Filling in a Gap: Reporting Lincoln’s Assassination

9420_0001In May I picked up a large collection of newspapers from the Indiana State Library.  It took 20 book cart loads to unload the back of the 26’ truck.  There were a number of bundles of miscellaneous newspapers of single or scattered issues.

While going through one of the bundles, I came across an issue of the Daily Morning Chronicle from Washington, D.C., dated April 15, 1865.

This is an Abraham Lincoln assassination issue.  What caught my attention was it was the second edition with the headline “Death of the President” between two thick black bars.  I checked our holdings and discovered we have the first and third edition, but not second.  This issue filled in the gap and completed our set of the various editions printed that morning.

All three April 15 editions

9420_0004One thing that makes this set of papers interesting is that the newspaper was located on the same block as Ford’s Theatre.  They were getting the news directly and not by telegraph.  The first edition has the headline “Murder of President Lincoln.”  Underneath it and inside there are a series of ongoing reports as they were received with the last one at 6 a.m.: “The President is still alive, but is sinking rapidly.  He cannot survive much longer.  No change in the condition of Mr. Seward.”   Lincoln died9420_0003 the next hour.  The compositors must have stripped out the original columns of text and set the new reports as they came in.  The second edition is later that morning and other material was removed or shifted on the front page.  The third edition was at noon and has the news that Andrew Johnson has been sworn in.  The three editions differ on the front page, but pages 2 through 4 stay the same throughout. On page 3 there is also an advertisement from Ford’s Theatre announcing there will be no performance that night.

These issues gives you the feeling of immediacy that a history book can’t convey.  You can read the news as other Washingtonians did that fateful morning.

Published by

Vincent Golden

Curator of Newspapers and Periodicals, American Antiquarian Society

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