The Victorians loved to use descriptive, poetic language. Many of them who had the money for a really nice house even named their homes. They also named photographs, and the first picture here was taken by B.W. Kilburn.
He called it “The Surging Sea of Humanity“. This is a stereoscope, which is a really neat invention that was peculiar to the Victorian era. You need a stereoscope viewer to combine the two photos and get the full 3D effect.
The picture is an oddity for many reasons. Most photographs from this era are posed, formal, and serious.
There was a substantial amount of eyewitness testimony that the man who was killed at Garrett’s farm was not John Wilkes Booth. But if it wasn’t, where was Booth? And who was the man with red hair who was shot and killed?
Fast forward twelve years to 1877. In a little place called Granbury, Texas, a man named John St. Helen lay dying. He summoned Finis Bates, his attorney, and confessed that he was not John St. Helen. “My name is John Wilkes Booth.”
Before the final burial of John Wilkes Booth in the family plot in 1869, his mother, brother, and sister viewed the body. The mayor of Baltimore, William M. Pegram, who had known Booth well, was also present. In 1913, Mayor Pegram signed a sworn statement that the remains he saw in 1869 were those of John Wilkes Booth.
This unusual statement was necessary because an alternative history emerged what happened at Garrett’s farm in the early morning hours of April 26. According to that story, John Wilkes Booth did not die at the age of 27 on the front porch steps of Garrett’s farmhouse. A 1911 Washington Post article claimed there were more than 50 theories of what had really become of Booth. In the same article, they described a box containing Booth’s body being sent to Baltimore. The box was decayed but the body itself “was in a fair state of preservation”.
Booth was buried 15 minutes after midnight on a cold February night. Only a handful of people were present. The family wanted privacy and they did not want the public to know exactly where John’s body was.