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The name of John Wilkes Booth conjures up a picture of Americas most infamous assassinthe killer of perhapsthe greatest president of the United States However J Wilkes Booth led a very prominent life as an actor in the years preceding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln This period of his life is often forgotten or overlooked The booth family name in the nineteenth century was strongly identified with the American theater scene there was no greater name among American actors at this time Junius Brutus Booth Sr came to the United States from England in 1821 and established the Booth name upon the American stage He left his legacy to be carried by his sons EdwinJohn Wilkesand Junius Brutus Jr All of the Booth children but one were born out of wedlock John Wilkes Booth was born on May 10 1838 in a log house The family home was on property near Bel Air Maryland twenty-five miles south of the Mason- Dixon line Elder brother Edwin supervised his younger brothers upbringing Later Edwin and older sister Asia would write about their eccentric brothers behavior Francis Wilson who wrote a biography of Booth in 1929 stated that Booth opened his stage career in 1855 at the Charles Street Theatre in Baltimore and began performing on a regular basis two years later Once Booth embarked upon his acting career he wanted the comparisons between himself and his late father to cease It was a common practice of theater companies to retain actors who would complement a touring star figure Booth eventually became one of these star figures with stock companies for one and two week engagements Often a different play was performed each night requiring Booth to stay up studying his new role until dawn when he would rise and make his way to the theater for rehearsal Booth began his stock theater appearances in 1857 in
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