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 Post subject: Knife Used by John Wilkes Booth to Stab Major Henry Rathbone
PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2015 4:56 pm 
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Knife and Sheath: Horn-handled dagger used by John Wilkes Booth to stab Major Henry Rathbone after shooting Abraham Lincoln.] Artifact in the museum collection, National Park Service, Ford's Theatre National Historic Site, Washington, D.C.


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 Post subject: Re: Knife Used by John Wilkes Booth to Stab Major Henry Rath
PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2015 1:09 pm 
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Howdy!

Trivia...

No it is not. ;) :)

An interesting story of five knives (Booth also had a folder on him when killed).

Obviously in an era before crime scenes, chain of evidence, and CSI... things were pretty loose. And the several knives connected to the Lincoln assassination were loosely referred to as 'bowie' knives only.
Plus, over time, the collection of Booth "artifacts" have been identified differently and displayed in a number of ways. In "older" reference books, the Park Service's claim that this is Booth's knife is often found:

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For example:

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Here is George Atzerodt's Rio Grand knife, that he lost his nerve to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson with:

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It was found by detective John Lee upon his search of Atzerodt’s room at the Kirkwood house: he stated, “I then went to the bed, took up the covering piece by piece, and felt all through it to see if there was any thing in the quilt. After I got down underneath the sheets, between the sheets and the mattress, I got the bowie-knife.”

Atzerodt had a second knife, now called the "Gutter Knife." It was found in street gutter where he had panicked (not too bright hiding the other knife in his bed) It was found the next morning in the gutter of F street between 8th and 9th streets. Originally spotted by a lady living in a third story room across the street, she sent out a Black woman servant to get it, but did not want it in the house. A Mr. William Clendenin, who was walking down F street at the time and saw the woman retrieve it, took possession of it and then turned it over to the chief of police.

It is easy to keep track of Atzerodt's "Bed Knife" in this mess, as it has a damaged blade edge.

At John Surratt’s Trial in 1867, was the first description of Booth’s knife from Everton Conger:

“Q: Will you state what articles you took from him?
A: This is the carbine he had. He had two pistols; I think they were Wheeler & Wilson’s; two revolvers, my impression is they were seven-shooting pistols, of some kind, of about six inch barrel. He had a large bowie-knife, or hunting knife, and a sheath.
Q: Do you know whose make that was?
A: No, sir; the knife has a name on it, but I do not know what it is.”

“(A bowie-knife and sheath and a compass were shown to witness, and identified by him as being taken from the body of Booth. A piece of map was also identified by witness as having been taken from Herold…”

“Q: How do you identify the knife?
A: The knife has a spot of rust on it, about two-thirds the way from the hilt to the point, right where the bevel of the knife commences at the end. It was said to be blood, but I have never thought it was myself. It is the same shape and style of knife.
Q: Have you not seen other knives like it?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Have you not seen a great many like it?
A: No, sir; only a few.
Q: You put no marks on it?
A: No. I have no means of identifying it except by the description I have given.
Q: You did not look at the name of the maker?
A: I do not know that the name of the maker is on it. I have looked at it since and noticed the words “Rio Grande camp-knife” on it. I have no means of identifying it except what I have stated, and my general recollection of the style of the knife”

The “spot of rust” and the words “Rio Grande Camp Knife” are both on this blade:

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Conger says that one way he identifies it is the spot of rust akin to blood on the blade. This mark is supported by a May 17th, 1865 statement by Boston Corbett who says, “Upon his being brought out, we found a seven shooter Spencer carbine. I saw only one revolver; but there was a second one in the hands of Col. Baker, and also a large knife or dagger which I supposed to be the one displayed on the night of the 14th inst. at the theatre, having upon it marks of blood.”

Part 2 to follow focusing on Booth's knives.

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 Post subject: Re: Knife Used by John Wilkes Booth to Stab Major Henry Rath
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 1:17 pm 
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Thanks for the info Mick! We need to keep the facts straight as best we can.

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 Post subject: Re: Knife Used by John Wilkes Booth to Stab Major Henry Rath
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 1:20 pm 
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Part 2.

One knife completely escaped the "process." And that is Lewis Powell's bowie knife.

