John Wilkes Booth Autograph Letter Signed "J. W...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionJohn Wilkes Booth Autograph Letter Signed "J. Wilkes Booth." Three pages of a bifolium, 5.25" x 7.75", Cincinnati; November 23, . In a letter addressed to close friend Joseph H. Simonds, Booth writes about his recent theater shows and references a number of fellow popular actors. The letter, written while Booth was standing in his hotel lobby, reads in full:
"Dear Joe. I know you will forgive me, this long delay in answering your letters; if you knew better you would not wonder at it, as I avail myself of any excuse to get rid of writing, no matter how I may long to hear from the person to whom I have to write. And I confess I should like to hear from you every day. I received your photograph, a thousand thanks, I think it very good, I believe you have mine. My second week in Buffalo was so, so. I played 17 nights in Detroit to a good Bus[iness]. After here Monday night, 25th, they count high on me but I am doubtful as to my success. Maggie Mitchel is playing a good engagement here. I should have said has been; as she finished last night. My dear Joe excuse this as I am standing in the office with about a hundred people about me blowing at a fearful rate. I am not fixed yet, so I cannot go to my room. Yours of the 16th also reached me, in Detroit. It seems that Forrest is always in trouble. I am sorry his bus. is not better, for it is rough to see such trash (as Barney Williams practices on the stage), get the best of the legitimate, but such is life. Give my kindest regards to the Bugbee's. Has Mr. B. gone to Cal. yet? I addressed a letter to him in your care, did you get it, I will write to you more intelligibly the next time, so asking you to excuse this again. I am your true friend." The letter is accompanied by the original transmittal envelope, addressed in Booth's hand and with later docketing by Simonds. The envelope has an 1861 George Washington pink 3-cent stamp.
Booth opened at Wood's Theater in Cincinnati on November 25, 1861, in what would be a ten-day engagement. His contemporaries that he lists were Edwin Forrest, comedy actor Barney Williams, and Maggie Mitchell, a favorite of Abraham Lincoln's. Joseph Simonds was a banker from Boston, who would later aid Booth in a number of financial matters. In 1863, Simonds oversaw Booth's shares in a Pennsylvania oil company while the latter was still on tour, and when Booth's career began to fail, Simonds loaned him money. Some of this money would be unwittingly put towards Booth's failed plot to kidnap Lincoln in March 1864. Simonds would also be summoned to testify in court about his and Booth's dealings during the Lincoln conspirators' trial. This letter was published in Right or Wrong, God Judge Me: The Writings of John Wilkes Booth, ed. J. Rhodehamel and L. Taper on page 74-75. From the Bret J. Formichi American Civil War Rarities Collection.
Condition: Usual mail folds, with minor edge toning. A few contemporary ink smudges, else very fine. The envelope has usual wear and soiling.
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