Finis Bates spent many misguided years trying to convince the world that John Wilkes Booth escaped death at Garrett’s farm. He displayed the mummified remains of David E. George and tricked people into believing the body’s convoluted identity trail from David George, to John St. Helen, to John Wilkes Booth. Bates created convincing pseudo-history with a dead body as an effective centerpiece. However, long before the real John Wilkes Booth was even born, the Booth family had a legitimate connection with mummies. I quote from Asia Booth Clarke’s book, Booth Memorials: Passages, Incidents, and Anecdotes of Junius Brutus Booth (The Elder):
“About this time  my father [Junius Brutus Booth] purchased two Egyptian mummies, with a view of presenting them to General Jackson. They were to be sent to the Hermitage; but, finding that they were such rare specimens, it was suggested that they should be reserved for the Museum in Washington, for which Mr. Varden was then collecting curiosities. The mummies were priests of the god “Apis; ” and, on examination, the papyrus manuscripts, although in excellent and legible order, proved to be of such antiquity that it was impossible for the literati of that day to translate their meaning.
Languages, like nations and religions, take their turns and seem to prove the mutability of nature. Mr. Varden’s design being ineffectual, the mummies were subsequently deposited in the Patent Office, Washington, and removed thence to the Smithsonian Institute.”
The eccentric Junius, was one of contradictory tendencies at times. He cherished life in all forms, forbidding the killing of animals in his home and following the practically unheard of practice of vegetarianism. At the same time though, he was friends with people like Sam Houston and Andrew Jackson. Original Boothie John C. Brennan once said how odd a gift he thought the mummies to be for Jackson as Jackson wasquite good at, “shooting people and producing his own cadavers”. The actor who wept during his organized funeral for dozens of killed pigeons, did not have the same reverence, it seems, for the remains of the long dead Egyptians.
According to Michael Kauffman in his book American Brutus, no donation record can be found for Junius’ mummies at the Smithsonian. Nevertheless, as I visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and explored the Ancient Egypt exhibit today, I couldn’t help but wonder if one of the mummies on display once belonged to Junius Brutus Booth. At least then there would be a real “Booth Mummy”.
Booth Memorials: Passages, Incidents, and Anecdotes of Junius Brutus Booth (The Elder) by Asia Booth Clarke
American Brutus by Michael Kauffman
The photo of JWB in the Smithsonian was taken using the Augmented Reality function of Michael Kauffman’s new publication, In the Footsteps of an Assassin. After purchasing the book, smartphone users are able to download an app which provides tour commentary on the go. It also includes four augmented reality photo ops in which an overlay of Lincoln, Mary Todd, JWB or Lewis Powell, can be added before taking any picture. Now, I can take snap a photo of Booth anywhere, without any photo editing required.
This is a truly outstanding site! I’ve added the site as a link from by Lincoln Blog. Great work.
Bill Nash, AbesBlogCabin.org