The Tilton versus Beecher Trial. Beach, William A. Admit Bearer to Trial, Tilton vs. Beecher At the City Court Room. Signed, “W. A. Beach.” A printed ticket form to be used by William A. Beach (1809 – 1892), the senior counsel of the legal team representing the plaintiff, Theodore Tilton. Printed on decorated heavy paper 6.5 cm x 10 cm. Condition fine.
A rare surviving paper admission ticket-pass for repeated entry to the most sensational trial in nineteenth-century America, this special ticket-pass, signed by an officer of the City Court in Brooklyn, admitted an unidentified bearer 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 affection. The trial began January 11, 1875 and lasted six months. Unlike the blue paper “day pass” tickets which were collected at the door of the courtroom gallery, this special ticket-pass was returned to the bearer and may have been used by a member of Mr. Tilton’s legal team. The Tilton-Beecher trial was lurid front-page news in every major newspaper in America for months and ended with a hung jury.
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.