Monthly Archives: December 2012

New Galleries – Rich Hill and the “Booth” Mummy

Today, I’ve added two new galleries to the Picture Galleries section of the site.

Rich HillThe first is Rich Hill, the home of Samuel Cox in Charles County, MD. Cox was a well-known Confederate sympathizer who held the honorary title of Captain (later Colonel) for commanding a volunteer militia at the start of the Civil War in case Maryland decided to secede from the Union. Booth and Herold made their way to Cox’s plantation after leaving Dr. Mudd’s. Cox gave them food and a chance to rest before having his overseer, Franklin Robey, hide them in a nearby pine thicket. He then sent his adopted son, Samuel Cox, Jr., to retrieve Confederate mail agent Thomas Jones. Jones and Cox were foster brothers and Cox knew he could trust Jones to care for and help the conspirators. Rich Hill still stands today but is in dire need of repair and restoration.

Mummy iconThe second gallery is devoted to the “Booth” mummy.  The mummy is that of Enid, Oklahoma drifter, David E. George who took his own life in 1903.  Before his death, George told residents of Enid that he was actually John Wilkes Booth.  When the news spread, Memphis attorney Finis L. Bates came to identify the body.  Years before in Texas, a man by the name of John St. Helen confided on his assumed deathbed to Bates that he was actually John Wilkes Booth.  St. Helen survived his illness, told his whole tale to Bates, and skipped town shortly thereafter.  Bates came to Enid and identified David E. George as John St. Helen.  The local undertaker embalmed the body and it was a local attraction in Enid for many years.  Bates bought the mummy and had it carted around carnival sideshows to expound his theory (and book) about Booth’s escape.  While not John Wilkes Booth, the George/St. Helen mummy is an interesting piece of pseudo-history all its own.

Click here, or the link at the top of the site, to visit the Picture Galleries see more images of Rich Hill and the “Booth” Mummy.

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New Section – Picture Galleries!

Some of you may have already noticed the new, fledging section to BoothieBarn.com: Picture Galleries! At the top of the page near the “About” tab is the link to this new feature:

Picture Galleries Menu

Clicking on the link will take you to the new Picture Galleries part of the website:

Picture Galleries Page

Here you will find different galleries of images relating to the Lincoln assassination field.  I’m hoping this section will become a great resource for those looking for images about the assassination. Currently, I only have four galleries up and running but I will be adding more as time goes on.  After you click a specific person, place or thing, you will be taken to its corresponding gallery:

Spangler Gallery Page

Clicking on a specific picture will open up a bigger version of the image, give you a short description of it, and source of the image if available.

As with many things in life, the Picture Galleries are works in progress.  My hope is for this to be a community project.  When I add a new gallery I will make a post announcing it.  My hope is that any of you with pictures of the same subject matter will contribute your personal pictures as well.  That way, together, we can create the best archive of Lincoln assassination imagery available.

So, I have four galleries up regarding Edman Spangler, Michael O’Laughlen, the Pine Thicket where Booth and Herold hid, and Booth’s Derringer.  If you have any more pictures relating to these subjects feel free to email them in .jpg format to me at boothiebarn (at) gmail (dot) com.  With any picture you send make sure to include a short description of it and its source.*

I’m excited about this new section to BoothieBarn and I hope it proves enjoyable and educational to you, too.

~ Dave Taylor

*By sending me your image, you are allowing your image to enter the public domain to be viewed and shared accordingly.  You understand that I may put your image on my website (BoothieBarn.com) for everyone to see and that I don’t have control over what happens to it after that.  I may not put up every picture sent to me, especially if it is low resolution or a duplicate.
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“Beautiful Snow”

There is none on the ground in Maryland and only patches of it in the grass here in Illinois, but, to so many, snow is the harbinger of Christmas.  I think Bing Crosby said it best with, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.”  As a Chicagoland native, snow has always been an integral part of the holiday season.  For this reason, instead of sharing another of my tacky Boothie carols, I am posting here a Civil War era poem.

Beautiful Snow

O the snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and the earth below!
Over the house-tops, over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet,
Dancing, Flirting, Skimming along.
Beautiful snow! it can do nothing wrong.
Flying to kiss a fair lady’s cheek;
Clinging to lips in a frolicsome freak;
Beautiful snow, from the heavens above,
Pure as an angel and fickle as love!

