John Wilkes Booth Family Owned Mirror, Showing the Reflection of an Assassin? Ex-Nicholson Collection
Reflections of an assassin. The original wall mirror owned by the family of John Wilkes Booth and hung in the Booths Family summer house. This eerie mirror is 11" x 8.5" including the original wood frame. The outer edge of the wood is surrounded with a thin metal band that is attached by grommet pins. The verso is backed in wood and the hanging wire. The silver back mirror has the common tarnish and damage often found with the silver backing. The wood frame has crazing and splitting. The mirror was originally intended as a stage make-up mirror, and was used by the father of John Wilkes Booth, Junius Brutus Booth (1796-1852). A document will accompany the mirror describing the history of the mirror as shown below. Ex- Nicholson Collection.
Junius Brutus Booth Sr. used this mirror throughout his stage career. Junius Sr. passed it down to his son Edwin Booth. After his father's death, Edwin hung the mirror in the Booth Family's summer home, named "Masconomo" which was located in a Massachusetts costal town called Manchester-The-Sea. The mirror hung at Masconomo for many years. After John Wilkes and Edwin's deaths, the family summer home was heired to Junius Brutus Booth, Jr., Junius Sr.'s eldest son. Junius Jr., left Masconomo to his son, Sydney Barton Booth. In 1910 Sydney Barton Booth sold Masconomo. While moving the contents out of the summer home, Sydney gave this mirror to a family friend, John Rufus Cheever. Cheever gave the mirror back to Sydney's daughter, Elizabeth. The mirror ended up in the estate of a local Massachusetts family, who will remain nameless as per their wishes.
The mirror will also be accompanied by a hand written note on card stock, 7.5" x 5.25" which states "The glass belonged to Sydney B. Booth's grandfather that he used for his make up on the stage, a gift from Sydney Booth to John Rufus Cheever June 26, 1910 on the breaking up his Home at Manchester by the Sea, Mass., the property was sold at auction June 27, 1910 bid on by J.B. Schoeffell. Furniture $900, Land & Building $71,000."
What we know about the property, the Masconomo House:
In 1867, Junius and Agnes Booth bought property at the corner of Beach and Masconomo Streets, and built a cottage where they soon found themselves entertaining many actors and actresses. In 1878 they decided to expand their hospitality and their home as well. The Beetle and Wedge, a local newspaper reported that, “ J. B. Booth, Esq., has contracted with Messrs. Phillips and Killam for the building of a summer hotel …230 feet in length, facing the ocean, and will be 50 feet in width. It will accommodate 300.” It was connected directly to the original Booth cottage.
The Masconomo House Hotel, overlooking Singing Beach, was a huge success and the epicenter of the social whirl in Manchester during the Gilded Age. There were dances, concerts and parties, not to mention, plenty of sports – swimming in the ocean, lawn tennis, billiards, bowling and boating in the harbor.
After Junius Booth died in 1884, his wife, Agnes, married a family friend, John Schoeffel. Together they continued running the hotel with great success. In 1887, actors and friends of the owners presented a performance of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” on the lawn of the Masconomo House. It was the first professional theater performance staged outdoors in the United States. This was followed the next year by another al fresco production, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” There were 100 electric and calcium lights to illuminate the show, along with a grand orchestra and full chorus.
After Agnes died in 1910, her husband, John Schoeffel, purchased the hotel from her estate. (John Schoeffel was referenced in the accompanying provenance which identified the price he paid for the contents and the house).
In addition to the mirror, the lot will come with a paperback book, "American Gothic, The Story of America's Legendary Theatrical Family.", the handwritten card, and the typed letter describing the history of the mirror.
Who knows what and who this mirror saw during its tenure with the Booth family. If only the mirror could talk!
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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