With a single shot, John Wilkes Booth changed the course of American history. The weapon he chose was a .44-caliber pistol—made by Henry Deringer of Philadelphia. One shot was all that Booth had. The gun was favored for its small size—it could easily be concealed inside a pocket. It fired a single, round lead ball, weighing nearly an ounce—and was most accurate at close range.
After John Wilkes Booth shot the president at close range with his single shot deringer, he dropped the pistol on the floor of the theatre box. Pulling out his knife, he swiftly moved to jump over the balcony, grappling momentarily with Major Henry Rathbone, a guest of the Lincolns. Rathbone was severely cut in the brief scuffle with Booth and suffered major blood loss. Booth’s deringer was later discovered on the floor of the box and turned over to military authorities as they began to gather evidence in their investigation of the assassination of President Lincoln.
Photo by Carol M. Highsmith