In the days complying with President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the country remained in shock together the battle Department search the suspects associated in the heinous crime cursed in former of a group at Ford’s Theatre.

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With no arrests made, officials looked to the general public for help. Using available modern technology they made a run of “WANTED” posters through spaces for photographs that the guys involved, and offered prize money because that the catch of the murderer, man Wilkes Booth, and his cohorts, David Herold and John Surratt.


At the time, it to be a novel approach that Secretary of war Edwin Stanton hoped would cause their apprehension. The posters loom big in historical significance, paving the method for the photographic wanted posters the later became ubiquitous, scholar say. But couple of were printed, and also even fewer survived.


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Now, an original is on screen at Harvard University’s houghton Library for the very first time, as part of an exhibition curated by faculty at the Cambridge college to memory the library’s 75th anniversary.

“It’s exceptionally rare,” said John Stauffer, a professor of English and also African American studies at Harvard, who selected the poster for the exhibit. “There were just a minimal number published during the hunt because that the assassins.”

Lincoln was shot and also killed by Booth, a famous actor and also Confederate sympathizer, top top April 14, 1865, while attending a performance at Ford’s Theatre dubbed “Our American Cousin,” according to the theater’s website.

The president’s murder quickly set off a manhunt because that Booth and also his two co-conspirators.

In an initiative to warn the public and also offer a cash prize for information that might lead to their capture, the war Department developed the posters.

The long pieces of file featured three blank frames at the top, where little portraits to be to be inserted after the posters to be made -- a step made vital by the technical limits the the time, Stauffer said.


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“The half-tone procedure that permitted photographs come circulate in broadsides, posters, and also the press, was years away,” that said.

Below the slots for the photographs to be the words “$100,000 Reward,” with an emoji-like hand pointing towards the offer. The was complied with by the indigenous “THE MURDERER,” printed in large, black letters, and, in a less foreboding typeface, “IS STILL at LARGE.”

There were three rewards that comprised the total — $50,000 because that Booth; and $25,000 each for Surratt and Herold, whose last names were misspelled ~ above the poster.

Blocks of little text were published beneath the monetary offerings, and read, in part, “Let the stain of innocent blood be gotten rid of from the floor by the arrest and also punishment that the murderers.”

Six job after the broadsides to be printed, Booth was killed and also Herold was captured, stated Stauffer. Surratt, the last staying suspect, fled come Canada and later England, the said, and also managed come evade arrest for 2 years.

The poster own by the house turn Library to be bequeathed come Harvard in 1918 by alumnus and prominent collector Evert Jansen Wendell.

The photographs of the suspects on harvard’s copy to be “tipped-in” after your captures, said Stauffer, possibly by Wendell or a vault owner.

“Someone, whether the donor or who else, got his hands on this broadside and said, ‘This is unfinished, I have actually photographs, or I’ll gain photographs of these suspects and I’ll reminder them in myself,” that explained.


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The poster was rediscovered amongst Houghton’s collections in 2012, by Peter X. Accardo, a staff member in ~ the library.

Accardo claimed he pulled the rarely artifact from a less-frequented part of the library’s stack, which homes oversized portfolios of printed ephemera.

The rediscovery — the poster to be “something that was never ever lost, however not quickly found,” Accardo stated — was triggered by his search for materials for one exhibition top top Emancipation that was maintain by college student in among Stauffer’s classes.

“It to be amazing,” stated Stauffer that the find. “I was simply blown away.”

Stauffer said only three various other repositories own similar broadsides v portraits that Booth and also his accomplices tipped-in. The pictures of the doubt are different in each copy, giving them a unique flair.

Harvard’s broadside will certainly be on display through April 22, alongside selection of items hand-picked through a selection of faculty members for the “HIST 75H: A Masterclass on house turn Library” exhibit.

For Stauffer and Accardo, see the broadside up close is precious the visit.

“It’s truly one of the rarest documents,” Stauffer said.

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