Monthly Archives: April 2013

I have a Booth diary!

When I arrived home yesterday, I found a card in my mailbox stating that the mailman tried to deliver a package but, seeing as no one was home, he held on to it.  I knew exactly what the package was.  It was something that I had been anticipating since the first day I saw it online – my replica John Wilkes Booth diary!  I filled out the postal service card to give them permission to leave it on my stoop, and I rushed home today.  I knew from all the emails, pictures, and collaboration between Pasquale and I, that I was going to really like the diary.  Even though I had seen pictures of the diary throughout the entire process and helped Pasquale replicate the inside of the diary page by page, with the actual product in my hand, I am still completely amazed at the craftsmanship and detail in every stitch and every page. I’m extremely excited and it’s time to show off my John Wilkes Booth diary:

So, I’m on cloud nine right now. If you would like to join me, you can order your own diary for $400 + $25 shipping. I know it’s a sizeable amount of money, but trust me, it is absolutely worth it. Pasquale has made a very unique and very detailed replica that is second to none. I’d be happy to photograph any other part of the diary and post it here if it will help you make your decision. For those of you ready to take the plunge, email me at boothiebarn (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll send you information on how to send money to Pasquale. Update: Pasquale is all out of John Wilkes Booth diaries and will not be making anymore.  Thank you to all who supported his hard work.

I have a Booth diary!!!!!!!!!

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Lincoln Assassination Books for Sale

Looking for a new book on the Lincoln assassination?  Then may I suggest the new book from the dynamic duo of Jim Garrett and Rich Smyth.  Their new book, which they debuted at the Surratt Conference, is entitled, The Lincoln Assassination: Where Are They Now? A Guide to the Burial Places of Individuals Connected to the Lincoln Assassination in Washington, DC.

The book contains the collective work of Jim and Rich, avid cemetery bushwhackers and extensive Lincoln assassination researchers.  This volume is the first of several highly anticipated books from the pair as they delve into not only more graves, but also the relics of the Lincoln assassination.  You could buy the book from Amazon, but why not support Jim and Rich’s favorite museum by purchasing your copy from the Surratt House Museum giftshop?  Call (301) 868-1121 during normal business hours to order your copy today. 

Looking for an old book on the Lincoln assassination? Richard and Kellie Gutman, the authors behind the impeccable book John Wilkes Booth Himself, have started a website offering up for sale several books from their collection.  Their selection of books is extensive and contains many lesser known titles.  Head on over to http://www.johnwilkesboothbooks.com and check out what they have for sale.  I purchased half a dozen books from them last week and Richard mailed them swiftly to my door.

And while not a book in the conventional sense, we already have one very happy purchaser of a replica John Wilkes Booth diary.  Mr. Marsella is still accepting orders if you’re interested in owning a completely handmade replica of Booth’s diary.  The low price of $400 + $25 shipping is exclusively for readers of this blog.  Just email me at boothiebarn (at) gmail (dot) com, if you want one of this unique pieces before they’re gone for good.

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A Trip to Gettysburg with Boothie Results

Today, I drove up to Gettysburg, PA.  While in Gettysburg, I spent some time looking at a few antique stores and a museum.

At one antique store, I found and purchased these two newspapers:

Harper's Weekly - Edwin Booth Sam and Mike - Philadelphia Inquirer

Another antique store had this stereoview card of the room in which Lincoln died, but it was a bit out of my price range:

Lincoln Deathroom

I then went to the Gettysburg Museum of History. Those of you who watch the History channel show, American Pickers, might remember one episode in which the pickers, Mike and Frank, are commissioned by the curator of the Gettysburg Museum of History to find some items for him. The museum is quite remarkable with a large and varied collection of items. In particular interest to me was this shelf of Lincoln and Lincoln assassination related materials:

Gettysburg Museum of History

John Wilkes Booth playbill

John Wilkes Booth playbill


Bells and Songbook - Gettysburg

Bells and songbook from Ford’s Theatre


Piece of towel that was placed around Lincoln's head to stop the bleeding next to one of the few authentic locks of Lincoln's hair.

