Lincoln’s assassination recounted by last surviving witness on 1950s game show
In 1956, the last surviving witness of Lincoln’s assassination recounted the event on a CBS game show called I’ve Got A Secret. Samuel James Seymour was five years old when his godmother took him to see Our American Cousin at the Ford Theater in Washington DC in 1865. When the fatal shot rang out, he was seated in a balcony directly across from the president.
Seymour tumbles his way to the show
Seymour almost didn’t make it to his scheduled appearance on the TV panel show. He flew from his home in Arlington, Virginia, to New York City where the show was being filmed. The day before, he took a nasty fall. It left him with a fat, swollen knot above his eye.
The host’s producers tried to talk him into delaying his appearance. Seymour’s doctor left it up to him. It’s a good thing that Seymour persisted. He died two months later. When you’re over 100 years old in 1956, you play today!
A game of strategic guessing
I’ve Got a Secret is a classic “guess-what-I’m-thinking” game. Four celebrity panelists have thirty seconds to try and guess what the contestant’s secret is. The panelists that day were Jayne Meadows, Lucille Ball, Bill Cullen, and Henry Morgan. After Seymour was led on stage, he whispered his secret into host Gary Moore’s ear: “I saw John Wilkes Booth shoot Abraham Lincoln.”
Bill Cullen was the first to go. He quickly guessed that Seymour’s secret had something to do with the Civil War. The contestants ended up solving the riddle pretty quickly, narrowing it down to a political figure and then to Lincoln’s assassination. Whoever knew celebrities were smart?!
A boy in a balcony
Seymour explained to the audience how terrifying the whole event was. He remembered President Lincoln entering the theater at the beginning of the play and waving to everyone from the balcony. All of the sudden during the play, a shot rang out.
Lincoln was slumped forward, but Seymour’s five-year-old brain couldn’t grasp why. He was more concerned about Booth, who obviously hurt his leg in the fall. Seymour won a can of Prince Albert pipe tobacco for his appearance.
See for yourself!