This One Mad Act
An exhibition commemorating the 120th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Carte de visite of unusual standing pose. E. & H. T. Anthony, from a Brady negative, circa 1863. (Boss Collections, GUL)
Unusual silk weaving of Lincoln, after a popular photograph. 9” x 10 ½”. French, 1876. (Boss Collection, GUL)
This woven jacquard portrait shows Lincoln above an eagle and shield. It was made for the exhibition at the Philadelphia Centennial. A similar one of George Washington was done as well.
Photograph of the “Council of War,” a statuary group by John Rogers. Tone silver print, mounted, early 1880s. (Boss Collection, GUL)
In this popular Rogers group, dated February, 1868, General U.S. Grant explains a map detail to Lincoln, while Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton polishes his glasses. Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’s eldest son, stated that Roger’s Lincoln was the best likeness of his father that he had ever seen. The original statue was 24 inches in height and had a 15-inch base length.
Letters Patent recognizing Enrique de Ainz as Consul of Spain at Portland [Maine], done at Washington, D.C., November 8, 1864. Countersigned by W. Hunter, Acting Secretary of State. (Gift of Frank Connor)
Historians have noted with interest that Lincoln used two different forms of his signature. On his letters he almost always signed as “A. Lincoln.” He used his full signature on official documents such as this example accrediting Ainz to the free exercise and enjoyment of “such functions, powers and privileges” allowed to consuls by international law and treaties.
Autograph note by Lincoln reading, “They say a little lady boy wants my name, and here it is.” [Washington], June 16, 1862. On a page in a J. B. Lippincott ^ Co. autograph album, with stationery seller’s ticket of the Metropolitan Book Store, 322 Pennsylvania Avenue. (Boss Collection, GUL)
The autograph was for a little lady after all, apparently. The album belonged to Mary A. Sheffield of Newport, Rhode Island. It contains signatures of other important Civil War personages.
“Dead Rebel Artillery Soldier, Petersburg, Va., April 2, 1865.” Stereoscopic card, published by Taylor and Huntington, Hartford, Connecticut, n.d. [1890s]. (Boss Collection, GUL).
The loss of Petersburg meant the abandonment of Richmond and the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. This view, made from an original photograph, cost thirty cents when sold some quarter century after the war. The publishers alleged that the negatives, made by a wet plate process, had undergone chemical changes which rendered it slow and difficult work to get prints from them, hence the high price.
Telegram from Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, to Bishop Matthew Simpson, announcing the capture of Richmond. Washington, April 3, 1865. Two pages. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
This telegram, describing the Confederate collapse in Virginia, was sent to Reverend Dr. Matthew Simpson of Philadelphia, a prominent bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Chruch. Simpson was the President’s favorite preacher and a particular friend of Stanton’s. He would deliver the President’s funeral address in Springfield, Illinois, on May 4, 1865.
“President Lincoln Entering Richmond, April 4, 1865.” Wood engraving by Nast, from Harper’s Weekly, February 24, 1866. (Boss Collection, GUL)
Lincoln entered the shattered Confederate capitol less than 48 hours after its capture. He was attended only by a small escort. Crowds thronged the streets, the whites sullen and subdued, but “chief and eager were the emancipated race, which called Heaven’s benediction up on their Liberator and Friend as he passed by.” Such scenes tormented Booth. Three days later he lamented to a friend in New York, “What an excellent chance I had, if I wished, to kill the President on Inauguration Day!”
“Abraham Lincoln Entering Richmond, April 3d, 1865.” Drawn by L. Hollis, engraved by J. C. Buttre, and published by B. B. Russell & Co., Boston, 1866. (Boss Collection, GUL)
One of a number of such views, this depiction bears a bold mistake of title. Lincoln entered Richmond on April 4.
Set of five humorous envelopes depicting the Civil War as a five-round “Championship Prize” match between Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Published by J. H. Tingley, 162 ½ Fulton Street, New York. 1861.
Envelopes and letter paper, illustrated with patriotic scenes and emblems, were extremely popular on both sides during the Civil War. There were hundreds depicting Lincoln, from the presidential election of 1860 through the mourning items which followed his assassination.
“Died, Near the South-Side Railroad, on Sunday, April 9th, 1865, The Southern Confederacy.” Printed by James B. Rogers, 52 and 54 North Sixth Street, [Philadelphia], 1865. Stiff Paper. (Boss Collection, GUL)
The surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox, Virginia, broke the back of the rebellion. Booth doubtless shared the feelings of Captain Robert T. Park of Alabama, who wrote in his diary, “No human tongue, however eloquent, no pen, however gifted, can give an adequate description of our dismay and horror at the heartrending news….But I will not admit the cause is entirely lost.”
Original parole given at Appomattox, Virginia, for a Confederate soldier, April 10, 1865. Partly printed form, filled out by hand. (Collection of Dr. Terry Alford)
This parole was given to Private James M. M. Davis of the Rockbridge Artillery, Army of Northern Virginia, and signed (upon his word-of-honor as guarantor) by the unit’s commander Lt. Col. R. A. Hardaway. This parole is one of the 28,231 printed over several days, most apparently done on a field press carried by the Army of the Potomac. The surrender of the principal Confederate army meant the disappearance of lines into which a kidnapped President Lincoln could be taken.
Docket, apparently cut from a letter, signed by Lincoln, Washington, D.C., April 14, 1865. The preceding note, in a clerical hand, refers to Lincoln’s proclamation of December 8, 1863, granting a full pardon to those rebels willing to swear allegiance to the Constitution and to accept the emancipation of the slaves and related laws. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
It is often forgotten that Lincoln put in a day’s work on that fateful Good Friday in April, including holding a morning meeting with his cabinet. The 1953 edition of Lincoln’s collected works records twelve documents of this date (though not this one).
