A rare reward poster seeking the capture of the men responsible for President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination has sold at auction for $166,375.
The poster, printed on April 20, 1865, advertises a total of $100,000 in rewards for the capture of John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices. Booth fatally shot Lincoln on April 14, 1865, at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC.
The poster advertises $50,000 for the apprehension of Booth, to be paid out by the “War Department.” An additional $25,000 each was offered for the apprehension of John Surratt and David Herold (misspelled as “Harold”), described as two of Booth’s accomplices.
Bidding for the document started at $100,000, according to a news release from Nate D. Sanders Auctions, which sold the poster on Thursday. The piece is from the first printing of the poster and is the rarest of three different poster designs released by the War Department, says the auction house.
The poster has been handed down for decades within the same Philadelphia family, according to the release. This is the first time the artifact has been sold or auctioned.
“This poster viscerally brings you back to the days after he was killed – the shock of the murder, and the anxiety of the assassin still out there on the loose,” said auction owner Nate Sanders in the release. “It was an incredibly tense few days and this poster is one of the few mementos that have survived from it.”
The poster advertises “liberal rewards” for “any information that shall conduce to the arrest of either of the above-named criminals, or their accomplices.”
“Let the stain of innocent blood be removed from the land by the arrest and punishment of the murderers,” the poster says. “All good citizens are exhorted to aid public justice on this occasion. Every man should consider his own conscience charged with this solemn duty, and rest neither night nor day until it be accomplished.”
Booth, an actor, is described as “Five Feet 7 or 8 inches high” with a “slender build” and “a heavy black moustache.” Surrat is described as “a slim man” with “hair rather thin and dark” and “eyes rather light.” Herold is described as “a little chunky man” with a “thin moustache.”
Booth was killed just six days after the printing of the poster. He was found hiding in a barn in northern Virginia and was shot by a Union soldier. Herold, who was hiding with Booth, surrendered and was sentenced to death by hanging. Surrat fled to Canada, then Europe and Egypt. His eventual extradition resulted in a mistrial and he was released.