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Lot 166

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A. Lincoln Radio Broadcast Eyewitness Account, Ex-Nicholson Collection.

A pair of typed manuscripts, one is 2pp, measuring 8" x 13", and the other is 4pp, measuring 8.5" x 11", [Newark, New Jersey], dated circa 1928. Both have been signed in pencil by Mathilda Todd, the author. The two are nearly identical annotated texts of a February 11, 1928 radio broadcast made by Todd giving her personal account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865. Todd, 88 years old at the time of the broadcast, made some surprising claims in the typed text, along with pencil annotations in the margins, stating that she personally knew both Edwin and John Wilkes Booth. An excerpt from her account reads in part:

"…I have known many splendid and distinguished people…not a finer [one] than John Wilkes Booth, a fine looking mannerly chap about my own age [25 years old at the time]. I had heard that he had fallen into bad company. We all knew that his sympathies were with the southern states and we learned later that he was a member of a set of young fellows - radicals we would call them today -- who drew lots to see which should kill Lincoln…" Todd goes on to describe having seen Lincoln sever times before the shooting, and that the President had remarked on her fine horsemanship. She continues, describing the scene at Ford's Theater: "…We were in our places on the center aisle just a few rows back from the stage…There was a flag draped box on the right for the President, Mrs. Lincoln, Miss Harris and Major Rathborne. They sat in the second Box. The curtain had gone up on the second act when there was a shot. At the same instant I was amazed to see John Wilkes Booth, whom I had known so well, half jump and fall from the first box to the stage twelve feet below. His spur had caught in the drapery on the box so that his leap turned out to be a bad fall. For an instant no one realized what had happened. It struck me 'John Wilkes Booth had committed suicide.' It was not until some seconds later that Mrs. Lincoln screamed. The house turned from the stage…and saw the president, his head fallen on his chest, slumped down in the old-fashioned rocking chair in which he had been sitting. Then of course we knew the greater tragedy that had happened. Few people knew how badly Booth was hurt in his fall. I have read accounts and seen pictures of him hobbling off the stage to make his escape. This is as false as the story that he shouted 'Sic Semper Tyrannis'…When Booth's spur caught and threw him to the stage he broke his leg in a terrible way, so that the bone actually protruded through his trousers, and smeared the stage with blood. Naturally he couldn't move. Laura Keen leaned over and patted his head. Then to my amazement, I saw a rope swing over, evidently thrown by some confederates, lasso him and whisk him into the wings. That was the last time I ever saw John Wilkes Booth alive…"

The two typed manuscripts vary slightly, with one being the version she broadcasted to cut it down to 10 minutes, and the other being the 40 minute version. While Mathilda Todd's account differs in places from other eye-witness accounts, it certainly describes the excitement of events, and shows how the chaos of the moment and possibly the passage of time could alter one's perception of the traumatizing incident. The accounts are accompanied by related newspaper clippings, and invitation to attend the opening of Penn Station, an acceptance certificate to the National Society of the Daughters of the Revolution, a photograph of an elderly Mrs. Todd, and other documents. With provenance from Mrs. Nelson Todd. From the Nicholson Collection.

The manuscripts have flattened folds, with minor wear and small separations starting at the folds. Light additional creasing and toning. Slight rubbing to some of the pencil notation, but text is still legible. Newspaper clippings are toned and have flattened folds and minor chipping. Light creasing to photograph corners.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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