Albumen photograph, mounted, of the birthplace of John Wilkes Booth near Bel Air, Maryland. From the studio of Weaver and Bachrach, of Baltimore, circa 1865. (Collection of Rev. Robert L. Keesler)
This is the only known photograph of the home in which John Wilkes Booth was born. About 1852 the Booth family moved into a commodious brich structure named “Tudor Hall” nearby. The original part, a log cabin, still exists. It is incorporated into another home.
Members of the King family, tenants at Tudor Hall at the time of the assassination, are shown in the foreground.
“Richmond Theatre” playbill of March 21, 1859, for a performance of “DeSoto,” with James E. Murdock in the title role. Broadside, Richmond, Virginia, 1859. (Collection of Dr. Terry Alford)
John Wilkes Booth performed frequently in Richmond in the years just prior to the Civil War. He had himself billed as “J. B. Wilkes,” not wishing to use the distinguished family name until he had proven himself worthy of it. Also listed in the company is Samuel K. Chester, whom Booth later attempted to enlist in his scheme to abduct Lincoln.
Playbill of the “third appearance of J. Wilkes BOOTH!” as Charles de Moor in Schiller’s “The Robbers” at the Boston Museum. Boston, May 14, 1862. Broadside, printed by F. A. Searle, “Steam Job Printer, Journal Building, 118 Washington Street.” (Collection of Special Collections, National Defense University Library)
Booth was well established as an actor by 1862. This playbill points out his “inaugural impersonations were honored by the largest and most critical audiences ever assembled within the walls of the museum.”
Photograph of Clara Morris as Sister Genevieve in “The Tin Orphan.” Offered for sale by CHalres L. Ritzmann, New York, n.d. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
Clara Morris was one of a number of actors and actresses whose professional lives brought them into contact with John Wilkes Booth. Morris as a teenager had appeared briefly with Booth in The Marble Heart, which Booth performed several times during the war years. In her 1901 autobiography she remembered Booth as “so young, so bright, so gay, so kind…that bud of splendid promise, blasted to the core before its full triumphant blooming.”
Advertisement of “Ford’s New Theatre” for a performance of John Wilkes Booth in “Richard III,” November 7, 1863. Washington National Intelligencer, November 7, 1863, page three. (Special Collections Division, GUL)
Booth performed several times at Ford’s Theatre, the last occasion being the month before the assassination of the President. As the advertisement makes clear, Booth received top billing as an actor. On November 9, 1863 Lincoln attended Ford’s and saw Booth’s performance in The Marble Heart.
John Wilkes Booth’s copy of John S. C. Abbott’s The History of Napoleon Bonaparte (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1859). In two volumes. With an inscription from his mother, dated May 10, 1861, Booth’s 23rd birthday. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
Booth was an indifferent student and reader. “John was not quick at acquiring knowledge,” his sister Asia wrote, but he had “a great power of concentration and … a remarkable retentiveness.”
The inscription is a nice association with his mother Mary Ann Booth. His tremendous affection for her led him to promise that he would not enlist in the Confederate Army.
Richard Sheridan, The School for Scandal: A Comedy in Five Acts (New York: William Taylor, 1845). Signed by Booth on the rear fly-leaf. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, first produced in London in 1777, was a popular play in the United States. Booth performed in it at least nine times between 1858 and 1859 at the Wheatley’s Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, the Dudley Theatre of Lynchburg, Virginia, and the Richmond Theatre of Richmond.
Booth, autograph letter to “My Dear Fellow,” Tudor Hall [Harford County, Maryland], August 8, 1854. One page. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
Booth writes of going to “a Champaign drinking, and better believe that the Road home seemed longer that night than it ever did before.” He also states that he “knocked down” a client (probably a hired hand) who had “called my sister a Liar. I knocked him down which made him bleed like a butcher….”
Very few of Booth’s letters from this or any period are extant.
Metal key marked “D C / 7.” In case. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
Two private boxes (Nos. 7 and 8) on stage left provided an excellent view of stage and audience on the night of April 14, 1865. They had been combined on this occasion (and often before) by moving partition to form the Presidential Box or State Box. “D C” stood for “Dress Circle,” the first balcony tier, in which the Presidential Box was located.
Booth entered through the door to Box No. 7. A turn of this key might have prevented tragedy—had the lock been working. It had been broken the previous month and was never fixed.
“THEORY . . . PRACTICE . . . EFFECT.” Broadside, n.p., n.d. . Wood engraving. (Boss Collection, GUL)
This unusual broadside attempts to connect Booth with George W. L. Bickley, who originated the Knights of the Golden Circle. During the war it was claimed that the Knights were a secret society known the favor the Southern cause.
Booth’s actual contact with the Knights, if any, was limited. His involvement in plots against Lincoln may be traced directly to his own temperament and his ardent devotion to the Confederate cause.
1) Carte de visite of Booth, seated. Backmark of O. A. Roorbach, Publisher of Dramatic Photographs, New York. Manuscript date of 1866 on verso. (Boss Collection, GUL) This was the portrait of Booth used in the composite carte de visite of the conspirators.
2. Carte de visite of Booth, seated. Backmark of Silsbee, Case & Co., Photographic Artists, 299 ½ Washington St., Boston. (Swaim Collection, GUL) This pose appeared on a War Department poster dated April 20, 1865, offering $50,000 reward for Booth’s apprehension. The poster also contained photographs of John H. Surratt and David Herold, for whom $25,000 each was offered.
Thomas H. Sherman, typed letter signed, Gorham, Maine, June 26, 1934, to Clara E. Laughlin. Contemporary copy. Two pages. (Barbee Papers, GUL)
Sherman, in 1865 23-year-old telegrapher for the American Telegraph Company, attended the Good Friday performance at Ford’s Theatre. From his vantage point in the center of the front row near the musicians, he had an excellent view of things, as this letter shows. “Mr. Stewart” was J. B. Stewart, a Washington attorney who mounted the stage in pursuit of Booth and narrowly missed catching him.
