Gale Goes to D.C.: Confederate Conspiracies and Karaoke?

5 min read

| By Kevin Kohls |

Recently, the Gale team packed up and hit the road for Washington, D.C., for the annual meeting of the American Library Association (ALA). Bringing together librarians from all over the country and the world, the conference is always an invigorating experience where ideas are freely shared and collaboration is fostered.

During the day we at Gale worked our booth in the exhibition hall, demonstrating new resources like Gale Engage, Gale In Context: For Educators, and Digital Scholar Lab, and giving out hundreds of pairs of socks to eager librarians. Every day is a whirlwind experience that leaves you both tired and inspired.

In the evenings, we were lucky enough to see some of the amazing sites that the district has to offer and enjoy the company of customers and coworkers. One of our locales for evening festivities, however, was more unusual and interesting than the rest. That place was none other than Wok and Roll Karaoke.

Besides being a unique a karaoke bar and an ideal place for Gale employees to belt out greatest hits and deep cuts, Wok and Roll occupies the same building that once housed John Wilkes Booth and other confederate soldiers. Yes, you read that correctly.

In what is now Chinatown, just a few blocks from the convention center that held ALA, stands the Mary E. Surratt Boarding House. The house, owned by Mary Surratt from 1863 until her arrest and ultimate death by hanging in 1865, was a hotbed of Confederate conspiracy during the Civil War and after. Of course, I had to explore Gale Primary Sources to see what insights I could glean about this historic building, in which I sang Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” at the top of my lungs with my boss.

Unsurprisingly, searching Surratt Boarding House in the Gale Primary Sources cross-search returned a plethora of results. From Associated Press reports of the building’s sale in the 20th century to sensational stories of the Confederate conspiracy that took place there, the documentation of the Surratt Boarding House is extensive. Below are some of the things I found most interesting.

The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators

A page of a book with portraits of individuals who conspired to kill Abraham Lincoln.  labeled conspirators

Publishers: Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin, 1865. Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture 1790-1920,

Trial of John H. Surratt

Newspaper clipping from 1867 reporting on the Trial of John H. Surratt.

“Trial of John H. Surratt.” New Hampshire Statesman, 5 July 1867. Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers,

American State Trials: A Collection of the Important and Interesting Criminal Trials Which Have Taken Place in the United States

Page from a book documenting the trial of Mary Surratt

Lawson, John Davison. American State Trials: A Collection of the Important and Interesting Criminal Trials Which Have Taken Place in the United States, from the Beginning of Our Government to the Present Day: With Notes and Annotations: John D. Lawson, LL.D. Editor. Vol. 8, F. H. Thomas Law Book Co., 1914-1927. Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture 1790-1920,

Washington, D. C., Bureau, News Dispatches, March 17-31, 1922

Scanned image of an A.P. News dispatch from 1922

Washington, D. C., Bureau, News Dispatches, March 17-31, 1922. March 17-31, 1922. TS Washington D.C. Bureau at the Library of Congress: Washington, D.C. Bureau Records, 1915 – 1930 84; 2. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Associated Press Collections Online,

The Conspiracy Tracker, June 1985, Issue 17

“The Conspiracy Tracker June, 1985 Issue 17.” The Conspiracy Tracker, June 1985, p. 1+. Religions of America,

Learn more about the Gale Primary Sources cross-search experience and the collections used to create this post. Visit


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