O the snow, the beautiful snow!
How the flakes gather and laugh as they go!
Whirling about in its maddening fun,
It plays in its glee with every one.
Chasing, Laughing, Hurrying by,
It lights up the face and it sparkles the eye;
And even the dogs, with a bark and a bound,
Snap at the crystals that eddy around.
The town is alive, and its heart in a glow,
To welcome the coming of beautiful snow.

How the wild crowd go swaying along,
Hailing each other with humor and song!
How the gay sledges like meteors flash by,
Bright for the moment, then lost to the eye!
Ringing, Swinging, Dashing they go.
Over the crest of the beautiful snow:
Snow so pure when it falls from the sky,
To be trampled in mud by the crowd rushing by;
To be trampled and tracked by the thousands of feet
Till it blends with the horrible filth in the street.

Once I was pure as the snows,—but I fell:
Fell, like the snow-flakes, from heaven—to hell:
Fell, to be tramped as the filth of the street:
Fell, to be scoffed, to be spit on, and beat.
Pleading, Cursing, Dreading to die,
Selling my soul to whoever would buy,
Dealing in shame for a morsel of bread,
Hating the living and fearing the dead.
Merciful God! have I fallen so low?
And yet I was once like this beautiful snow!

Once I was fair as the beautiful snow,
With an eye like its crystals, a heart like its glow;
Once I was loved for my innocent grace,
Flattered and sought for the charm of my face.
Father, Mother, Sisters all,
God, and myself, I have lost by my fall.
The veriest wretch that goes shivering by
Will take a wide sweep, lest I wander too nigh;
For all that is on or about me, I know
There is nothing that’s pure but the beautiful snow.

How strange it should be that this beautiful snow
Should fall on a sinner with nowhere to go!
How strange it would be, when the night comes again,
If the snow and the ice struck my desperate brain!
Fainting, Freezing, Dying alone,
Too wicked for prayer, too weak for my moan
To be heard in the crash of the crazy town,
Gone mad in its joy at the snow’s coming down;
To lie and to die in my terrible woe,
With a bed and a shroud of the beautiful snow!

“Beautiful Snow” was originally published in Harper’s Weekly on November 27, 1858.  The poem contrasts the purity of new fallen snow with a fallen woman who has lost hers.

Harper's Beautiful Snow

The 1924 book, Famous Single Poems and the Controversies Which Have Raged Around Them by Burton Stevenson, provides a wonderful critique of the poem and the reason for its success:

“One of the most popular of such recitations was entitled ‘Beautiful Snow,’ and purported to be the tragic revery of an out-cast as she makes her way along the wintry streets of a great city in the midst of a driving snow-storm. It was ‘sure-fire stuff,’ especially when recited by one of the gentler sex, because to the hopeless melancholy which was once so popular in pieces of this sort it added discussion, or at least mention, of a subject strictly taboo.

The Scarlet Woman was a phenomenon to which polite society at that time not only shut its eyes, but of which it pretended to be unaware. If she was pictured at all, it was as despairing and hopeless, ceaselessly bemoaning her fall from virtue, drinking the dregs of misery and want, with remorse ever gnawing at her heart, and finally dying of starvation amid wretched surroundings.

The idea that a woman who had taken the wrong turning could ever come back was anathema. In fact, society was banded together to prevent her coming back. To contend that such a woman had any claim to consideration, that she might be a good sort at bottom, and that she might eventually make a success of her life and be happy and contented in her last days was to incur grave suspicion. French fiction was held to be vicious and degraded because it occasionally developed such a theme. The fact that she died of consumption was the one thing that palliated the sins of Camille. Nobody knew exactly what to make of Trilby, though her death, too, was to her credit; but everybody agreed that for Little Billee to have married her would have been a crime against good morals. For sin must be punished.

‘Beautiful Snow’ laid the colors on exactly as society liked to imagine them.”

