The Tilton versus Beecher Trial. Beach, William A. DAY TICKET. The officers of the City Court of Brooklyn will please admit the Bearer to the MAIN ROOM. Penciled signature of “Thos. G. Shearman”on the front of the ticket. Noted with a manicule, at the bottom is printed: “The Officers will please take up this ticket.” On the back is written in ink in a contemporary hand, “Trial of H. W. Beecher.” Added later in pencil, “trial lasted 6 mo. charged with adultery.” Printed on blue paper, measuring 5.5 cm x 9 cm, this day ticket was smaller than the Admit Bearer to Trial Tilton vs. Beecher At the City Court Room tickets, which were printed especially for the officers of the court.
A rare surviving paper admission day ticket for one-time entry to the most sensational trial in nineteenth-century America, this ticket admitted its holder to the City Court in Brooklyn, admitted Thomas G. Shearman to the legal action brought by Tilton against his wife’s lover, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, for alienation of affection. On August 20, 1874 Theodore Tilton started his lawsuit against Henry Ward Beecher for alienation of affections. The trial began January 11, 1875 and lasted six months. Thomas Gaskel Shearman (1834-1900) was Henry Ward Beecher’s defense attorney for nearly two years, his representation culminating with the sensational Tilton v. Beecher trial in 1875. Rev. Beecher was Thomas G. Shearman’s pastor as well as his client.
On May 22, 1871, a letter to the editor of the New York World written by Victoria Woodhull was published, in which she said, among other things, “My judges preach against ‘free love’ openly and practice it secretly; their outward seeming is fair [but] inwardly they are full of ‘dead men’s bones and all manner of uncleanness.’ For example, I know of one man, a public teacher of eminence, who lives in concubinage with the wife of another public teacher of almost equal eminence.” The “public teacher of eminence” was Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and the wife was Mrs. Theodore Tilton.
For the better part of three years, many measures were taken to protect the reputation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother from ruin. As in politics, the cover-up of Mrs. Tilton’s adulterous relationship with Beecher was ultimately unsuccessful. During the trial, scalpers sold tickets to the trial for as much as five dollars apiece. Some days, thousands of spectators were turned away. Those lucky enough to obtain one often went without lunch to hold it for the day.