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Lincoln Assassin John Wilkes Booth & Conspirator John H. Surratt Contemporary Cartes-de-Visite
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The first carte-de-visite shows the young actor as he appeared a few years before he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln to avenge the South for the failure of the Confederacy. The original photograph was taken by Silsbee & Case of Boston in 1862. The photograph was widely reproduced in the aftermath of the assassination and given to search parties looking for Booth.

The second is a profile photograph of John H. Surratt after his return to the United States and trial, with the notice that it was “Entered according to Act of Congress by John H. Surratt, in the year 1868, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Columbia.” With “Brady & Co’s” mark on the verso.

[ABRAHAM LINCOLN]. Carte-de-visite of John Wilkes Booth, ca. 1862 (Gutman 21). “J. Wilkes Booth” added below photograph in the negative. 1 p., 2.5 x 4 in. With Carte-de-visite of John H. Surratt, ca. 1868, with copyright statement. 1 p., 2.5 x 4 in. #26050.02

Inventory #26050.01       Price: $2,000

John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) was born in Maryland as the illegitimate son of the British Shakespearean actor Junius Brutus Booth and his mistress Mary Ann Holmes. He began his theatrical career at age 17 in Baltimore in August 1855, with a supporting role in Richard III, but did not begin regular appearances until two years later.  He was soon acting in scores of plays and earning enough to become wealthy. Between August 1857 and May 1864, Booth gave hundreds of performances in cities throughout the dividing and divided nation. During the first half of 1862, he made his stage debut in leading roles in Chicago, New York, and Boston. When family friend John T. Ford opened his new theatre in Washington in November 1863, Booth was one of the first leading men to appear there. He delivered the final performance of his acting career there on March 18, 1865. A strong opponent of abolitionists and supporter of an independent Confederacy, Booth formulated a plan to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln and recruited Confederate sympathizers in 1864. When Union forces captured Richmond and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered, Booth’s kidnapping plan was no longer feasible, and he changed his goal to assassination. He shot Lincoln in the back of the head on the evening of April 14, 1865, then fled on horseback into Maryland. Twelve days later, Union troops surrounded Booth at a farm in Virginia and killed him.

John H. Surratt (1844-1916) was born in Washington, D.C. and enrolled at St. Charles College, where he studied for the priesthood. When his father died in 1862, he received an appointment as postmaster for Surrattsville, Maryland, southeast of Washington. During the Civil War, Surratt served as a Confederate Secret Service courier and spy. Surratt joined John Wilkes Booth’s plan to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln and participated in a failed attempt in March 1865. After Booth assassinated Lincoln and another conspirator nearly killed Secretary of State William H. Seward, Surratt denied involvement and fled to Canada. While he was there, his mother Mary Surratt was arrested, tried, and executed as a conspirator in the assassination of Lincoln. He fled to England under a false name, then served for a time in the Pontifical Zouaves in the Papal States. Recognized by an American, Surratt was arrested in November 1866 and sent to prison, from which he escaped. He fled to Egypt but was arrested there and returned to the United States in early 1867. His trail in a Maryland civilian court ended in a mistrial, and he was released on bail. Admitting his role in the plan to kidnap Lincoln, Surratt insisted he knew nothing of the change of plan to assassination. He later worked as a teacher and then worked for the Baltimore Steam Packet Company.

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