Since Harper’s carried the poem with no author byline, many people came forward trying to claim the composition as their own.   Stevenson stated that, “Probably no other poem in American literature has been so fought over,” as “Beautiful Snow”.   Sensationally romantic stories of the poem being found on the body of a dead woman on the street abounded.  The true author was John Whitaker Watson and he would publish a book of his poems including “Beautiful Snow” in 1869.  Though Watson would write many poems, he is known today for this “one hit wonder”.

Many individuals would perform public recitations of this poem to adoring audiences.  While visiting the city of Washington in the spring months of 1865, a young lady named Miss Porterfield heard the poem expertly recited by a young man:

“He was a very attractive man, winning and softvoiced, and more or less of a favorite among those who lived in or frequented the hotel. With a fine head, a figure handsomely proportioned from the waist upward, and graceful and easy manners, he soon fascinated me and my girl friend. On several occasions I heard him recite in the parlor, and his recitations never failed to attract and impress those who happened to hear him. I remember his rendition of ‘Beautiful Snow’ and Poe’s ‘Raven,’ as well as numerous plays with which he was familiar. He often talked to me and my companion, and, knowing that we were school-girls, tried to impress us with the need of speaking clearly and understanding; and on one occasion asked us to read a few lines from Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VIII,’ carefully criticizing our expression and accent as we read. Although we were mere misses, he treated us with the utmost deference and respect, and we finally became so well acquainted with him that he gave each of us his photograph, signed by himself.”

This man, as you were probably already aware, was John Wilkes Booth.  Even during this period of his life when he was away from the stage, Booth still played a part.  He enjoyed the close knit performance of giving impromptu readings at his hotel, The National.  George Alfred Townsend’s, The Life, Crime, and Capture of John Wilkes Booth, also speaks of Booth’s enjoyment of Watson’s poem:

GATH Booth Beautiful Snow

Admittedly, aside from the snow in it, “Beautiful Snow” is not a particularly Christmas-y poem.  Nevertheless, I felt it was an appropriate one to share on this day.  When reproduced in anthologies and selected poetry books many versions of “Beautiful Snow” would include one final stanza, an addendum to Watson’s original poem.  Contrary to Stevenson’s critique that “society was banded together to prevent” the redemption of a fallen woman, the revisionist ending speaks of God’s love for all downtrodden souls.

I hope that during this day and this season, we all remember to show our fellow men peace and love.  To quote my buddy Bing again, “May your days be merry and bright. And may all your Christmases be white.”

 

References:
Famous Poems from Bygone Days by Martin Gardner
Famous Single Poems and the Controversies Which Have Raged Around Them by Burton Stevenson
The Life, Crime, and Capture of John Wilkes Booth by GATH

 

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Battle of the Polkas

I’ve previously written about the long, drawn out legal battle between Laura Keene and John Sleeper Clarke over the popular play, “Our American Cousin”.  Laura Keene, the one-time lover of Edwin Booth, had to bring John Sleeper Clarke, the husband of Asia Booth, to court over her rightful ownership of the play not once, but twice.  The first suit was brought shortly after the play made its debut in Laura Keene’s New York theatre in 1858 when William Wheatley and John Sleeper Clarke began performing the play at the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia.  Everyone knew the play was a smash hit and, through some crafty means, Wheatley and Clarke managed to get themselves a copy of Tom Taylor’s original script and then poached Keene’s personal improvements.  In the legal battles, both sides would claim that they held the true ownership of the play.  Outside of the courtroom, both sides would also try to convince the American theatre goers that their version was the best.

Keene's Cousin Ad

Advertisement for Laura Keene’s Our American Cousin

Clarke Cousin Ad

Advertisement for John Sleeper Clarke’s Our American Cousin

In addition to their respective newspapers advertisements, Keene and Clarke came out swinging with battling “Our American Cousin” polkas. Keene struck first with her polka:

Keene's Cousin Polka Cover

Keene's Cousin Polka

Not to be undone by Keene, John Sleeper Clarke had his own polka composed for his theatre:

034_040_000_webimage

Clarke's Cousin Polka

For those of you who are musically inclined, you can download the sheet music for both polkas. Keene’s version is here and Clarke’s version is here. Oddly enough, here is a third “Our American Cousin” Polka that seems to be trying to find a compromise as it is written merely, “To the Patrons & Friends of Asa Trenchard”.

