Actress Laura Keene was starring in the comedy Our American Cousin. Mr. Ford placed an ad in the paper:

Ford's Theatre (ICHi-11160) and the playbill for Our American Cousin, 1865. Playbill appears courtesy of the Lincoln Collection, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

The Civil War had ended just five days earlier.

The city of Washington celebrated on Thursday April 13, 1865 with a holiday for workers, parades, and marching bands. Candles were in short supply after a grand illumination lit nearly every window in the capital. The Lincolns took a carriage ride to see the lights, as did Julia Shepherd, a young tourist who later wrote to her father:

Bird's-eye view of Washington, D.C. in the 1860s. From John B. Ellis' The Sights and Secrets of the National Capital, 1869 (ICHi-30937).

Thursday evening we drove to the city, and all along our route the city was one blaze of glorious light. From the humble cabin of the contraband to the brilliant White House light answered light down the broad avenue. The sky was ablaze with bursting rockets. Calcium lights shone from afar on the public buildings. Bonfires blazed in the streets and every device that human Yankee ingenuity could suggest in the way of mottoes and decoration made noon of midnight. (GOOD 56, 70)

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles recorded Lincoln's sentiments towards the defeated Confederates on his last day in office:

I hope there will be no persecution, no bloody work after the war is over. No one need expect me to take part in hanging or killing those men, even the worse of them. Frighten them out of the country, open the gates, let down the bars, scare them off, enough lives have been sacrificed. We must extinguish our resentment if we expect harmony and union. (RECK, Abraham Lincoln 37)

President Lincoln and his Cabinet with General Grant in the Council Chamber of the White House. Lithograph by Thomas Kelly, 1865 (ICHi-11180).
Mary and Abraham Lincoln planned an evening at Ford's Theatre on Good Friday in April 1865.
On Friday morning, President Lincoln met with his cabinet to begin planning the reunion of the North and South, urging "malice toward none and charity for all," the message of his recent second inaugural address.