who was also an actor. Although he could not
compare with his older brother, he did give a memorable interpretation of Brutus in the
1863 production of Julius Caesar, by the New York Winter Garden Theater. Two years later,
he performed his last role in a theater when he jumped from the box of a bloodied
President Lincoln to the stage of Ford's Theater. John Wilkes Booth met the end he
deserved. But his murderous life placed a stigma over the life of his brother Edwin.
An invisible asterisk now stood beside his name in the minds of the people. He was no
longer Edwin Booth the consummate tragedian, but Edwin Booth the brother of the assassin.
He retired from the stage to ponder the question why? Edwin Booth's life was a tragic
accident simply because of his last name. The sensationalists wouldn't let him separate
himself from the crime. It is interesting to note that he carried a letter with him that
could have vindicated him from the sibling attachment to John Wilkes Booth. It was a
letter from General Adams Budeau, Chief Secretary to General Ulysses S. Grant, thanking
him for a singular act of bravery. It seems that while he was waiting for a train on the
platform at Jersey City, a coach he was about to board bolted forward. He turned in time
to see that a young boy had slipped from the edge of the pressing crowd into the path of
the oncoming train. Without thinking, Edwin raced to the edge of the platform and, linking
his leg around a railing, grabbed the boy by the collar. The grateful boy recognized him,
but he didn't recognize the boy. It wasn't until he received the letter of thanks that he
learned it was Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of his brother's future victim.
Tim Kimmel, Little House
on the Freeway, pp. 105-106.