Boston Museum, Fourth Night of Mr. J. Wilkes Booth! as Richard III (Playbill for May 15, 1862)
[Boston]: (S.n.), 1862. Broadside. 6 1/8" x 14 5/8" Fine. Very faint dampstains at a couple of corners. Evidence of a few horizontal folds, and along with a couple of edge chips up to .25" depth. Remarkably well-preserved example of an important Booth playbill.
John Wilkes Booth, following in his father's and siblings' footsteps, tried his hand at acting and found some success in stock companies in Philadelphia, Richmond, and other provincial theaters. Still, he performed under the name "J. Wilkes" because he lacked the confidence to adopt the famous family name on stage, and was also not certain he wanted a career in acting. By early 1862 he decided he did, and made his national debut in New York in March. He selected the role of Richard III to showcase the revolutionary and all-consuming physical acting style destined to make him famous apart from his father's name. The buzz he created in New York produced great curiosity for his debut in Boston a few weeks later. This original playbill, one of the earliest to use his famous surname, is from the fourth night of his first Boston engagement. Within three years he was killed after assassinating President Abraham Lincoln.