Clara Laughlin, the addressee, was the author of The Death of Lincoln. The Story of Booth’s Plot, His Deed, and the Penalty (1909).
A piece of dark red wallpaper with flower design, from the Presidential (or State)Box at Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865. (Collection of Dr. Terry Alford)
Wallpaper from the box where Lincoln was shot quickly became a popular collector’s item. The note accompanying this swatch indicates that it was secured by Joseph M. Homiston, M.D., of Brooklyn, New York, “the day after the event” and given to a friend in 1868.
“The Assassination of President Lincoln, at Ford’s Theatre, Washington, D.C., April 14th, 1865.” Lithograph, published by Currier and Ives, 152 Nassau St., New York, in 1865. (Boss Collection, GUL)
This Currier and Ives print is a somewhat fanciful but highly popular depiction of the murder scene. At the left are Major Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris, daughter of a New York senator. Rathbone was stabbed by Booth in the chaotic seconds following the shooting. He survived the wounds, later marrying Miss Harris and murdering her while the couple lived in Germany. He died there in a state mental hospital.
Manuscript diary of Newton Ferree of Washington, D.C., opened to entries of April 14 and 15, 1865. Kept in a Clayton’s Duodecimo Diary for 1865 (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
Ferree worked in the Examining Division of the Paymaster General’s Office. While playing bagatelle at the Falstaff House on the night of April 14, he heard a commotion across the street at Ford’s Theatre and ran to investigate. In a deposition made years later, Ferree claimed to have visited the Presidential Box after the murder with William T. Kent, a friend who thought he had lost his latchkey there while assisting the wounded President earlier. Kent found Booth’s derringer on the box floor. Ferree found Lincoln’s collar.
Bloodstained half of Lincoln’s collar, removed from his neck immediately after he was shot. Collar, stained and soiled, measures 1” ½ x 8” and is doubled over. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
This portion of collar, stained with blood, was cut from the President’s neck by Dr. Charles A. Leale, an army physician who happened to be at the theatre and was the first doctor to reach the fatally injured Lincoln. The Newton Ferree diary provides provenance for this unusual memento.
Unsigned steel engraving of the Lincoln death-bed scene. Copyrighted by A. H. Ritchie, New York, 1868. Proof before letters. (Special Collections, GUL)
This scene, of high artistic merit, shows Lincoln with 27 attendees. Pictured in the group is Dr. Charles H. Liebermann, a leading oculist and one of the founders of the Georgetown Medical School.
"Death of Abraham Lincoln, April 15th, 1865." Lithograph. E. B. and E. C. Kellogg, 245 Main St., Hartford, Conn. (Boss Collection, GUL)
Lincoln died at 7:22 A.M., Saturday, April 15, 1865. He never regained consciousness or spoke. It seems highly unlikely that the number of persons depicted in this print could have been crowded into the small room where Lincoln died. Understandably, all wished to be pictured there.
House diary of the Jesuit Community, Georgetown College, opened to entries of April 15 and 16, 1865. Manuscript diary, volume for 1853-1869. (College Archives, GUL).
Reaction to the death of President Lincoln is indicated by these two entries. "The bell in Trinity Church is tolling with the others of the different churches in town & city. Black crepe was hung over the porches of N & S buildings & also over the town-gate...."
Manuscript journal of John E. Dooley, opened to events of April, 1865. (Special Collections, GUL)
Dooley, of Richmond, Virginia, attended Georgetown College during the late 1850's. He enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1862, serving in the First Virginia Infantry. The journal entry shown here was apparently recast and expanded from earlier notes during Dooley's residence (as a Jesuit novice) at Georgetown from 1865 to 1873, according to his editor, Joseph T. Durken, S.J.
Bowie knife, with 23 cm. blade. Silver cross-guard and pommel with horn cover. Made by Garrick Works, Sheffield, England. Inscriptions read, "Real Life Defender," "The Hunter's Companion," and (barely discernable) "Never Surrender." In late 19th-century case. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
At about the time that Booth was shooting Lincoln, Powell was stabbing Secretary of State William Seward, Seward's nurse George Robinson, and State Department messenger Emerick W. Hansell with this knife. The alligator motif on the pommel may have been a deliberate echo of Florida, Powell's home state.
"Secretary Seward's Attempted Assassination, April 14, 1865...." Wood engraving, in Harper's Weekly, May 6, 1865. (Collection of Betty J. Ownsbey)
Payne (or Powell) in this engraving is confronted on the stairs of the Seward home on Lafayette Square across from the White House by the Secretary's son F. W. Seward, a state Department official. Payne beat the younger Seward severely with his pistol, then continued on to the room where the elder Seward was convalescing from a carriage accident.
Medal awarded by Congress on march 1, 1871, to George F. Robinson "for his heroic conduct...in saving the life" of Secretary of State Seward. G. Y. Coffin, designer; Pacquet, facit. Treasure Department medal, 20th century. Obverse and reverse sides shown. (Special Collections, GUL)
The reverse shows the bearded Robinson struggling with Lewis T. Payne.
Statement of Frederick A. Demond, [Cavendish, Main, June 12, 1915]. Manuscript of eight pages. Pages one and six displayed. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
Eighteen-year-old private Demond, of Company "C", 3rd Heavy Artillery, Massachusetts Volunteers, gives his reminiscences of duty as one of the guards at the Navy Yard Bridge on the evening of the assassination. Booth passed over the bridge shortly after the murder, heading toward southern Maryland. Page six describes the crossings of Booth and a short time later of Herold. Some inaccuracies appear in Demond's account.
Booth and Herold fled the city separately, meeting several miles beyond the bridge. They remained together until tracked down on April 26, 1865.
