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John Wilkes Booth Burial Controversy Account, Ex-Nicholson Collection

Single page typed letter signed, 8.5" x 5.5". Dated "11-11-28" and signed by "Edward James Starr". The letter is an account of Booth's burial and is accompanied by a newspaper clipping from February 22, 1925, which discusses doubts of the location of the body of John Wilkes Booth. Letter has uneven toning, the newspaper clipping is age toned separated into four pieces. Overall good condition. Ex-Nicholson Collection.

The letter is shown below in full:

"My father, Edward V. Starr, was present at the burial of John Wilkes Booth. The officiating clergyman, Reverend Fleming James, was a personal friend of my Father and my middle name James, was given to me at the time of my baptism by the Reverend Fleming James in his honor.

The Reverend James went to Africa, as a missionary about 1875 and was killed by natives..."

Booth assassinated President Lincoln on April 14, 1865 before being killed himself. But Booth had quite a journey on the way to death. After shooting the president, Booth jumped to the stage from Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theater shouting “Sic semper tyrannis!”, breaking his leg in the process. He proceeded to escape through Maryland to Northern Virginia.

While on the lam, Booth had his leg treated by a doctor who would later be tried for conspiracy. Booth and fellow conspirator David Herold hid in the swamps for nearly a week. By April 26, federal officers had cornered the men, who were hiding in a tobacco barn. Booth was coaxed out when only when the barn was lit on fire, but refused to surrender. As he ran out with guns up, Sergeant Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett shot him. The soldier maintained that he had only meant to disarm the man, but Booth only lived a few hours after the officers dragged his body to the farmhouse porch.

Booth’s body was sewn into a horse blanket and transported back to Washington, D.C. on the Potomac River. He was autopsied in the Navy Yard and identified by, among other things, a tattoo of his initials on his wrist. First he was buried in the Old Penitentiary, along with his co-conspirators who were hanged there. Booth’s remains were exhumed and reburied in a warehouse of the Penitentiary in 1867. Finally in 1869, his remains were exhumed a third time and released to his family.

The assassin’s body was transported to Baltimore, the city of his youth, and buried in the Booth family plot in Green Mount Cemetery. The family plot is easy to find due to Junius Brutus Booth’s towering obelisk. But the Booth family, John Wilkes’ brother Edwin in particular, believed that an elaborate headstone for John Wilkes might attract unwanted attention and vandalism. Visitors today believe the small, plain, unmarked headstone denotes John Wilkes Booth’s final resting spot. Though some believe the white stone in the Booth family plot is actually that of Asia Booth Clarke, John Wilkes’ older sister. In lieu of flowers or stones, people leave pennies behind on the headstone, as if to give Lincoln the final word. 

An interesting piece of history revolving around this controversy.

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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