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Samuel Seymour Had a Lincoln Secret

Edward Epstein

Washington D.C.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Samuel Seymour was 96 years old and he had a secret.

On the Feb. 8, 1956, edition of the popular 1950s' game show "I've Got a Secret," the frail 96 year-old Marylander answered questions from a panel of celebrities of the day as they tried to guess his secret: At age five, he had witnessed Abraham Lincoln's assassination on the fateful evening of April 14, 1865.

As far as anyone knows, Seymour was the last living survivor of the fateful events at Ford's Theater. Escorted on camera by the show's host, Garry Moore, Seymour had a big welt over his left eye. He had fallen at his hotel in Manhattan the night before and producers said he didn't have to appear on the show if he didn't want to, but Seymour insisted.

He wanted to tell his story. He had been taken to the theater by his governess to see "Our American Cousin," a popular play of the day, and remembers hearing a shot, the one fired by assassin John Wilkes Booth, and then seeing Booth leap from the president's box down to the stage, breaking a leg as he landed. "I was scared to death," Seymour told the panel after they rather quickly guessed his secret.

Not long before going on TV, Seymour's story had appeared in the "American Weekly" magazine, a Sunday newspaper supplement published by the Hearst Corp. In the ghost-written article, Seymour recalled, "That night I was shot 50 times at least, in my dreams - and I sometimes still relive the horror of Lincoln's assassination dozing in my rocker as an old codger like me is bound to do."

Even though he didn't stump the panel, the show gave him its top prize: $80 and a carton of Winston cigarettes, which were made by the show's sponsor back in the era when tobacco companies were among TV's biggest advertisers. But after learning that Seymour was a pipe smoker, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., substituted a can of Prince Albert pipe tobacco for the cigarettes.

The elderly Seymour died just little more than two months after his moment on national TV, on April 12, 1956. He is buried in Baltimore.

Here is the link to the video of Seymour's "I've Got a Secret" appearance:


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