Piece of towel that was placed around Lincoln’s head to stop the bleeding next to one of the few authentic locks of Lincoln’s hair.


A piece of Booth's splint

A piece of Booth’s splint

There are many other items in the collection worth seeing, including an entire room devoted to JFK and his assassination.  So, next time you’re in Gettysburg, check out the Gettysburg Museum of History.

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Epilogue: Booth Escape Route Tour

7:10 pm:
We are practically back to the Surratt House museum from which our journey began today. Even after recharging my phone twice during the trip, I’m back down to 15% battery life. For my first attempt at “live blogging” I’m quite happy with the result and I hope you enjoyed it.

The John Wilkes Booth Escape Route Tour put on by the Surratt House Museum is without compare. My few pictures are nothing compared to the thorough narration and wonderful experience of visiting these places firsthand. I hope you all have the opportunity to take this phenomenal tour in the future. You won’t regret it.

9:00 pm:

I’m back home now, and I want to share a touching story from today. On the tour with us were three people, an older couple and their daughter. They told me that they had been on the tour three times before this with their son, Rick. Rick loved Civil War history and taking the Booth tour. Last September, the couple told me, their son Rick died of cancer at the age of 48. They were wearing shirts with his face on them and going on this Booth tour in memory of him and how much he loved history.

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I thought that it was such a nice and touching tribute, and I think the Surratt House should be very proud of the fond memories this family has of their late son because of their tour.

‘Til next time,

Dave Taylor
April 27, 2013

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Live Blogging: Booth Escape Route Tour Part 2

My phone doesn’t want to add more pictures to my first “live blog” post, so I’m starting this second post to continue the tour.

3:35 pm:

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Mathias Point, VA from the point where Booth and Herold set off from Maryland.

3:40 pm:

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Drive by of Huckleberry, the home of Thomas Jones.

3:55 pm:

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Crossing the bridge into Virginia.

4:05 pm:

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Mrs. Quesenberry’s house.

4:30 pm:

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Cleydael, the home of Dr. Richard Stuart, who denied Booth and Herold aid excepting a meal.

4:50 pm:

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The telephone pole here marks the approximate location of the William Lucas cabin. Booth and Herold evicted the Lucases when they were denied by Dr. Stuart.

5:09 pm:

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Drive by of where the ferry came into Port Royal, VA and the Peyton House where Booth and Herold attempted to find assistance.

5:20 pm:

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We made it. Booth’s last breath was taken here at Garrett’s farm 148 years ago yesterday.

5:45 pm:

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The last stop before we head back home to the Surratt House, Horne’s for ice cream and a bathroom break.

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Live Blogging: Booth Escape Route Tour

Today (4/27/13), I will be on the John Wilkes Booth Escape Route Tour put on by the Surratt House museum. I’ve decided to try my hands at “live blogging” the tour, which essentially means I will be adding pictures to this post throughout the day as we visit the different places. If there are any particular things you would like a picture of, comment below and I’ll be happy to oblige. I’m hoping my phone won’t run out of battery with all the picture taking and uploading, but it might happen. So if the tour just ends for awhile, you’ll know why. Check back periodically today for updates!

Here we go:

6:22 am: Lindsey and I are on our way to Surratt House early to await and facilitate the tour participants’ check in.

6:31 am:

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Two of the large bookshelves that line Lindsey’s office at the Surratt House Museum. She loves being surrounded by countless assassination books while she works. If you need a book on the assassination, odds are the Surratt House gift shop has it.

7:23 am:

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The bus has left Surratt House filled with the tour group and our esteemed tour guide, John Howard, sets the scene as we drive into DC.

8:00 am:

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We’re outside of Ford’s Theatre listening to Ranger Eric Martin give a speech about the history of the Theatre.

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8:15 am:

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Inside the Ford’s Theatre Museum.

