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Great Finds

A ‘New’ Booth Reward Broadside

November 18, 2019

People have been collecting Lincoln memorabilia for over 150 years. Even though previously-unseen items surface on a fairly regular basis, there are certain items where the prospect of finding a new variant is considered remote. Such is the case with reward broadsides for John Wilkes Booth. Imagine our surprise, then, when an unknown, unpublished John Wilkes Booth reward broadside, issued by the State of Maryland for dissemination to law enforcement officials, surfaced in a west coast auction. Offered by
MBA Seattle Auction Company of Renton, Washington on July 20th, it sold for a reasonable $36,300, comparable to recent sales of the standard Booth reward broadside. It “belongs” in the collection of a certain New Jersey collector, a friend of the house, and we hope he was the successful bidder. We provide an excerpt from the catalog description:

A Rare 1865 Lincoln Assassination Broadside 19.25” x 12’’… This is a seemingly unknown version issued for the State of Maryland, the state where Booth ran to after the assassination. Possibly the only one of this version known in existence. Booth was captured on April 26th, six days after this poster was issued. It reads [in part], ”STATE OF MARYLAND EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, Annapolis, April 20, 1865. The following COMMUNICATION from the SECRETARY OF WAR has just been received by Telegraph, and is published for general information; every State and County Officer is requested to circulate this notice, and they, as well as all our Citizens, are earnestly invoked to aid, by their most diligent exertions, in bringing to justice the MURDERERS OF OUR LATE LAMENTED CHIEF MAGISTRATE – a duty the more imperative upon us all, when we call to mind the mortifying reflection, that the MISCREANT who fired the shot was a native of our State. A.W. BRADFORD. This broadside was given to William M. McMahan, Sheriff of Caroline County, Maryland… The poster is inscribed in ink on verso corner, ”To Shff McMahan”. Lot also includes three Sheriff Sale broadsides for August 15th 1864, September 17th 1864, and June 27th 1865 listing Wm. M. McMahan as sheriff, sizes 12” x 13” and 18’” x 14.5”. They were printed by the ”Union” print depot in Maryland. This group of rare American history has traveled through time by descent of Sheriff William McMahan.