Wanted: John Wilkes Booth
A seller on eBay is featuring this incredible piece of Civil War memorabilia: a "Wanted" poster for President Abraham Lincoln's assassin dated April 20, 1865.
John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin, was an immensely popular professional stage actor during the 1850's and 1860's. Imagine the fame surrounding someone like Tom Cruise and you can pretty much get the sense of Booth's popularity in his day. Booth, though, was a virulent Confederate sympathizer. As such, he was extremely agitated at the Civil War's outcome.
As a respected and popular actor, Booth had a personal relationship with the owner of Ford's Theater. On April 14, 1865, Booth discovered that Lincoln was scheduled to visit the theater that evening for a performance of Our American Cousin. During the play, at around 10pm, Booth snuck into the President's private box and shot him in the back of the head. Major Henry Rathbone, ostensibly a Presidential bodyguard, then struggled with Booth, who slashed him and then jumped from the box to the stage floor. Booth momentarily escaped, but was later hunted down by Union soldiers and cornered in a barn, which was set ablaze. Booth was dragged out of the fire and then unceremoniously shot.
The seller claims it is one of only two such posters currently known to exist. It is alleged to have been published by the War Department five days after Lincoln was murdered. The seller indicates that the original has been examined by an FBI document expert, the Surratt House Museum (Washington, DC) and the Smithsonian; all reportedly expressed interest and offered a tax credit, which was turned down by the seller.
The poster reads:
OF OUR LATE BELOVED PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
IS STILL AT LARGE.
WILL BE PAID BY THIS DEPARTMENT FOR HIS APPREHENSION, IN ADDITION TO ANY REWARD OFFERED
BY MUNICIPAL AUTHORITIES OR STATE EXECUTIVES.
WILL BE PAID FOR THE APPREHENSION OF JOHN H. SURRATT, ONE OF BOOTH'S ACCOMPLICES.
WILL BE PAID FOR THE APPREHENSION OF DANIEL C. HARROLD, ANOTHER OF BOOTH'S ACCOMPLICES.
LIBERAL REWARDS WILL BE PAID FOR ANY INFORMATION THAT SHALL CONDUCE TO THE ARREST OF EITHER OF THE ABOVE NAMED CRIMINALS, OR THEIR ACCOMPLICES.
ALL PERSONS HARBORING OR SECRETING THE SAID PERSONS, OR EITHER OF THEM, OR AIDING OR ASSISTING THEIR CONCEALMENT OR ESCAPE, WILL BE TREATED AS ACCOMPLICES IN THE MURDER OF THE PRESIDENT AND THE ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE, AND SHALL BE SUBJECT TO TRIAL BEFORE A MILITARY COMMISSION AND THE PUNISHMENT OF DEATH.
LET THE STAIN OF INNOCENT BLOOD BE REMOVED FROM THE LAND BY THE ARREST AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MURDERERS.
ALL GOOD CITIZENS ARE EXHORTED TO AID PUBLIC JUSTICE ON THIS OCCASION. EVERY MAN SHOULD CONSIDER HIS OWN CONSCIENCE CHARGED WITH THIS SOLEMN DUTY, AND REST NEITHER NIGHT NOR DAY UNTIL IT BE ACCOMPLISHED.
EDWIN M. STANTON, SECRETARY OF WAR
DESCRIPTIONS- BOOTH IS 5 FEET 7 OR 8 INCHES HIGH, SLENDER BUILD, HIGH FOREHEAD, BLACK HAIR, BLACK EYES, AND WEARS A HEAVY BLACK MUSTACHE.
JOHN H. SURRATT IS ABOUT 5 FEET 8 INCHES. HAIR RATHER THIN AND DARK; EYES RATHER LIGHT; NO BEARD. WOULD WEIGH 145 OR 150 POUNDS. COMPLEXION RATHER PALE AND CLEAR, WITH COLOR IN HIS CHEEKS. WORE LIGHT CLOTHES OF FINE QUALITY. SHOULDERS SQUARE; CHEEK BONES RATHER PROMINENT; CHIN NARROW; EARS PROJECTING AT THE TOP; FOREHEAD RATHER LOW AND SQUARE, BUT BROAD. PARTS HIOS HAIR ON THE RIGHT SIDE; NECK RATHER LONG. HIS LIPS ARE FIRMLY SET. A SLIM MAN.
DANIEL C. HARROLD IS 23 YEARS OF AGE. 5 FEET 6 OR 7 INCHES HIGH, RATHER BROAD SHOULDERED, OTHERWISE LIGHT BUILT; DARK HAIR, LITTLE (IF ANY) MONSTACHE; DARK EYES; WEIGHS ABOUT 140 POUNDS.
eBay: Wanted Poster