8:45 am:

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In the theatre of Ford’s listening to Ranger Eric Martin give the account of the assassination and peering into the presidential box.

9:05 am:

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A quick walk through of Petersen House. I was helping some tour participants through so I didn’t take any pictures inside.

9:23 am:

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Drive bys of Baptist Alley, the route Booth took out of Ford’s, and the former site of the Herndon House, where Lewis Powell stayed.

9:27 am:

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Drive by of the Surratt boarding house in D.C.

9:35 am:

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Drive by of David Herold’s possible house in the Navy Yard and taking the bridge that runs parallel to the former Navy Yard bridge.

9:57 am:

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The approximate location of Sopher’s hill where Booth and Davy met up after fleeing DC separately.

10:10 am:

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At the Mary Surratt House Museum in Clinton, MD, the organizers of this and countless other BERTs.

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Surratt House employee Kyle Mongan about to give a tour. No pictures of the inside of the house because I’m spending our time at Surratt charging my phone battery in my car otherwise I won’t make it much past Mudd’s.

11:27 am:

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The small crossroad town of T.B. through which Booth and Herold rode through after leaving the Surratt Tavern.

11:46 am:

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Farm of George Gardiner, next door neighbor of Dr. Mudd’s, from whom Booth bought a horse blind in one eye.

11:50 am:

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The Dr. Mudd House Museum in Waldorf, MD.

1:03 pm:

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Drive by of Bryantown Tavern, where Dr. Mudd came and learned of Lincoln’s assassination on April 15th while Booth was at his home.

1:07 pm:

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Drive by of Mudd’s grave at St. Mary’s church, where Mudd met Booth in 1864.

1:23 pm:

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Drive by of Rich Hill, the home of Samuel Cox.

1:25 pm:

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Drive by of the pine thicket where Booth and Herold were hid by Thomas Jones.

1:34 pm:

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Time for lunch at Captain Billy’s. I’ll see you after.

3:15 pm:

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After a short delay due to a broken broiler at Captain Billy’s, we’ve made it to Loyola Retreat, the location of where Booth and Herold set across the Potomac.

End of part 1. See part 2: https://boothiebarn.com/2013/04/27/live-blogging-john-wilkes-booth-escape-route-tour-part-2/

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The Case Against Dr. Mudd

While I take a sympathetic and pragmatic approach to Dr. Mudd when it comes to his knowledge of the assassination of Lincoln, from time to time I think it’s important to point out the fallacy of the “simple, country doctor” mystique that has crept up around him.  The following is an excerpt from Dr. Edward Steers, Jr.’s wonderful book, His Name is Still Mudd.  It succinctly states the evidence demonstrating Dr. Mudd’s involvement in John Wilkes Booth’s initial plot to abduct President Lincoln.  What follows after is an account written by George Alfred Townsend, GATH, in which the meeting between Dr. Mudd, Booth and Thomas Harbin is described.

dr-mudd-1-oldroyd

Mudd’s knowledge of, and acquaintance with John Wilkes Booth:

      1.  The meeting in November 1864, in which Booth is first introduced to Mudd at St. Mary’s Church in Bryantown.
          2.  The meeting at the Bryantown Tavern in mid-December 1864, (December 17-21) where Dr. Mudd introduced Booth to Thomas Harbin [see account of this meeting below], and when Booth spent the night at Mudd’s house and later purchased the one-eyed horse from his neighbor, George Gardiner

3.  The December 23, 1864 trip to Washington where Mudd meets Booth at the National Hotel and introduces him to Confederate agent John H. Surratt, Jr.

Whether Mudd knew that Booth murdered Lincoln, and when he knew it:

          1. Samuel Mudd’s statement that he heard of the assassination while in Bryantown on Saturday afternoon (April 15th)
          2. Francis R. Farrell’s testimony in which he states that Mudd told both himself, and John F. Hardy on Saturday afternoon that a man named Booth had murdered Lincoln.
          3. Samuel Cox, Jr.’s statement that Mudd told him, in 1877, that while in Bryantown on Saturday afternoon, April 15th, Mudd had heard of the assassination of President Lincoln, and that John Wilkes Booth was the assassin.
          4. Samuel Cox, Jr.’s statement that Mudd told him that when he learned Booth was the assassin he returned home and ordered Booth out of his house.
          5. Captain George W. Dutton’s affidavit that Mudd told him on July 22, 1865, that he knew it was Booth whose leg he had set at his home on Saturday, April 15th.