Booth had 'assigned" Powell the job of killing Secretary of State William Seward. Armed with a Whitney Navy revolver (seen in the artifact grouping) and a silver mounted bowie knife, Powell went to kill Seward who was laid up in bed from a carriage accident that broke his jaw in two places, his arm, and gave him a concussion. Powell arrived with a story he was bringing medicine from Seward's doctor and was let in. He was confronted by the butler, and Seward's son, but when he fired at Frederick Seward, the Whitney. failed to fire so he used it as a club to beat up Seward.
Powell then slashed and stabbed Seward in his bed, before being driven off by the second son and Sergeant George Robinson of the 8th Maine Infantry was on assignment while recovering form battle wounds by being assigned as a an aid to Seward senior.

Powel's knife was shown to Robinson for ID at the trial, but oddly was NOT entered in as Evidence. It was given to Robinson, along with the Congressional Gold Medal for saving Seward's life.

Back to the "Booth "America" etched fancy knife....

The Surratt House was visited by Lieutenant Skippon, Detectives James McDevitt, David Bigley, John Clarvoe, and John Kelley around 2:30 am on April 15th. The men searched the house looking for John Surratt while also briefly interrogating Weichmann, John Holohan and Mary. Then on April 17th, Colonel Wells sent a group of officers to the boardinghouse to arrest all parties within. The detail included Ely Devoe, H. W. Smith, William Wermerskirch, John Dempsey, Charles Rosch, Thomas Sampson, Richard Morgan, and John Clarvoe.
And they scarfed up just about everything they cold find that was not nailed down.

In preparation for the forth-coming trials, the items were logged as 'Exhibits" (evidence) but not really detailed or much described. Out of 98 items, fur were knives.
Exhibit "23. Knife" This is Atzerodt's "Bed" knife from his room at the Kirkwood House.
Exhibit "28. Booth's Knife." This is the Rio Grand(e) knife taken from Booth's body.
Exhibit "41. Atzerodt's Knife." This is Atzerodt's 'Gutter" knife.

and

Exhibit 62 “Knife found at Mrs. Surratt’s house.” This is the knife NOW on display by Ford's (NPS). It was just one of 98 items seized at Mary and John
Surratt's boarding house that were not first listed, then put on the exhibit list, and not really itemized (many were common household items) when the non "martial' items were returned to Anna Surratt in a trunk.

The four knives, were packed up and boxed after the Conspiracy Trial. They were again brought out for Andrew Johnson's Impeachment Trial. They were loaned out for a photograph in 1870's and again in the 1880's.

They laid around until September 1936 when an Attorney General’s Office worker with the initials E.B.P. wrote a letter to a Miss Lanigan (an employee of the Lincoln Museum currently Ford’s Theatre) informing her of the contents of “a chest in Room 038, S. W. & N. Building”.
The letter lists the items in the chest but it seems it was done from memory as ID mistakes were made.
One thing they got right is the second from the last line: “Two knives secured from the effects of the conspirators.” These are Exhibits 23 and 41, Atzerodt’s “Bed” and “Gutter” knives.
The other two knife entries are mixed up. The “Knife used by Paine in his attempt to assassinate Seward…” is not correct. The AGO did not have Powell’s knife. While Powell’s knife was shown to Robinson during the trial, it was never officially entered into evidence and was not a trial exhibit. Robinson was later presented with the knife as a token of appreciation. This is not Powell’s knife as it was in the possession of the Robinson family in 1936. The knife they are referring to is the Rio Grande Camp Knife recovered from Booth at Garrett’s. Both Powell’s knife and the Garrett knife were Rio Grande Camp knives. Therefore the knife they refer to as “Powell’s knife” is, actually Exhibit 28 “Booth’s Knife”.
The remaining knife, the one this letter calls the “Dagger with which Booth attacked Major Rathbone…” is actually Exhibit 62 “Knife found at Mrs. Surratt’s”.

Exhibit 62 knife aka 'Booth's Knife' aka the 'America Knife" is now the one on display and the one in the photo although the light does not do a good job on highlighting the etched sentiment. It had nothing to do with the attack on Rathbone, and if it was actually Booth's by some chance (and it could be), it was confiscated from somewhere in the Surratt house.

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