Another dress fragment associated with Lincoln's assassination is described as a bloody remnant of Laura Keene's costume.

Laura Keene, a critically acclaimed actress, was starring in Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre the night the president was murdered.

Dress fragment attributed to Laura Keene. (CHS 1935.107)
"The Laura Keene Schottisch," sheet music published by Root & Cady, Chicago, 1856 (ICHi-30940).

The English-born Keene had a remarkable professional career. Before she became an actress, she worked in an art gallery as a "retoucher of 'old masters." She eventually became a critically acclaimed actress and the first woman theatre manager in the United States.

Miss Keene was a striking beauty and starred in both Shakespearean and comedic productions. She managed Laura Keene's New Theatre in New York City from 1855-63, a facility designed for her by noted architect John Trimble. Keene trained her own actors, adapted scripts, and encouraged American playwrights with thousand dollar prizes. Keene's productions were famous for their sumptuous costumes, which she designed and stitched herself. Theater historians claim that the success of Keene's productions helped established New York City as the leading theatrical center of the United States. Keene later produced Fine Arts, a literary magazine . (THEODORE 200-201)

Most theatres shuttered their doors as America went to war. The New York Herald reported "it is not so much that people have become pinched in pecuniary matters, as that they have lost all present taste for artificial excitements."(HENNEKE 146) Keene toured the United States, producing cheap melodramas that were ridiculed by the critics. Chicago schoolteacher Frances Owens attended a Keene performance at the local McVicker's Theatre in November 1864:

Pamela and I attended the Matinee at McVicker's. Laura Keene is there and played "East Lynn." Part of it was very affecting and I guess every handkerchief was called into requisition...Harry Hawk was in the piece and did splendidly as an English lover. He sang "If you love me as I love you, No butter knife can cut our love in two..." (OWENS)

Listen to the "Laura Keene Schottisch"!

Carte de visite of actress Laura Keene (ICHi-31004).
Keene's career slowly declined during the Civil War years, although her New York theater was the last to close following the outbreak of hostilities.