Evidence linking Mudd to Booth’s conspiracy to capture President Lincoln:

        1. Mudd’s introduction of Thomas Harbin to Booth.
        2. Mudd’s introduction of John H. Surratt, Jr. to Booth.
        3. Samuel Cox, Jr.’s statement which quotes Mudd as saying that he went into Bryantown on Saturday, April 15th, to mail contraband letters which he had received earlier.
        4. George Atzerodt’s “lost confession” in which Atzerodt states that Booth had sent provisions to Dr. Mudd’s house to be used for their flight to Virginia.
        5. Dr. Richard Stuart’s deposition which states that Herold had told him that Dr. Mudd had referred Booth and Herold to Dr. Stuart, implying that Booth would receive medical assistance.
        6. William Bryant’s statement that the two fugitives were referred to Dr. Stuart for medical assistance.”

 – Dr. Edward Steers, Jr. in His Name is Still Mudd

Thomas Harbin

Thomas Harbin

“After church that day Booth went into Bryantown, a mile or two distant, and in plain sight, and was introduced by Dr. Mudd at the village hotel to Mr. Thomas Harbin, the Marylander, who was the principal signal officer or spy with the lower Maryland counties.

Toward the close of the war rigorous policing of the lower Maryland country was relaxed or dispensed with, as the enemy had been pushed south of the James River and seldom molested the Potomac paris.  Harbin, whom I talked to at great length just before he died, about 1885, gave me particulars concerning Booth, which would now be past discovering.  He told me that in Bryantown, at the tavern, Dr. Mudd introduced him to Booth, and said that Mr. Booth wanted some private conversation with Harbin; they took a room on the second floor, where Booth went through the thespian motions of pacing and watching the hallways and escapements.  He then outlined a scheme of seizing Abraham Lincoln and delivering him up the same evening in Virginia.  He said that he had come down to that country to invite co-operation and partners, and intimated that there was not only glory, but profit in the undertaking.

Harbin was a cool man who had seen many liars and rogues go to and fro on that illegal border and he sat down Booth as a crazy fellow, but at the same time said that he would give his co-operation.”

GATH dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, April 18th, 1892

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The Attempt on Edwin Booth’s Life

As I wrote two days ago, Edwin Booth was the target of an assassination attempt on April 23, 1879 while he was performing Richard II at McVicker’s Theatre in Chicago. Since two days ago was the anniversary of the attempt, I wanted to put up a quick post highlighting what I considered a mere piece of historical trivia. The more I looked into it however, the more I found myself quickly engulfed in a huge amount of information that is available far beyond what I have read in books. My inspiration for this post was Nora Titone’s Edwin/John Wilkes biography, My Thoughts Be Bloody which devotes a paragraph to the incident. While looking for a bit more background I read about the incident in Eleanor Ruggles’ Prince of Players and Stanley Kimmel’s The Mad Booths of Maryland. These sources gave about a page to the incident. I decided to look at the newspaper sources of the day, and it is from those that I was deluged with information. This attempt on Edwin’s life was a national story. The coverage on it all quickly reminded me of how talented and celebrated Edwin Booth truly was. We all know that newspapers take liberties with the truth from time to time and that we cannot trust them with certainly. Nevertheless, what follows is a look at the aftermath of the attempt on Edwin’s life and the fate of his assassin.

First allow me to summarize the scene of the assassination ttempt, this time pulling from newspaper sources, rather than the books mentioned above.

