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Clara Harris Rathbone (1845 - December 23, 1883) a American lady of U.S. Senator Ira Harris of New York. Clara and her fiancé, Major Henry Rathbone, accompanied Abraham Lincoln and his wife to Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865, and were present during his assassination.

On that day, President Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, had invited several people to attend the play Our American Cousin, including General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife. All had declined her invitation, for a variety of reasons. Mrs. Lincoln then asked the young couple to join the Presidential party, and they accepted. During the play, the famous American actor, John Wilkes Booth, surreptitiously entered the Presidential box and shot the President with a derringer. Rathbone, who tried to thwart the assassin's escape, was severely wounded by Booth, who wielded a large Rio Grande Camp dagger and attacked him. Rathbone was slashed and stabbed, primarily in his left arm, and collapsed from a loss of blood.

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The assassination of Abraham Lincoln. From left to right: Henry Rathbone, Clara Harris, Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth.

Major Rathbone eventually recovered from his injuries and later married Clara on July 11, 1867. By an unusual familial inter-connection she was actually Rathbone's stepsister, as her father had married his mother after the death of their respective spouses. Ira Harris was thus Rathbone's stepfather, becoming his father-in-law as well.

Rathbone and Clara had three children. In 1882, he was appointed U.S. Consul to the Province of Hanover, where the family relocated. His mental health gradually became more unstable, and he murdered her on December 23, 1883. Their children, who were also almost killed by their father, went to live with their uncle, William Harris, in the United States. Henry Rathbone spent the rest of his life in the asylum for the criminally insane in Hildesheim, Germany. He was buried in Hildesheim, next to Clara. His grave and his wife's were destroyed in 1952, as they had been abandoned and unattended since her death in 1883 and his death in 1911.

Their eldest son, Henry Riggs Rathbone (1870–1928), was a U.S. Congressman from Illinois.

See also[]


  • Richard Bak. (1998). The Day Lincoln was Shot. Taylor Publishing Company. Dallas, Texas.

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