I find these battling polkas to be the perfect example of the constant one-upmanship between these two theatre rivals.  Though operating in separate cities, Keene and Clarke played out a very public dispute trying to gain control of the most popular comedy of the day.

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Wilkes Booth the Head Conspirator

Here’s Boothie caroling, Part 3.

headconspirator

Wilkes Booth the Head Conspirator
As sung to, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

You know Powell and Spangler,
And Surratt and Herold.
Atzerodt and Mudd,
O’Laughlen and Arnold.
But do you recall,
The most famous conspirator of all?

Wilkes Booth the head conspirator,
Had a very shiny gun.
Rathbone – he never saw it,
So now Lincoln’s work is done.
All of the other conspirators,
Listened to everything he said.
They never questioned Wilkes Booth.
And that is why old Abe is dead.

Then one foggy April night
Conger came to say,
“Wilkes Booth with the barn so bright
Won’t you come out here tonight?”
Then Boston Corbett fired,
And he shouted out with glee,
“I shot the head conspirator,
Providence directed me!”

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Associated Ads

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln manifested into countless front page headlines in newspapers across the country. From the details of the assassination, the hunt for Booth and his conspirators, and the trial that followed their arrests, nary a day went by between April 15th and July 7th, 1865, that aspects of Lincoln’s death were not “today’s top stories”. While significant and valuable text space was attributed to the big items of the assassination story, minor details had played out in the classified sections of various newspapers before the tragedy occurred. For a long time after the events as well, echos of the crime at Ford’s Theatre popped up in the most innocuous area of the newspaper – the advertisements. Here are a few examples of period advertisements associated with the death of Abraham Lincoln.

April 14th, 1865
Evening Star, Washington, D.C.
Advertisement for Lincoln at Our American Cousin 1 Advertisement for Lincoln at Our American Cousin 2

On page two of the Evening Star, the attendance of the Lincolns and General Grant is announced for that night’s performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre.

November 25, 1864
New York Herald, New York City, NY
Booth Shakespeare Benefit 1864 advertisement

The New York Herald announces that night’s performance of the brother’s Booth in their benefit towards the construction of a statue of Shakespeare in Central Park.

August 18, 1869
Sun, Baltimore, MD
JJSellingTeas1869

After being released from prison for the final time, John Harrison Surratt, Jr. made his way down into South America for about six months. Upon his return to America he tried his hand at the mercantile life with his own business selling tobacco and other commodities like the “slightly damaged” tea above. This business did not last long and about 18 months later, John Surratt would be a teacher in Rockville, MD.

January 3, 1871
Richmond Whig, Richmond, VA
JJLecture1871

Attempting to cash in on his story and connection to John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt underwent a lecture tour. His lecturing was as short-lived as his mercantile business due to public outcry.

CHALLENGE
June 15, 1864
Evening Star, Washington, D.C.
SchoonerIndianAuction1864

Here’s a good challenge for you all. Can any of you tell me how this sale of a schooner by the federal government is involved in the story of Lincoln’s assassination. Show me your skills by replying in the comment section below.

References:
The Last Lincoln Conspirator by Andrew Jampoler

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Another Boothie Carol

It’s time for another dose of revised holiday cheer. Here’s another classic Christmas carol rewritten in the “Boothie” theme. Please remember that these songs are just meant as harmless fun, and not an endorsement of Booth and his actions.
webruti

We, Bruti
As sung to, “We, Three Kings of Orient Are”

We Bruti, of vengeance we are.
Recompense we seek for our scars.
This oppression through suppression,
Masking as stars and bars.

O, Lincoln, Seward, Johnson too
Tyrants all, destructive crew.
Guns and daggers, cease their swagger.
Guide us on our deadly coup.

“Caesar falls from my noble plot.
I am scorned, but it matters not.
Chased and hunted, lamed and blunted,
I earn my own gun shot.”

O, Lincoln, Seward, Johnson too
Tyrants all, destructive crew.
Guns and daggers, cease their swagger.
Guide us on our deadly coup.

“With my knife, I burst in his room.
With his blood, I paint it with gloom.
He survived me, then they tried me.
Now I await my tomb.”