McVicker's Theatre

In April of 1879, Edwin Booth was at McVicker’s Theatre in Chicago for an engagement. McVicker’s was owned by James H. McVicker, the step-father of Edwin’s second wife, Mary McVicker. She was backstage during that night’s performance. As always, the accounts of the day differ somewhat regarding what happened during the final act of Richard II. The last scenes of the act are set in the prison of Pomfret castle where King Richard is shown cut off from the world. The stage is darkened during this scene, with little more than a pale light masquerading as moonlight shining through a small grated window on the prison flat. Booth, as Richard, was sitting on stage soliloquizing of his isolation. Meanwhile, a man who sat in the second balcony about 30 feet from Booth, was removing a pistol he had concealed in his sleeve. In his left hand, he was said to be holding a copy of the play. He followed along with Booth’s soliloquy, waiting for the right time to act. While speaking onstage, Booth heard a shot ring out.

mark-gray-lyons-vs-edwin-booth-iannone

Booth and the audience remained unmoved; the audience thinking the anachronistic gunshot was the result of an error backstage and Booth thinking an accident prone cowboy had discharged his gun by mistake. When a second shot rang out about three seconds later, Booth arose (or was in the process of rising when the second shot happened) and proceeded to walk calmly towards the direction of the shots. Before walking off of the stage and into the audience, Booth pointed to the left hand upper gallery and men around the assailant grabbed at the man with the revolver, preventing him from firing again. Booth went into his dressing room to comfort his wife, Mary, who was in a state of great distress after hearing the shots.

Edwin Booth and his wife Mary McVicker

Edwin Booth and his wife Mary McVicker

It was written that had it not been for the swift response from police officers the assailant would have been, “rather roughly handled” by the rest of the audience when they became aware of what had occurred. The man was seized by the officer of the theatre and James Morgan, a detective who was in the audience. Morgan put handcuffs on the man who gave him little resistance. As Morgan led the man to Chicago’s Central Station, he heard him say, “I don’t see how I happened to miss him,” and, “I am sorry that I didn’t take some lessons in pistol practice before I tried this thing.”

Nervous interrogationWhen searched at Central Station a .32 caliber “True Blue” revolver with three loaded chambers and two chambers containing exploded shells was found on him. Along with some trivial items (scissors,  pawn ticket, pocket knife) the man was found to have a stub for a seat at McVicker’s from the night before, April 22nd. In addition, the man had this letter on him:

“Chicago, April 22, 1879.

Dear Katie:

Forgive these brief but horrible lines, I left St. Louis Monday evening. The firm I was with would not increase my salary, so I made up my mind to return to Keokuk, but being a lover of fine acting I came to Chicago to see Booth, but I was sadly mistaken. It would take Booth one year of constant acting to compete with Lawrence Barrett’s  Richelieu. Tonight he plays Richard II. Katie, if I go tonight he will kill me or I will him. In all Shakespeare’s works I find but one man to compete with Booth, and that is Iago. My judgment ought to foretell me that since I call Booth Iago he could no more play Richelieu than the devil could be an angel. I don’t know what to do. Every line I write I prance the floor as though I was playing Hamlet. I’m sorry I came here, for I think the hangman has a rope for me. Remember me to your mother and sister.”

The man had seen Edwin Booth act before, and seemingly did not believe he was worthy of any of his accolades. The letter was signed, “Yours Truly, Mark Gray”. The name of the failed assassin was known.

When asked, he refused to state his reasons for wanting to kill Edwin Booth, but claimed that when they were made known, they would be deemed sufficient to all.

The next morning, April 24th, Edwin Booth was present when Mark Gray was taken before a judge:

Bail hearing for Gray

It was found that Gray had purchased the revolver used in the shooting only the day before and clearly showed no skill as to its use. Mark Gray was a young man, 26 years of age (though he stated to police he was 23) and was said to bear a striking resemblance to Edwin Booth if not for his mustache.

