In December of 1870, John H. Surratt gave his first public lecture about his involvement with John Wilkes Booth and the plot to kidnap Abraham Lincoln. His hope was to turn his notoriety into a successful career as a lecturer. He gave speeches in Rockville, MD, New York, Baltimore and was scheduled to speak in Washington, D.C. when public outcry and his arrest put an end to dream vocation. In truth, his lecture did not provide any earth shattering revelations and the full text of his Rockville lecture can be read on Roger Norton’s Lincoln Assassination Research Site here.
Regardless, John Surratt’s lecture was newsworthy. It was particularly suited for an illustrated newspaper across the ocean called The Days’ Doings. The Days’ Doings was owned by Frank Leslie, the namesake of the American illustrated newspaper, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. Frank Leslie was a English immigrant and engraver whose real name was Henry Carter. While his American newspaper set the bar for quality for illustrated newspapers, The Days’ Doings was specifically made to fulfill the darker desires and interests of its readers. Joshua Brown, a historian on Frank Leslie and The Days’ Doings, said it best: “In short, with The Days’ Doings, Leslie could pursue a male readership with a repertoire of sex, scandal, sports, and violence that would have undermined the necessary propriety of his most valued publication.” As an example, I previously posted this cover from an issue of The Days’ Doings, which I think demonstrates the newspapers normal content:
Publishing the words of John Surratt, an accomplice of the assassin, clearly fit the newspaper’s modus operandi. However, they found Surratt’s lecture too tame and lacking of drama. “He says very little of interest that was not known before,” the newspaper stated and, therefore, they supplemented the text by including several engravings: “The salient points of his lecture we have given pictorial interpretation”.
The article, which was published in The Days’ Doings on January 14th, 1871, contains a few abstracts from John Surratt’s lecture with far more space given to the lively “pictorial interpretations”:
The Days’ Doings (January 14th, 1871) owned by Dave Taylor
Indiana Historical Society
The Days’ Doings: The Guilded Age in the Profane Pictorial Press by Joshua Brown