Local Writer Uncovers Untold Story of Lincoln Assassination
A visit to the Petersen House, where President Lincoln died, inspired Kathy Canavan's latest project.
Though Abraham Lincoln’s assassination has inspired countless novels, essays and films, journalist Kathy Canavan, through five years of research, was able to uncover several new wrinkles for her new book, “Lincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror and the Assassination of America’s Greatest President.”
Nearly 250 pages and more than 750 footnotes make up Canavan’s work, which focuses on how the lives of Washingtonians were changed the night of April 15, 1865. Canavan, a reporter for Delaware Business Times, was working as a freelancer in Washington, D.C., when the idea occurred to her.
“While visiting the Petersen House, where Lincoln died, I asked the docent if there had been any books written about people who had stayed or lived there,” Canavan says. “When I found out that no one had written about those people, I knew there was a story there that I wanted to investigate.” Countless hours of research would produce nearly 25 chapters on those affected by the assassination, including the actors expecting their earnings on pay night at Ford’s Theater and the proprietors of Petersen House.
Author Kathy Canavan
“William Petersen, as it turns out, overbilled the government, charging rent, servant time and linen fees due to stains from the president’s blood,” Canavan says. “That bill was misfiled with the National Archive, but was editorialized in The Philadelphia Inquirer at the time. When I came across that article, it was one of many ‘wow’ moments in my research.”