Partly printed form of application for admission into the Maryland Confederate Line Confederate Soldiers Home at Pikesville, Maryland. Signed by Thomas A. Jones, November 14, 1890. (Collection of Rev. Robert L. Keesler)
Thomas A. Jones was a Maryland farmer who operated the Confederate signal station on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. He hid Booth and Herold from April 16 until April 20. They crossed the river on the night of the 20th in one of his boats. In this post-war application Jones identifies himself as a member of the Confederate "Secret Servis" and "Chief Agt. of Signal Servis in Maryland." The document is also signed by Major William Norris, Jones' commanding officer during the war.
A series of five photographs taken at the time of a tour of Booth's escape route by Dr. Clarence True Wilson in the 1920s.
(Swaim and Barbee Collections, GUL)
1. Mary Kelly, Photograph docketed by Dr. Wilson, "colored woman who by her testimony saved the life of Samuel Cox," who had befriended Booth.
2. "Cleydael," home of Dr. Richard Stuart, where Booth was denied admission.
3. Lucas cabin, with Dr. Wilson pointing. Booth was sent here from the Stuart home.
4. Old Rollins ferry boat at Port Conway on the Rappahannock. Thought to be the ferry used by Booth on April 24, 1865. (Photograph made in 1955.)
5. Garrett house porch on which Booth died April 26, 1865. The section of the porch where Booth lay has been hacked away by souvenir hunters.
J. B. Montgomery, letter signed as Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., April 15, 1865, to Colonel J[acob] Zeilin, Marine Corps Commandant. One page. (Collection of Dr. Terry Alford.)
Montgomery informs Zeilin that "a strong guard of Marines" should be ready, night or day, to carry out the orders of the Department upon the arrest of Booth. The conspirators, as arrested, were held initially on ship in the Anacostia River at the Navy Yard, and Booth's body was brought here for inquest.
Carte-de-visite photograph of Boston Corbett, 1865. No backmark. (Collection of Reverend Robert L. Keesler)
Card, autographed by Corbett. (Boss Collection, GUL)
Sergeant Thomas (or Boston) Corbett ws an immigrant from England whose eccentric views had led him to castrate himself in 1858. Member of the detachment of the 16th New York Cavalry Regiment which cornered Booth and Herold in the Garrett tobacco barn, he shot and killed Booth in violation of orders to capture the assassin. "Providence directed me," he stated to superiors.
Emmett J. Gouldman, memoir signed. Potomac Beach, Westmoreland County, Virginia, December 20, 1914. 28 pages. Opened to pages 22 and 23. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
Gouldman's grandmother ran the Star Hotel at Bowling Green, Virginia, where the soldiers pursuing Booth and Herold found Willie Jett, a Confederate veteran of 18 who knew where the fugitives were hidden. Seized by the troopers, Jett led them to the Garrett farm.
This memoir was dictated by Gouldman to H. E. Bell.
Joseph H. Hartley, copy of a letter, [Washington, D.C.], July 29, 1926, to "Brother Hebbard." One page, unsigned. (Barbee Papers, GUL)
A native of Wilmington, Delaware, Hartley was a 25-year-old Marine sergeant stationed at the Washington Navy Yard in April, 1865. Booth's body was brought to Washington and placed on the monitor Montauk, at anchor near the Navy Yard, where Hartley saw it.
This letter confirms numerous other eyewitness accounts in identifying the man killed at Garrett's farm as John Wilkes Booth.
Jim Walton, "'That Man Was Not John Wilkes Booth'...," from a 1932 issue of the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee. (Barbee Papers, GUL)
Walton claimed to have resided in King George County, Virginia, in 1865, an 11-year-old neighbor to the Garretts. Although his account is largely without credit or confirmation, it is representative of the plethora of such reports that appearaed over the years. David Rankin Barbee termed such stories "silly legends...pure romance from beginning to end."
Finis L. Bates, The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes booth, or the First True Account of Lincoln's Assassination, Containing a Complete Confession by Booth Many Year After the Crime....Written for the Correction of History. (Memphis: Bates Publishing Co., 1907) (Gift of Earl Charles Kubicek)
Bates' book, a masterpiece of implausability, conjecture, and slipshod research, presented the most elaborate and--to many--the most convincing account of a fugitive Booth escaping justice and passing the remainder of his life as a misanthropic loner. Bates claimed that he met booth, then posing as John St. Helen, in Texas in 1872.
Ambrotype of Louisa J. Payne. Photographer not identified, ca. 1860s. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
This ambrotype is said to be of Louisa J. Payne (or Paine). She married a J. W. Booth, alleged to be the fugitive John Wilkes Booth, in Franklin County, Tennessee, on February 25, 1872.
Tintype photograph, purportedly of John St. Helen of Granberry, Texas. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
This photograph was said to have been taken at Glenrose Mills, Texas, in 1877. It was allegedly given to Finis L. Bates by John St. Helen during the winter of 1877-1878. Bates found it a compelling likeness of John Wilkes Booth, whom St. Helen claimed to be, and sought confirmation of it being Booth from the great actor Joseph Jefferson, among others.
The photograph was (unfortunately?) disfigured.
Finis L. Bates, Scrapbook kept between 1897 and 1913 in an old ledger volume. Opened to newspaper clippings from 1903 (pages 82-83). (Swaim Collection, GUL)
In a volume once used as a ledger Bates pasted letters, newspaper cuttings, and related material concerning John St. Helen of Texas and David E. George of Oklahoma, two men whom he suspected were the same person and that one person a fugitive John Wilkes Booth. The scrapbook is opened to clippings of 1903, relating to George's body.
Some of the material in this notebook was later worked into Bates' book.