Theories abounded regarding Gray’s motive behind his attempted assassination of Edwin. Gray’s own ambiguity when questioned only fueled the fire in the nation’s newspapers. Here are a few published theories for the attempt on Booth’s life, some serious, others humorous:

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While people hypothesized about Gray’s motives, more information was being found regarding his background and character:

Background on gray

suicide attempt gray

Finding no answers in the newspaper accounts and the interviews others had with Gray, Edwin Booth decided to meet with Gray himself and ask him what drove his attempt on his life:

Edwin's chat with Gray

Perhaps desiring the attention for a longer period of time, Gray did not reveal his reasons to Booth at this time.

On May 6th, Mark Gray was brought into court for arraignment and gave a surprising plea:

Gray pleads guilty

Wanting to make sure Edwin Booth was present for the proceedings of the trial before departing Chicago for his next engagement, the pendulum of justice moved swiftly for Mark Gray. On May 10th his trial began, and it was here that he finally revealed his reasoning for attempting to kill Edwin Booth.

Gray's Trial

The mere word “mark”, recited by Edwin Booth as Richelieu and King Richard was the cause for the actor’s misery. The vocalization of this simple English word which is a homograph for a name, and the way in which Booth portrayed his characters, incensed Mark Gray to the point of madness. As stated, Gray was immediately sent to the Northern Illinois Hospital and Asylum for the Insane in Elgin, IL.

Though Gray was locked away, Edwin Booth kept a cautious eye on his would be assassin and wrote the following note to a Chicago attorney a month after Gray was put in the Elgin asylum:

“I trust that our friend Gray may become gray indeed – yea postiviely hoary-headed – in kind but careful confinement, or if earlier released, that his exit may be from this earthly stage of his dramatic exploits to that celestial scene where idiots cease from shooting and actors are at rest. If he be ever again at liberty my own life I shall not value worth a rush. But I hope the Elgin guardians will not be deceived by his seeming helplessness.”

Edwin Booth would be able to sleep easy for a little over three years.  Then, in October of 1882, Mark Gray’s friends made a plea for his release:

Gray seeks release October 25 1882 Rockford, IL

On November 6, 1882, Gray was successful in his plea:

Gray set free November 6 1882 Rockford, IL

Though I have not been able to find an account of Edwin’s reaction to the release of his would be assassin, we can surmise that he was not pleased by the relatively short amount of time Mark Gray spent locked up.

In a worrisome sign of mental relapse, Gray jumped into the spotlight again trying to cash in on his infamy:

New Hamlet November 23 1882 Canton, OH

If Gray ever did play Hamlet, it was just to his neighbors in Keokuk, Iowa. For many years, Mark Gray was forgotten. When Edwin Booth died in 1893, Gray’s attempt was mentioned in a sentence on various newspaper biographies on his life. Just a little over 10 years later, in May of 1904, Mark Gray Lyons died at the age of 51. While Booth’s obituaries contained mentions of Mark Gray, there was a distinct lack of Booth in Mark Gray’s official obituary:

Gray's Obit

Unsurprisingly a bachelor his whole life, Mark Gray was buried with his sister and her husband in the Catholic section of Keokuk’s Oakland Cemetery.

To me Mark Gray Lyons is Edwin Booth’s Mark David Chapman. Gray wanted the fame and life of Edwin Booth. He tried to convince others and himself that he was Edwin Booth’s son. He wanted to be a star of the stage and resented Edwin for the success he had. After the shooting that night in 1879, Edwin Booth returned to the stage and finished Richard II. James McVicker found one of the bullets behind one of the stage flats it had passed through and he gave it to Edwin Booth. Booth later had it set in a gold cartridge and engraved upon it, “From Mark Gray to Edwin Booth, April 23, 1879.” Edwin was above all else, a devoted tragedian and, as history shows, nothing could keep him off that stage for long:

Scene in a theatre

References:
My Thoughts Be Bloody by Nora Titone
Prince of Players by Eleanor Ruggles
The Mad Booths of Maryland by Stanley Kimmel
The Staff of the Keokuk Public Library
Countless newspaper articles garnered from GenealogyBank.com

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