Section One

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$100,000 Reward
John H. Surratt, John Wilkes Booth, David E. Herold 
Unidentified artist, 1865

The modern poster evolved from printed broadsides like this dramatic announcement of a “$100,000 Reward.” Issued five days after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, this early form of the “wanted” poster promised money for the capture of John Wilkes Booth and two accomplices. After federal soldiers mortally wounded Booth in Caroline County, Virginia, and captured Herold, there was a clamor for the reward money, a portion of which was divided among the officers and twenty-six soldiers.

Posted broadsides, a common form of street literature in the nineteenth century, often featured modest wood engravings like the small pointing finger seen here. This image, however, attracts attention not only with bold, dark typefaces and actual photographs of the murderous gang but also with the combined psychological thrills of sensational criminality and a large monetary reward.