Walter Hubell, autograph letter signed, Brooklyn, N.Y., June 17, 1907, to Finis L. Bates. Seven pages. Opened to pages two and three. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
Hubbell, an actor who had visited in Enid, Oklahoma, and seen the body of David E. George, sends to Bates some contemporary opinions that George and John Wilkes Booth were one and the same.
Sadie Rylee (Mrs. J. D. Rylee), autograph manuscript signed, [Granbury, Texas, November,1920]. Ten pages. Opened to page five. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
Mrs. Rylee gives her girlhood memories of John St. Helen, who boarded with her family for several years.
John P. Simonton, typed document signed, Washington, D.C., March 23, 1865. One page. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
John P. Simonton was for many years an employee in the Judge Advocate General's office and custodian of evidence and exhibits connected with the trial of Booth's associates. In this statement he gives his opinion that there was "no definite proof that John Wilkes Booth was ever captured" and that such a fact "could not be established before any court in the United States on the evidence submitted at the time of the trial...."
Simonton had been awarded a degree of LL.B. in 1878.
Telegram from William Bross, Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, and Sheron Tindale, Secretary of State, Springfield, Illinois, April 21, 1865, to Dr. Simpson. One page. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
Bross and Tindale invite Simpson "to deliver funeral oration at burial of President Lincoln." He did so, as shown by the accompanying copy of his Funeral Address Delivered at the Burial of President Lincoln (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1865).
Edwin M. Stanton, autograph letter signed, War Department, Washington, D.C., December 19, 1865, to L. Foote and E. B. Washburn. One page. (Gift of Francis C. Brown, Jr.)
Stanton declines to deliver an address before Congress on Abraham Lincoln. His beautifully expressed but enigmatic reason for refusing is open to various interpretations.
"A Nation Mourns the Departed Patriot, Statesman, and Martyr." Silk mourning banner, with black obituary trimming. Printed text and image.  (Boss Collection, GUL)
Lincoln had grown a beard late in 1860 and had one throughout the war years. This memorial depiction of the President, however, shows him beardless and is drawn from a popular pre-presidential photograph.
"Our President is DEAD!" Broadside, [April 15, 1865], no place, announcing a sermon "on the MURDER of Abraham Lincoln" at 1 p.m. the following day. One page.
This simple handbill conveys visually the profound sense of shock felt by most Americans over the assassination.
Anonymous, letter to "Dear Friend," n.p., n.d. [Springfield, Illinois, May, 1865]. Seven pages. (Boss Collection, GUL)
In this unusual letter an unidentified photographer describes Oak Ridge Cemetery at Springfield, Illinois, and tells of his efforts to take photographs of funeral events there. Lincoln lay in the state in the Illinois Capitol Building on May 3rd. Photographs of the body were prohibited by War Department order.
"In Memory of Abraham Lincoln. The Reward of the Just," by D. T. Wiest. Published by William Smith, Philadelphia, 1865. (Special Collections, GUL)
As pointed out by Harold Holzer, Gabor S. Boritt, and Mark E. Neely, Jr. in their book The Lincoln Image, Wiest has merely adapted for 1865 purposes an 1802 engraving of George Washington's apotheosis. In fact, the Lincoln print is crowded with Washington symbolism, notably the fifteen-star shielf to the left--the correct number of states during Washington's presidency, but not Lincoln's.
The procession of those arrested as Booth's accomplices escorted to cells in the Old Penitentiary Building. Wood engraving, unsigned. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, May 27, 1865. (Collection of Dr. Terry Alford)
Heavy canvas masks, exposing only the mouth and nose, were worn by most of the male prisoners for a considerable time following their arrests. The masks were extremely uncomfortable in the warm Washington weather. Payne's was kept on the longest as he once attempted to injure or kill himself by banging his head on a bulkhead of the "Saugus."
Although depicted in this scene, Mary Surratt was brought alone to the penitentiary from the Old Capital Prison.
Original albumen photograph of the prison. n.d. (ca. 1863). (Special Collections, GUL)
Old Capitol Prison was located just east of the Capitol Building. It served as a wartime prison for rebels and rebel sympathizers. Paine, Atzerodt and several other conspirators were confined here briefly before being sent to greater security on the Montauk in the Anacostia River at the Navy Yard.
Deed in trust for 541 H Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. Signed on the fourth page by John H. Surratt, Sr., May 24, 1860. Four pages. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
This building was acquired by John H. Surratt, Sr., husband of Mary Surratt, on December 6, 1853, from Captain Augustus Gibson. The deed was to secure a debt of several hundred dollars which Sruratt owed Adam Gaddis, Jr., of Washington.
The elder Surratt died on August 25, 1862, complicating already distressed family finances. His widow opened the home as a boarding house late in 1864. It became a frequent resort of Confederate agents. The house, still stnading, is 604 H. Street., N.W.
"Booth and His Associates," a carte de visite photograph, 1865. No backmark. (Collection of Betty J. Ownsbey)
Payne (whose name is somewhat faded) is pictured at the bottom. Edman Spangler was an employee at Ford's Theatre and an old acquaintance of Booth and his family.
Commemorative fan with five lithographed scenes of the assassination, vignetted with demos. Cuban in origin, apparently produced for the Mexican market by Barte. Crespo de Borbon, Havana. (Collection of Rev. Robert L. Keesler)
The scene on the left shows a fanciful meeting at the Surratt boarding house of Booth (with dagger), Payne or Herold (seated), John H. Surratt (with gun) and Mary Surratt.
Oval portraits of European queens, applied to blades, are now missing. the reverse shows a Lincoln apotheosis scene, with portraits of Union generals.
Photograph of a painting of Mary E. Surratt, done by J. A. Holder in 1903. Paper print, mounted. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
This interesting view, drawn from the only known photograph of Mary E. Surratt, shows her seated in the foreground. Behind her is depicted the H Street boarding house where Booth and his assocaites are known to have called from time to time. This view is one of a series prepared for Finis L. Bates. It was included in his book The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth (1907).
