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James Hope


Mr. James Hope was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1843. He lived with his grandmother, Mary Ann Brown, until she sent him “working out” as a young boy to the Richmond Theater. Because he was known as her grandson, he was called, “Jim Brown.” 

While working at the Richmond Theater, he met and worked for Ms. Mary Delvin. She later married Mr. Edwin Booth, the elder brother of the infamous assassin. Mr. Hope spent the years from 1863 to 1875 as the personal valet of Mr. Booth. In fact, he was the one who told him of his brother’s killing of President Lincoln. 

Mr. Hope had a near total recall of everything Shakespearean. He often recited lines from plays and sonnets. At the time, African American actors were kept in vaudeville or minstrel shows, and Mr. Hope was interested in neither.  

Instead, Mr. Hope was an entrepreneur. In 1875, he and Mrs. Ella Hope moved to Westminster, Maryland. He opened a barber shop in the City Hotel, while she worked as a dressmaker. There, in his 3-chair, 3-spitoon shop, he would sing and recite Shakespeare to his many clients.

He died, scissors in hand, of a heart attack one evening. Reportedly, Ella offered to finish the cut for the farmer in the chair, and was politely refused. 

No further record of Ella has been found. She may have settled outside of Carroll County. The couple had no children.

Maryland State Archives

The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, 10 Jun 1893

Carroll County Times, 19 Feb 1995

Carroll County Times, 31 Oct 1984

American Sentinel, 12 May 1900

Democratic Advocate, 12 May 1900