Historical Notebooks: Diaries of John Wilkes Booth and Theodore Roosevelt

Former Notebook Addict of the Month Paul has sent me some more tips about interesting notebooks.

First is an article from the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society about a diary belonging to John Wilkes Booth. It was in his possession when he was captured after assassinating Abraham Lincoln. In the diary, Booth made two entries during his escape, describing how he carried out the shooting and talking about whether God would approve of his actions. After Booth’s capture, the notebook was turned over to the Secretary of War, and later the House Judiciary Committee, by which point some pages seem to have been removed. Intrigue and conspiracy theories ensue!

Here’s an image from a PDF scan of the article, which you can access or purchase online here.

Paul also sent a link to a Library of Congress website with some pages from Theodore Roosevelt’s pocket diaries, including this one:

On 13 February 1880, an ecstatic Roosevelt recorded his great joy, because the woman of his dreams, Alice Hathaway Lee, who he had actively courted for more than a year, had finally accepted his proposal of marriage. Knowing that his love was reciprocated and that he could now “hold her in my arms and kiss her and caress her and love her as much as I choose” gave the enraptured young Roosevelt enormous satisfaction.

Love that handwriting and the double red lines in the page header. And the text itself is amazing! How sweet to read about his love for his soon-to-be-wife. Unfortunately, tragedy follows only 4 years later:

On February 14, 1884, Theodore Roosevelt received a terrible blow-both his wife and mother died within hours of one another in the Roosevelt house in New York City. His mother, age 50, succumbed to typhus, and his wife Alice died at the age of 22 giving birth to her namesake. The following diary entries lovingly describe his courtship, wedding, happiness in marriage, and his grief over the death of his wife Alice, after which he never spoke of the union again.

It’s just extraordinary what can be contained within the pages of a notebook– how lucky we are that these historical figures kept diaries.

Thanks again to Paul for the great tips!

4 thoughts on “Historical Notebooks: Diaries of John Wilkes Booth and Theodore Roosevelt”

  1. So many famous people kept journals or written accounts of their lives. It’s so amazing to me just how many of these accounts have survived over the many years!

  2. These are beautiful examples of journaling. I wish I could handwrite so beautifully, or handwrite at all, for that matter. Who knew that Roosevelt was such a romantic! Lovely blog.


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