Listing for David E. Herold among the class of 1855-1856, Georgetown College. From the "Entrance Book," unpaginated. Manuscript volume for 1850-1895. (College Archives, GUL)
Herold, sixth name from the bottom on the lefthand page, is listed as entering the College on October 4, 1855, at age thirteen. His father, A. G. Herold, who lived at the Navy Yard in Washington, is noted to the right as guardian. Beside Herold's listing, where remarks were occasionally entered about students' subsequent careers (see "Jesuit" and "Lawyer" above), a 19th-century hand has written, "Alas!"
"Orders for the Organization of the Military Commission for the Trial of Mrs. Surratt." Broadside, [Washington, D.C.?], verso blank. No date of publication, but a pencil notation states 1868. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
A military commission was created by presidential order to try those implicated with Booth. The legality of this commission had been asserted by Attorney General James Speed, despite the fact that civil courts were open in the District.
General Winfield Scott Hancock was being mentioned as a possible Democratic Party presidential candidate in 1868. this broadside was apparently printed to indicate that he had little to do with sending Mary Surratt to her fate and, in fact, extended her such considerations as he could.
"Amator Justitiae" (pseud.), Trial of Mrs. Surratt; Or, contrasts of past and present. n.p., n.d. [Washington, D.C., June, 1865]. Four pages. (Barbee Papers, GUL)
An unidentified Surratt family friend attempts to assuage public feeling and prejudice against Mary Surratt in this pamphlet, issued during the trial.
Depiction of the trial of the conspirators, from The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 22, 1865. Wood engraving, unsigned. (Collection of Betty J. Ownsbey)
The prisoners are shown seated in the back of the chamber behind a railing. There was a guard positioned between each. Mary Surratt, in a dark dress, is second from left. The nine officers who composed the cort are seated at the table to the right. They could convict with a mere two-thirds vote; unanimous consent was not required, even for the death penalty.
Reverdy Johnson, An Argument to Establish the Legality of Military Commissions in the United States.... (Baltimore; John Murphy & Co., 1865). (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
When United States Senator Reverdy Johnson of Maryland appeared as counsel for Mrs. Surratt, General T. M. Harris, one of the commission members, objected to his presence, feeling that Johnson's loyalty during the war had been too lukewarm. Johnson withdrew from the case following the attack on his integrity, but he did deliver this blistering attack on the commission's lack of jurisdiction.
Amy G. Bassett, "Account of the Last Hours of Lewis Thorton Payne..." Typed memoir of six pages, New York, N.Y., ca. July, 1946. With carte de visite of Gillette by W. & A. H. Fry, Art Photographers and Miniature Painters, Brighton, ca. 1870. (Barbee Papers, GUL)
Bassett was the granddaughter of Reverend Dr. A. D. Gillette, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Washington in 1865. Gillette offered Lewis Payne spiritual consolation during the final hours of his life and was on the scaffold with him moments before the execution. Bassett gives the family recollections.
Carte de visite photograph of Payne, taken shortly after his arrest. Published by G. W. Tomlinson, Boston, 1865. No backmark. (Collection of Betty J. Ownsbey)
Payne, son of a Baptist minister, was a Confederate soldier from Florida. Captured at the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, he escaped to Virginia and served for a time with Mosby's guerrillas. He was a physically powerful, resourceful, and daring man. Payne, though an alias, wa the name under which he was tried and executed. His real name was Lewis Thornton Powell.
Thomas Ewing, typed letter signed, New York, N.Y., February 5, 1934, to David Rankin Barbee. Three pages. (Barbee Papers, GUL)
Ewing was the son of Thomas Ewing, a Union general and prominent jurist. The impressions of his father as attorney for Edman Spangler, Samuel A. Mudd and Samuel B. Arnold are given in part in this letter.
Listing for Samuel B. Arnold, September 23, 1844, in "Entrance Book," of Georgetown College. Manuscript volume for 1809-1859. Page 206. (College Archives, GUL)
Arnold did preparatory studies at Georgetown for a time in the 1840s. This memorandum notes Arnold entering the college along with his brother George. The brothers were from Baltimore, Maryland. Note the number of students from Southern states.
A former Confederate soldier, Arnold assisted Booth in plans to kidnap Lincoln but balked at talk of murder.
Warrant signed by President Andrew Johnson, Washington, March 1, 1869, authorizing the Secretary of State "to affix the Seal of the United States" to a warrant for the p ardon of Edman Spangler. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
Edman Spangler, the Ford's Theatre scene-shifter, had helped prepare the Presidential (or State) Box on the afternoon of April 14, 1865, for the Lincoln theatre party. He held the rein of Booth's horse briefly that evening in the alley behind the theatre. Southern in sentiment and long associated with the Booth family, he appears to have been innocent of any deliberate role in Lincoln's murder.
Carte de visite of Stanton in his office at the War Department. Published by E. and H. T. Anthony, 501 Broadway, New York, from a photographic negative in Brady's National Portrait Gallery, 1865. With Stanton signature clipped from letter. (Boss Collection, GUL)
Some historians have implied or declared that Stanton was involved in Lincoln's murder. The difficult but talented Secretary of War had his flaws, but none as terrible as this. He had nothing to gain by plotting against Lincoln. In fact, as biographer Harold M. Hyman has written, the relationship between the two men by 1865 "had evolved into an understanding partnership on official matters and a firm personal friendship."
Stereoscopic card of General Hancock, published by E. & H. T. Anthony Company, New York. Noted as "Prominent Portraits, No. 2755." (Boss Collection, GUL)
Commander of the Middle Military Division (a district including Washington, D.C., where the executions of the conspirators were to talke place), Hancock was charged with carrying out the sentences delivered by the Military Commission and approved by President Johnson. On the morning of July 7, 1865, the day scheduled for the executions, Hancock was ordered by a justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia to deliver Mary Surratt on a writ of habeas corpus but was prevented from doing so by a direct presidential suspension of the writ.
