Skip to main content

Beecher Newspaper Caricatures Published During the Beecher Trial/Portraits of the Beechers

Identifier: SC MS 0202

Scope and Contents

This book measures 26 cm x 19 cm x 9 cm bound in maroon buckram over board with corners and spine in black pebbled leather. The end papers are green floral design. On the spine are four raised bands with faint remnants of gold. The title is impressed gold and at the bottom of the spine is impressed “inlaid by.” The spine is badly damaged and the front and back covers are detached from the spine along with some blank flyleaves. The book contains a selective collection of cartoons/caricatures of newspaper comment on the Beecher-Tilton adultery trial held in 1875. There are approximately123 pages containing 87 caricatures/ cartoons (newspaper sources are possibly indicated on page 84) and 36 portraits (14 of Henry Ward Beecher, one of H.W. Beecher and wife, four of Lyman Beecher (H.W.B.’s father), five of Harriet Beecher Stowe, and 12 portraits of other people involved such as the Tilton children. Some of these portraits are photographs and some are etchings. Some of the newspaper opinions definitely are caricatures of the Beecher-Tilton scandal and trial but some are also sketches of locales in Brooklyn Heights, the Beecher farm in Peekskill, New York, many family members and their abolitionist activity, as well as comment on the clergy and the involvement of famous people of the third quarter of the 19th century such as Jim Fisk and Jay Gould. Also noted in satirical review are political events and current news. The cartoons/caricatures do not all show a positive picture of Beecher and the outcome of the trial. Some of the artists of the caricatures/ cartoons/drawings were Th Wiest(?), Chas. J. Taylor, A.B. Frost, Weldon, T. Churlstrup(?), Hup, Hopkins, Rubio.


  • 1853, 1893


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Biographical / Historical

The Beecher family was a prominent collection of clergymen, authors, social reformers and abolitionists during the mid-to-late-nineteenth century. Henry Ward Beecher was one of nine children of Rev. Lyman and Roxana Beecher. The trial referred to in this volume of newspaper sketches involved Henry Ward Beecher, a Congregationalist clergyman, speaker, abolitionist, social reformer and younger brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” He was an attractive eloquent speaker attractive to many young women. It was reputed at the time that his wife, Eunice, mother of his nine children was “unloved.” In a highly publicized scandal known as the Beecher-Tilton Affair he was tried on charges that he had committed adultery with a friend’s wife. In 1870 Elizabeth Tilton had confessed to her husband, Theodore Tilton, that she had had a relationship with Henry Ward Beecher, their pastor. Beecher, pastor of the Plymouth Congregational Church, and her husband pressured Elizabeth to recant her story, which she did, in writing. These charges became public when Theodore Tilton told Elizabeth Cady Stanton of his wife’s confession. Stanton repeated the story to fellow women’s rights leaders Victoria Woodhull and Isabella Beecher Hooker (a sister of Henry). Henry Ward Beecher had publicly denounced Woodhull’s advocacy of free love. Woodhull published a story in 1872 in her newspaper claiming that America’s most renowned clergyman was secretly practicing the free-love doctrines that he denounced from his pulpit. The story became a sensation. Woodhull was arrested in New York City and imprisoned for sending obscene material through the mail. The Plymouth Church held a board of inquiry and exonerated Beecher but excommunicated Theodore Tilton in 1873. Tilton then sued Beecher. The trial began in January 1875 and ended in July when the jurors deliberated for six days were unable to reach a verdict. A second board of inquiry was held at Plymouth Church and again exonerated Beecher. Two years later Elizabeth Tilton again confessed to the affair and the church excommunicated her. Despite this, Beecher continued to be a popular national figure, however, his family was split. Most of his siblings supported him, except for Isabella Beecher Hooker, who openly supported one of his accusers. At the time the proceedings had the status of trial of the century. Beecher continued as a well renowned national figure. He died in 1887 with messages of condolence sent to his family by national figures including President Grover Cleveland.


1 box, 0.25 linear feet (1 book, 26 cm x 19 cm x 9 cm)

Language of Materials



A selective collection of newspaper caricatures, cartoons, sketches and portraits of the Beecher family especially related to the scandalous adultery trial in 1875 involving the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher and Mrs. Elizabeth Tilton. Beecher was the younger brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The entire Beecher family was involved in the abolition cause. The collection contained in this bound volume is an interesting insight into the public opinion of the era through the drawings.


There is no title page. On one of the flyleaves is the Lehigh University Library property mark with February 4, 1893 in the center along with an acquisition number 69450 and a classification number S 347.7 T581.

The beginning content is a trifolded three-quarter length black and white photograph of a portrait painted of a young Henry Ward Beecher dated 1853. Following is a multi-folded drawing of Henry Ward Beecher portrayed as “the Modern Laocoon.”

The next is multifolded page 3 titled “Portraits of the Beecher Family” depicted are Rev. Thos. K. Beecher, Miss Catherine Beecher (top of drawing), Rev. Henry Ward Beecher (in center), Rev. William Beecher, Mrs. Isabella Beecher Hooker, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe (at bottom of drawing) – no artist noted. This same drawing is repeated on page 74.

Page 42 has a multifolded drawing of the jury members sitting in the trial: George Hull, William H. Davis, Henry Thyer, Samuel Flate, John McMurn, A.R. Case, Griffen B. Halstead, Chester Carpenter (Foreman), Edward Whalen, Christopher Fitter, John F. Taylor, William T. Jeffrey.

Page 84 shows a satirical drawing of some of the newspapers involved in reporting

Following page 87 begin the collection of portraits.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Unknown February 4, 1893


No additions anticipated.

Related Materials

“Pictorial History of the Beecher-Tilton Scandal. Its Origin Progress and Trial. Illustrated with Fifty Engravings from Accurate Sketches.” Unknown Author. New York: Frank Leslie, 1875.

Physical Description

1 box, 0.25 linear feet (1 book, 26 cm x 19 cm x 9 cm)


Finding Aid of the Beecher Newspaper Caricatures Published During the Beecher Trial/Portraits of the Beechers
William Ying
September 30, 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)