Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

How Images Can Affect Perspectives of the Lincoln Conspirators
Michael Young
US History
Time Frame:
One to four 45-minute class periods
Grade Levels:
8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • This lesson can be integrated into the classroom through any or all of the following strategies: activities by individual students through cross-curricular activities with Language Arts and/or cooperative learning endeavors.
  •  Students will use computer technology to analyze Internet websites containing primary sources that contain a variety of visual images of the Lincoln conspirators

  • To assist students in developing analytical skills that will enable them to evaluate primary sources and images such as documents, photographs, political cartoons and posters related to the Lincoln conspirators


  • To introduce students to the Stanford History Educational Group’s Reading Like A Historian teaching strategies to help them investigate historical questions by employing the following reading strategies: Sourcing, Contextualizing, corroborating and close reading

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

Nebraska District Standards 



  • SS8.4.3: Students will analyze and interpret historical and current events from multiple perspectives
  • SS 8.4.4.a: Students will analyze sources on Nineteenth-Century American History through determination of credibility, contextualization and corroboration
  • SS8.4.5.b: Obtain, analyze and cite appropriate sources for research about Nineteenth-Century U.S, incorporating primary and secondary sources e.g. (Cite sources using a prescribed format)
  • SS8.4.5.c: Gather historical information about the United States (e.g. document archives, artifacts and newspapers
  • SS8.4.5.d Present an analysis of historical information about the United States (e.g. pictures, posters, oral written narratives and electronic presentations)

Common Core



Key Ideas and Details

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.3 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Craft and Structure

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.5 Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.8 Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:



Cooney, Charles F. (ed.). “At the Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators. The Reminiscences

of General August V.


Kautz”.  Civil War Times Illustrated. (August, 1973. Pp. 22-31


Fowler, Robert H.  “Album. Illustrating the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.”  Civil War Times Illustrated. 1965. Pp. 2-64.




Hanchett, William.  The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1983.


Kauffman, Michael. American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies. New York: Random House, 2004.


Kunhardt, Dorothy Meserve and Philip B. Kunhardt Jr. Twenty Days. New York: Castle Books, 1965.


Swanson. L. James.  ManHunt: The Twelve-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.  New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006


Swanson, James. L. and Weinberg, Daniel R.  Lincoln’s Assassins: Their Trial and Execution. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001.





Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Assassins



Lincoln Assassination.Com



Linder, Douglas O.  Famous Trials.  University of Missouri at Kansas City.



Linder, Douglas O. Famous Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators.  1865.



National Archives. Document Analysis Worksheets






SOCC. Visual Image Analysis  (Chart)



Stanford History Education Group. Beyond the Bubble.



Stanford History Education Group.  Reading Like A Historian







The Conspirator.  (Mary Surratt) Educational resource Guide.  The American Film Company



The Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy Trial: Links & Bibliography


Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Library of Congress.  American Treasurers.  $25,000 Reward Poster.




Library of Congress.  Lincoln Papers. Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Library of Congress




This mini-exhibit from the Library of Congress includes a gallery of illustrations from the time of    Lincoln’s death.  http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/alrgall.html



Library of Congress.  Lincoln Papers.  National Archives.  Civil War and Reconstruction.




Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Reading Room.  Several images of conspirators, etc.



National Archives. DOCSTeach.  Civil War and Reconstruction



Pitman, Benn. The Assassination of President Lincoln and The Trial of the Conspirators.  Courtroom Testimony. 

     Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press Publishers, 1976.


Rare Historical Photos.  Contains a wide variety of images of hanging and photographs of conspirators.



Wills, Chuck. (Ed.).  Lincoln The Presidential Archives.  New York: DK Publishing, 2007.

Full description of activity or assignment.


Why Use Primary Sources?

Primary sources provide a window into the past—unfiltered access to the record of artistic, social, scientific and political thought and achievement during the specific period under study, produced by people who lived during that period.

Bringing young people into close contact with these unique, often profoundly personal, documents and objects can give them a very real sense of what it was like to be alive during a long-past era.

A. Engage students

  • Primary sources help students relate in a personal way to events of the past and promote a deeper understanding of history as a series of human events.
  • Because primary sources are snippets of history, they encourage students to seek additional evidence through research.
  • First-person accounts of events help make them more real, fostering active reading and response.

B. Develop critical thinking skills

  • Many state standards support teaching with primary sources, which require students to be both critical and analytical as they read and examine documents and objects.
  • Primary sources are often incomplete and have little context. Students must use prior knowledge and work with multiple primary sources to find patterns.
  • In analyzing primary sources, students move from concrete observations and facts to questioning and making inferences about the materials.
  • Questions of creator bias, purpose, and point of view may challenge students’ assumptions.

C. Construct knowledge

  • Inquiry into primary sources encourages students to wrestle with contradictions and compare multiple sources that represent differing points of view, confronting the complexity of the past.
  • Students construct knowledge as they form reasoned conclusions, base their conclusions on evidence, and connect primary sources to the context in which they were created, synthesizing information from multiple sources.

Integrating what they glean from comparing primary sources with what they already know, and what they learn from research, allows students to construct content knowledge and deepen understanding.

Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/whyuse.html


2. Provide students with a copy of the Stanford “Historical Thinking Chart.” Select a document from one of the sources in the lesson plan bibliography and use it to model how students can investigate historical questions by employing the following reading strategies: sourcing, contextualizing, close reading and corroborating.