O, Lincoln, Seward, Johnson too
Tyrants all, destructive crew.
Guns and daggers, cease their swagger.
Guide us on our deadly coup.

“With my task, I could not commit.
Pawned my gun, from D.C. I split.
Found with Richter, bound and pictured,
Still the same fate I get.”

O, Lincoln, Seward, Johnson too
Tyrants all, destructive crew.
Guns and daggers, cease their swagger.
Guide us on our deadly coup.

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Goodbye Stairs, Hello Sushi

While we are very fortunate that the former Surratt boarding house on H. Street in Washington, D.C. is still standing today, we all know it is nothing but a shell of what it was in Lincoln’s day. The interior has been altered many times, even as recent as September of this year.

Aside from modern upgrades and advertising awnings for the Wok ‘N Roll, however, the exterior of the building is still very much identifiable as the former boarding establishment of Mary Surratt. The biggest exterior difference between its 1865 appearance and now, is the removal of the stairs and the first floor entrance.

Boardinghouse 1

In large, dirty cities like Washington first floor entrances were commonplace. This helped to keep the filth on the street from being tracked inside as easily.

While researching today, I came across the following picture which shows the boarding house with its stairs only recently removed:

Boardinghouse without stairs

When this picture was taken, you could still see the first floor door and the beautiful moulding around it but it no longer served as an entrance to the house unless a passerby was willing to give you a leg up. This was a transitional time for the building, and soon after the “phantom” door would be replaced by a window making the building closer to what we know it to be today.

Boardinghouse Today

References:
The Suppressed Truth about the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln by Burke McCarty

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Woe for the Powells

Lewis Powell as an infant with his mother Patience. From Betty Ownsbey's Alias Paine.

Lewis Powell as an infant with his mother Patience. From Betty Ownsbey’s Alias Paine.

After the events of April 14th, 1865, there were many ramifications for those related to the conspirators.  I’ve often highlighted the hardships of the Booth family in dealing with John Wilkes’ horrible act.  The fact that Edwin Booth managed to continue his successful theatrical career after such a tragedy demonstrates the power of his acting ability.  He gives a wonderful foil to his brother and his many years after in the spotlight allows us to really study his brother’s effect on his and his family’s life.  For the families of the other conspirators, however, such a study is not possible.  Edwin Booth was a newsworthy individual and the historical record speaks volumes about him.  The other families affected all too often just faded  away into obscurity.  Therefore, I find this brief newspaper article regarding the Powell family’s grief to be quite poignant.  After their son Lewis attacked Secretary of State Seward and his household, the Powells carried a similiar stigma as the Booth family.  Just because history did not fervently document their struggles with their kin’s actions does not make their suffering any less real.

Woe for the Powells New York Herald 8-2-1865

References:
Alias “Paine” by Betty Ownsbey
New York Herald – August 2, 1865
Lewis Payne – Pawn of John Wilkes Booth by Leon Prior

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A Boothie Carol

During this holiday month, I hoping to post a few of my “Boothie” Carols.  Last year I composed these revised Christmas Carols as a gift for my girlfriend, Lindsey.  I hope you enjoy them as the harmless bit of humor that they were intended.

This first one is called, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Play”.  I’ve embedded a YouTube video of the original song in case you feel like singing along with the new lyrics. :)

timeoftheplay

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Play

As sung to, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

.

It’s the most wonderful time of the play.

With the stage almost empty,

And laughter a plenty,

Plus I’ve barred the way.

It’s the most wonderful time of the play.

.

It’s the slap-happiest whimsy of all.

When their foreign born cousin,

A bane there in London,

Let’s loose his guffaw.

It’s the slap-happiest whimsy of all.

.

There’ll be noise for suppressing,

The sound of my threshing,

In case someone puts up a fight.

.

There’ll be shock and confusion,

A sense of delusion,

As Lincoln goes out like a light.

.

It’s the most wonderful time of the play.

There’ll be much adoration,

As I save the nation,

A tyrant, I slay.

.

It’s the most wonderful time.

Yes, the most wonderful time.

Oh the most wonderful time,

Of the play!

.

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