150 years ago, much of the nation was still reeling from the death of Abraham Lincoln. A mere 10 days previous time stood still and tears flowed freely at the news that the President had been killed. Did many travel to Washington, D.C. to mourn his passing? Did some visit the very site of his tragic and untimely demise to place a candle… flowers… mourn? The Philadelphia Enquirer, April 17, 1865, not on only printed a sketch of the captured John Wilkes Booth, but they also included a front-page schematic (right) of the back-alley escape route where a horse was waiting for the infamous villain and his accomplice. While the region has gone through several transformations over the course of the last 150 years, this same alley exists today. The current-day photo shown below was sent to us be a collector friend who also included the following note:
I have attached a picture of the rear of Ford’s Theater as it looks today (showing the original windows/doorways that have been bricked-up)…and I want to point out that the alleyway shown on that April 17th issue is incredibly, to this day, the only exit on the entire block and proportioned to what it was in that newspaper.
If you’ve never visited Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., it is certainly worth the trip.Note: During my days as a Middle School Teacher, can anyone guess the most common question students asked upon visiting this spot during a school trip?
One of the (positive) frustrations we have always dealt with as a rare newspaper dealer is not being able to share some of the best material which comes our way. Not surprisingly very rare and very historic items have a waiting list of customers waiting for it to come into inventory and such newspapers are typically sold before they have the opportunity to be listed in a catalog. But here is where our blog is of value, allowing us an opportunity to share some nice material even though no longer available for purchase.
Holding true to the belief that newspapers from cities where historic events took place are the best to have, our recent sale of the “Daily Morning Chronicle” of April 15, 1865 from Washington, D.C. fits this description very well. Although purchased by a member with a *“want list” for such material, the issue is too fascinating not to share with others, hence this link to the listing and photos.
Enjoy one of the best newspapers to have on Lincoln’s assassination.
Note: Although we manage a want list for key material, with thousands of such wants, the system is not perfect (i.e., we occasionally miss an item on someone’s want list and it ends up being purchased through a member or public offering). We simply promise to do the best we can. If you have key content of interest, feel free to be in touch.
*The Fall of 2013 marked the 5th anniversary of the History’s Newsstand Blog by Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers. We are grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the newspaper collecting community, and appreciate those who have participated through guest posts, comments, and readership. In 2014 we will revisit the top 25 posts (measured by activity), with the number 1 post being revisited during the first week of 2015. Please enjoy. If you would like to contribute a post for consideration of inclusion on the blog, please contact Guy Heilenman at email@example.com.
Today’s journey took me to Washington, D.C. via the Daily National Intelligencer (November 4, 1863). There I found an article advertising a new theatre tragedy at Ford’s Theatre entitled “The Robbers” written by a German author. What is most intriguing is find that a cast member that they are applauding is the son of Junius Brutus Booth, John Wilkes Booth “…probably as good an interpreter of its interpreter of its many intricate and difficult portions as could be desired… Mr. Booth will, as a matter of course, appear as Claude Melnotte, a character which he is admirably suited to sustain, both by personal and mental gifts… those desirous of witnessing the honest and sincere efforts of an aspiring young actor in all of the best acting tragedies should make their arrangements accordingly.”
It is hard to image his following appearance on April 14, 1865…
The November 4, 1863 issue of the “Daily National Intelligencer” contains a curious and ironic bit of reporting, page 2 containing a lengthy report on the appearance of the distinguished son of Junius Brutus Booth–John Wilkes–at the new Ford’s Theatre in Washington. The next column contains an innocuous letter signed in type by the President: A. Lincoln.
The facing page includes an advertisement for “Ford’s New Theatre!” noting the appearance for the: “…first and only time…the distinguished tragedian, MR. J. WLKES BOOTH in Schiller’s great master piece, the Robbers…”.
Of course no one could have suspected the tragic connection between these two famous names which appeared on the same page in the same newspaper, some one and one-half years before fate would find their names on the same page once again:
Although the front page of “The New York Times” of Nov. 23, 1864 contains various reports on the Civil War as would be expected, the most intriguing item in this newspaper is an inconspicuous advertisement for a theatrical performance at the Winter Garden theater on page 7.
A one night performance was set for November 25 to benefit the Shakespeare Statue Fund. The performance featured the three Booth brothers, well known in the theatrical community: Junius, Edwin, and John Wilkes. This was the only time that the Booth brothers would appear on stage together.
Of course little did anyone know that less than five months later John Wilkes Booth would become one the more infamous names in American history with his assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.
It is always fascinating to find mentions of notables in American history before they would become famous—or infamous.
The “”Southern Illustrated News” was a somewhat failed attempt by the Confederacy to bring to its citizens an illustrated newspaper similar to “Harper’s Weekly” and “Leslie’s Illustrated“. Although the presumed feature of the Dec. 5, 1863 issue was the front page engraving & biography of Captain William Downs Farley, time caused several innocuous items on the back page to intrigue the historical collector.
The back page has several reports which bring together many of the names involved in the Lincoln assassination that would happen more than a year in the future. Under the theatrical reports is mention that: “…Laura Keene, Mr. & Mrs. Charles Walcott…lately formed an alliance known as ‘Laura Keen’s Combination & have been traveling through the Northern States…On Monday last huge posters were put out announcing the ‘American Cousin’ with Charles Walcott in one of the principal parts…” Remember that Laura Keene starred in “Our American Cousin”, the performance at Ford’s Theatre the evening of the assassination. Also on the back page: “Edwin Booth is playing in Boston supported by Mrs. Anna Cornell & Mr. Marshall.” He was the brother of John Wilkes Booth. Even his name is here, performing at Ford’s Theatre no less: “The present week is announced as the last of J. Wilkes Booth…at Ford’s New Theatre, Washington, D.C.” And a bit further on is even mention of the President: “…preparatory to his appearance at Richmond in the character of one of President Lincoln’s special peace envoys as already announced…” (see). This single page brings together the names Laura Keene, the play “Our American Cousin”, John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln, and Ford’s Theatre, an almost eerie coincidence, particularly for a Confederate newspaper.
One of the joys in collecting early newspapers is discovering the little gem found buried in an issue which was innocuous at the time but which has since transcended to much greater importance in American history. The small advertisement shown, which appears on page 3 of the April 13 issue of the “Daily Morning Chronicle” of Washington, D.C., is one.
Certainly Abraham Lincoln, and any other Washington, D.C. resident who read this ad, would not have given it a second thought, being a simple notice of the latest show on the stage of a local theater. But as history would tell us Abraham Lincoln attended this very performance of “The American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre, starring Laura Keene, and would be assassinated there the evening of the 14th.
It’s fascinating to think the original owner of this newspaper may well have read that advertisement, and may actually have attended that performance only to become witness to one of the more dramatic & notable events of American history. This newspaper is truly a piece of Americana which could only be found in a Washington, D.C. newspaper. Certainly this ad would not have appeared in the other–more common–major city publications.
Feel free to respond and share with other readers any similar gems which you have discovered, & which would figure more prominently in history after their publication date. We hope you enjoyed this one!
A special desire for many collectors is to find a newspaper mentioning a name which would not become famous for many years, such as the “Lincoln & Herndon” attorney advertisements from Springfield, Illinois in 1857, or a newspaper ad noting John Wilkes Booth appearing in a play in 1863.
The item shown in the photo fits this category, appearing on the front page of the “Detroit Free Press” in its November 1, 1959 newspaper. If a Kennedy assassination plot existed, the plans may have begun as early as…