The four prisoners condemned to death are prepared for execution. Front-page view by D. B. Gulick from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, July 22, 1865. (Collection of Betty J. Ownsbey)
The executions were carried out on July 7, 1865, at the Old Penitentiary Building of the Washington Arsenal (now Fort Lesley J. McNair). Death warrants were read, and hoods and nooses were placed over the prisoners' heads. The bodies were allowed to hang for at least 20 minutes after the trap-doors were dropped.
Pictured (from left) are Mary Surratt, Lewis Payne, David Herold and George Atzerodt.
Rope with five knots. A copper band engraved with the name of "Mary E. Surratt" and secured through strands of the noose by heavily waxed string closed by sealing wax. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
Mrs. Surratt's noose was fashioned by her hangman, Captain Christian Rath of the 17th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment. It contained five knots. More were used in the nooses of the condemned men. After the execution was completed, Rath noticed that "the rope had cut deeply [into her neck]. That rather sickened me."
Anna Surratt, autograph letter signed, n.d. [ca. February 2, 1869], to President Andrew Johnson, seeking her mother's body for reburial. Verso bears clerical notation that Johnson ordered the Secretary of War "to deliver to Anna E. Surratt the remains of her mother..." on February 5. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
Ann, only daughter of Mary Surratt, was a resident in her mother's ill-fated H. St. boarding house where Booth was a frequent caller in the months before the murder. She was a regular companion to her mother during the mother's ordeal and spent the night before the execution with her in her cell.
As requested in this letter, she received her mother's body, having it decently reinterred at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington.
"Substance of an interview with Dr. Reginald I. Tonry, of Baltimore, son of Anna Surratt, grandson of Mary E. Surratt, with David Rankin Barbee," November 13, 1931. Typed memorandum. Seven pages. Opened to page three. (Barbee Papers, GUL)
Family recollection of Mrs. Surratt and her son John were given to historian Barbee by Reginald I. Tonry, a grandson. Page three recounts the family history of 1865 in part. It states that Louis Weichmann, a boarder at the Surratt house whose testimony was instrumental in convicting Mrs. Surratt, was a coward, frightened on one occasion by his own shadow on a moonlit night.
Rope noose with eight knots. A copper band engraved with the name of "Lewis Payne" is secured through strands of the noose by a heavily waxed string closed by sealing wax. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
Powell's noose, like that of Mary Surratt, was fashioned by Captain Rath of three-quarter inch, 32-strand Boston hemp. Rath developed a high opinion of Powell's courage, telling him on the gallows, "I want you to die fast." "You know best, Captain," the Floridian responded.
Ironically, the muscular Powell appeared to some observers to have died the hardest, surviving the fall and strangling to death.
Photograph, mounted, of Surratt in uniform of a pontifical zouave. Apparently made in Italy in 1866. (Barbee Papers, GUL)
Fugitive John H. Surratt, who had worked with Booth to abduct Lincoln, became an international traveller, serving for a time in the Papal Zouaves in Rome. Captured at last in Egypt in Novembe,r 1866, he was returned to the United States for trial. Failure of the jury to agree on a verdict resulted in his discharge from custody. Subsequently he lived a long and uneventful life in Baltimore, Maryland.
Accounts of Samuel A. Mudd with Georgetown college, 1851-1852. From ledger volume for 1848-1856, page 406. (College Archives, GUL)
Samuel A. Mudd was the tall, slender physician to whose Charles County, Maryland home booth and Herold came on April 15, 1865, seeking treatment for the injured actor's leg. Mudd was a Georgetown alumnus, as may be seen in these accounts for the 1851-1852 academic year (left-hand page). The accounts for clothes and personal items are similar to those of many other contemporary students. Expenses are listed in the left-hand column, credits in the right.
Typescript of original proclamation of "full and unconditional pardon" given to Dr. Mudd by President Andrew Johnson, Washington, D.C., February 8, 1869. Mid-20th century typescript copy, with signatures of Johnson and Secretary of State Seward attached. Four pages. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
In the final days of his administration Johnson pardoned the conspiracy prisoners and released the bodies of those deceased to their families for reburial.
Samuel A. Mudd, autograph letter signed. Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas, Florida, October 21, 1865, to his wife Sarah F. Mudd. Three pages. Opened to pages two and three. (Collection of Dr. John K. Lattimer)
On September 15, 1865, Dr. Mudd attempted to escape from the prison at Fort Jefferson. Aided by a sympathetic sailor, Mudd surreptitiously boarded the Thomas A. Scott, a U.S. transport ship. He was discovered, ironed, and placed in a dungeon in consequence.
Advertisement for "The Prisoner of Shark Island." Cutting from unidentified newspaper, [February, 1936]. (Barbee Papers, GUL)
Dr. Mudd's story, an appealing one, has been produced for motion pictures and television several times. This film, a Darryl F. Zanuck/20th Century Fox production, was directed by the celebrated John Ford. It starred Warner Baxter as Dr. Mudd and featured John Carradine as a sadistic prison sergeant.
Carte de visite of Johnson. Backmark of Brady's National Photographic Portrait Galleries, [Washington, D.C., ca. 1865]. Trimmed at lower corners. (Boss Collection, GUL)
A War Democrat from Tennessee, Johnson served as Lincoln's Vice President for little more than a month before inheriting the remaining three years and elevent months of Lincoln's second term. He had been an intended victim of Booth's conspiracy, but George Atzerodt, assigned to kill himm, lacked the mad zeal required to commit murder and fled Washington instead.
