A Mystery!

In Uncategorized on July 3, 2012 by Amy James

Going through the City Librarian’s papers from 1898, I came across this letter, addressed to the Mayor of Baltimore [BRG29-4-2-3-12]:


The handwriting isn’t the best, but it says something along the lines of:

Memphis Ten. July 13th, 1898
Mayor of Baltimore
Dear Sir
Will you kindly mark this inquiry and let me know if any of the relatives of John Wilkes Booth the Slayer of Pres. Lincoln live in Baltimore or can you ascertain where any of his relatives live. I have an important message for those of his relatives living who would recognize him. Your attention will greatly oblige
Yours, etc.
F.S. Bates

I was curious, so I did a quick search of F.S. Bates in conjunction with John Wilkes Booth, and found that he wrote a book claiming that John Wilkes Booth escaped from the Union Forces and later took F.S. Bates as his lawyer and made what he believed to be a deathbed confession to being John Wilkes Booth in 1878.  The man who supposedly made this confession survived his illness and moved away, later to confess the same thing to a clergyman before committing suicide in 1903 in Oklahoma. F.S. Bates heard about it, went to check it out, and, convinced that the man was in fact John Wilkes Booth, he wrote a book about it in 1907.  (See for more information about F.S. Bates’ book.  Here’s the reprint on Amazon:

If this timeline of F.S. Bates is accurate, why was he trying to reach John Wilkes Booth’s relatives through the Baltimore City government in 1898?


5 Responses to “A Mystery!”

  1. Finis Bates is the grandfather of actress Kathy Bates.

  2. Amy: Thank you for posting your find. I believe the questionable words are: . . . “mark the inquiry” . . . Do you agree?.

    • I think you’re right, Patricia, I’ll change the text in the post- thanks!

      • From Wikipedia
        Near Bel Air in Harford County, Maryland, John Wilkes Booth was born in a four-room log house on May 10, 1838, the ninth of ten children
        Booth’s father married Mary Ann Holmes (1851), he built Tudor Hall on the Harford County property as the family’s summer home, while also maintaining a winter residence on Exeter Street in Baltimore in the 1840s–1850s

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