3. Review with students the following Internet websites: Douglas Linder’s Famous Trials—The Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators located at


The Abraham Lincoln Papers. The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln located at 



Ask individual students to identify specific primary sources located within the document and use the “Historical Thinking Chart” to analyze the document.


4. Assign teams of three to four students to answers the questions located at Linder’s Famous Trials site located at Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy Trial Jeopardy



To play Conspiracy Jeopardy, click on one of the dollar amounts above.  An answer will appear.  Try to provide the question that corresponds to that answer.  Request that each team total the score for all their correct answers.  Post the totals for each team


5. Assign students  (through a cooperative endeavor) to access the political cartoon listed below and use the “Cartoon Analysis Worksheet” to analyze the political cartoon.




Cartoon Analysis Worksheet

Level 1


Words (not all cartoons include words)

  1. List the objects or people you see in the cartoon.
  2. Identify the cartoon caption and/or title.
  3. Locate three words or phrases used by the cartoonist to identify objects or people within the cartoon.
  4. Record any important dates or numbers that appear in the cartoon.

Level 2



  1. Which of the objects on your list are symbols?
  2. What do you think each symbol means?
  3. Which words or phrases in the cartoon appear to be the most significant? Why do you think so?
  4. List adjectives that describe the emotions portrayed in the cartoon.

Level 3

  1. Describe the action-taking place in the cartoon.
  2. Explain how the words in the cartoon clarify the symbols.
  3. Explain the message of the cartoon.
  4. What special interest groups would agree/disagree with the cartoon's message? Why?

National Archives.   http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/worksheets//




6. Instruct students to analyze the following image “Adjusting the ropes for hanging the conspirators” using the SOCC Visual Image Analysis” Worksheet


Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Reading Room.




Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:


Option Number 1:


Assign individual students to select one image from one of the sources listed in the bibliography section of the lesson plan format titled  “Primary sources (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) Students should include a copy of the image evaluated and document the location of the image.  The teacher can use the ”Rubric for Primary Source Analysis Worksheet” to evaluate the students answers or devise his/her own analysis worksheet.


Primary Source Analysis Worksheet


NAME: _____________________


Course: _____________________




Number and/or letter all answers and place them on the back of the “Primary Source Analysis Worksheet” directions.


I. Type of Source (Check one)


A. Document


___ Newspaper         ___Telegram         ___Diary

___ Autobiography    ___ Report            ___Oral History

___ Letter                ___  Map               ___Advertisement

___ Gov. Document   ___ Book      


B. Graphic


___ Photograph          ___Broadside      ___ Artistic Presentation

___ Cartoon               ___Poster            ___ Sheet Music

___ Painting               ___ Print             ___ Other?____________________


II. When was this source created?

How do you know?


III. Who wrote/created this source?


A. How do you know?


B. Did the creator of this source have first-hand knowledge of the events?


IV. On the back of this sheet, write a minimum 200-word description of the source.

     Include   comments concerning the following are some questions when pertinent

  • Document: Is it printed, typed or handwritten?

Primary Source Analysis Worksheet continued


  • If handwritten, can you read it?
  • Are there any notations in the margins?
  • Any special marks or seals?
  • Any other interesting characteristics?
  • Graphics: What people/objects/activities appear in the graphic?
  • What symbols/words/phrases appear in the graphic?
  • How are all of the above arranged in the graphic?


V. Who (do you think) is the audience for this source?

Why do you think that?


VI. What was the purpose of this source?  (Check one or more)


___To inform?

___To persuade?

___To entertain?

___A combination of the preceding choices?


     Explain your answer.


VII.  Questions


  1. What additional questions do you have about this source?


          B. How could you find the answers to these questions?



Rubric for Primary Source Analysis Worksheet


5:     All questions completely answered


4:     All questions partially answered


3:     Some questions partially answered


2:     A few questions answered


1:     Only 2-3 questions answered


0:     0-1 questions answered

Source: Library of Congress  (Revised version)    http://international.loc.gov/learn/lessons/00/women/worksheet.pdf


Option Number 2:


Assign individual students to select one image from one of the sources listed in the bibliography section of the lesson plan format titled  “Primary sources (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) Students should include a copy of the image evaluated and indicate the Internet address.  The student should use the following rubric as a guide for his/her analysis. The student should list the category heading on his/her word document and number their answers to the sub-heading concerning the image they are analyzing.


  The teacher can use the ”Poster Analysis Rubric” to evaluate the student’s answers or devise his/her own analysis worksheet.


Poster Analysis Rubric






Poster Details

The name, source and Web address of the poster are credible and cited correctly.

The name, source and Web address of the poster are credible and most of the information is recorded correctly.

The name, source and Web address of the poster are included but the citations are incorrect.

The name, source or Web address of the poster are missing.

Focus on Analysis

There is one clear, well-focused topic. Main idea stands out and is supported by detailed information.

Main idea is clear but the supporting information is general.

Main idea is somewhat clear but there is a need for more supporting information.

The main idea is not clear. There is a seemingly random collection of information.

Support for Topic

Relevant, telling, quality details give the reader important information that goes beyond the obvious or predictable analysis.

Supporting details and information are relevant, but one key issue or portion of the analysis is unsupported.

Supporting details and information are relevant, but several key issues or portions of the analysis are unsupported.

Supporting details and information are typically unclear or not related to the analysis.

Grammar & Spelling

Writer makes no errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

Writer makes 1-2 errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

Writer makes 3-4 errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

Writer makes more than 4 errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.