Carte de visite of Edwin Booth and his four-year-old daughter Edwina, taken in late 1865. Published by E. & H. T. Anthony, New York. (Collection of Rev. Robert L. Keesler)
Edwin, John Wilkes Booth's elder brother, was one of the nation's greatest actors. A Unionist and a supporter of Lincoln, he and John could not discuss politics without arguing violently.
Playbill for Edwin Booth's last appearance in "The Stranger,", Boston, Massachusetts, October 13, 1866. Broadside, no printer indicated. (Collection of Dr. Terry Alford)
Edwin Booth withdrew from the stage after his brother's murder of the President. Financial necessity dictated his return to acting in 1866, however. He faced the prospect with trepidation and amid some protest, but to his delight audiences acclaimed him. He met their ovations with tears of gratitude.
J. B. Booth, billed as "Acting and Stage Manager," was Edwin and John's elder brother. J. S. Clarke was their brother-in-law, married to sister Asia.
"John Wilkes Booth - Murderer of Abraham Lincoln." n.d. (1930s). Backmark of "Evans' Amusement Enterprises, W. B. Evans, Venice Pier, Venice, California." (Swaim Collection, GUL)
Evans alleged to have done extensive research in the 1920s on Booth, convincing himself in the process that "Booth lived 38 years after the assassination of Lincoln." The credulous could view "Booth's" body (actually George's mummy) at carnival side-shows for many years.
Two photographs of the "John Wilkes Booth Mummy," (taken at Memphis, Tennessee?) between 1920 and 1922. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
These are two views of the mummified body of David E. George taken for its owner Finis L. Bates, an attorney in Memphis. Bates exhibited the mummy to the public frequently in the World War One period.
A caption accompanying one view claimed in part, "Booth continued to grow gray after his death, following the normal conditions from early life to old age. A very remarkable phenomena." Equally interesting is the assertion that it was Booth's right ankle that was broken, not his left leg.
Geo[rge H. Stafford], autograph letter signed, Washington, D.C., June 12, 1893, to his mother, Mrs. George W. Stafford. Four pages, opened to pages one and two. (Collection of Dr. Terry Alford)
On June 9, 1893, the day that Edwin Booth was being buried in New York, there was a collapse of several floors inside Ford's Theatre, which had been renovated internally and made into a government office building. Over twenty people were killed. The tragic episode is graphically described in this letter from Stafford, later secretary treasurer of Howard University.
The Unlocked Book: A Memoir of John Wilkes Booth by His Sister Asia Booth Clarke. Edited and with a forward by Eleanor Farjeon. (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1938). (GUL Collection)
This is an extraordinarily informative memoir of Booth by a beloved sister, particularly valuable for its insights into Booth's personal life. Asia's manuscript was completed in 1874 but, locked and put away, it was not published until 1938, hence the title. Asia saw Booth as a loving sister would, closing her memoir, "Granting that he died in vain, yet he gave his all on earth, youth, beauty, manhood, a great human love, the certainty of excellence in his profession, a powerful brain, the strength of an athlete, health and great wealth, for his cause."
Osborn H. Oldroyd, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln...with an Introduction by T. M. Harris. (Washington: O. H. Oldroyd, 1901). Printed by Merson Company Press, Rahway, New Jersey. (GUL Collections)
A Union veteran who amassed a valuable Lincolniana collection, Oldroyd lived in the Peterson House (where Lincoln died) for more than thirty years. He was instrumental in persuading the federal government to purchase the structure.
T. M. Harris was a former Union general and had been a member of the military commission which tried the conspirators.
Otto Eisenschiml, Why Was Lincoln Murdered? (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1937). First edition (March, 1937). Inscribed copy to David Rankin Barbee "in sincere appreciation" from the author. (GUL Collections)
A Chicago chemist and businessman, Eissenschiml captured the attention of the reading public with probing and unanswered questions on the assassination. The author intimated that Secretary of War Stanton was no passive witness to the events of April, 1865, but may have been somehow involved in Lincoln's death.
Francis Wilson, John Wilkes Booth: Fact and Fiction of Lincoln's Assassination (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1929). (GUL Collections)
A veteran actor, Wilson wrote a full-length biography of Booth that was touted by its publisher as "the most poignant and convincing life of a Booth which has yet appeared." Wilson felt that the talented Booth was driven to murder by "the maddening fear of the total failure of the cherished plans to save his country."
George J. Bryan, The Great American Myth. (New York: Carrick & Evans Inc., 1940)
Bryan, an historian and poet, was the author of biographies of Sam Houston and Thomas A. Edison. This book, although dated in some respects, is still regared as the most reliable general study of the assassination at this time.
Richard J. S. Gutman and Kellie O. Gutman, John Wilkes Booth Himself (Dover, Massachusetts: Hired Hand Press, 1979). Limited edition, 373/1,000. Signed on limitation page. Opened to portion of the Lincoln inaugural photograph, taken March 4, 1865. Arrow points to purported Booth. (GUL Collections)
This unusual book reproduces forty known photographs of Booth, many never before published. "The photographs of John Wilkes Booth," the author states, "are the most objective record that we have of him prior to the assassination."
John K. Lattimer, Kennedy and Lincoln: Medical and Ballistic Comparisons of Their Assassinations (New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980). (Special Collections, GUL)
Drawing upon his experience as an army doctor during World War Two, Lattimer, a distinguished surgeon and noted Lincoln collector, presented a fresh look at the two most celebrated presidential murders.
William Parker Campbell, The Escape and Wanderings of J. Wilkes Booth Until Ending of the Trail by Suicide in Oklahoma. "Travelers Series Number Seven." (Oklahoma City: [no publisher], 1922). Paper covers. (Swaim Collection, GUL)
This book is an embellishment of Bates, mixing a sloppily written mishmash of conjection and fact with historical oddments. Campbell, an Oklahoma writer and editor of Historia, denied that Booth was killed at Garrett's farm.
Dr. Terry Alford, Guest Curator