Livingston Hopkins. The Daily Graphic. Bessie Turner’s Testimony. 11 cm x 9 closed, 11 cm x 108 cm open. A comic strip of twelve humorous panels, in a Leporello binding.
The Daily Graphic was the first American newspaper with daily illustrations. An illustrated evening newspaper, it was founded in 1873 in New York City by two Canadian engravers, George-Édouard Desbarats and William Leggo, with offices located at 39 & 41 Park Place. L[ivingston] Hopkins (1846 – 1927) was born in Bellfontaine, Ohio, and created the first newspaper cartoon strip for The Daily Graphic on September 11, 1875 with “Professor Tigwissel’s Burglar Alarm.” Bessie Turner’s Testimony is a fold-out strip of comic illustrations based on the testimony of Bessie Turner in the trial of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher in Brooklyn City Court, which predates the recognized first comic strip published in an American newspaper by a few months.
On August 20, 1874, Theodore Tilton started his lawsuit against Henry Ward Beecher for alienation of affections. The trial in Brooklyn City Court began January 11, 1875 and lasted six months.
On July 3, 1870 Elizabeth Tilton confessed to her husband she had engaged in sexual activity with Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, while Theodore Tilton was away on lecture tours. The initial attempts to suppress the truth failed, and the scandal grew and eventually engulfed all principals, culminating in a six-month long trial and a hung jury verdict for Beecher. Retracting her confession to her husband initially, at Beecher’s behest — and for Beecher’s reasons — before the trial, Mrs. Tilton finally did eventually admit her adultery in 1878, long after her husband had been ruined by Beecher and his adherents in the Plymouth Church and driven into exile in Europe.
Bessie Turner was Mrs. Tilton’s nurse, when Beecher’s visits began during Tilton’s absence, during her convalescence after having had a still-born child. As this early comic-illustration book shows, she provided intimate details of Beecher’s behavior during his uncharacteristic extended home (pastoral) visits to the wife of one of his Plymouth Church parishioners, to which Beecher’s lawyer objected repeatedly and strenuously. No other copies of this publication of comic recreations of Beecher’s behavior, as recounted by Bessie Turner, have been located. This exemplar has undergone cleaning and conservation. The dirt on the front cover was removed and the folds of the Leporello binding were repaired so the booklet can be opened and closed repeatedly without damage. The old Filmoplast tape mend on the front-to-back cover was left alone, as it is still secure and its removal might have damaged the cover.