Edwin Booth (1833-1893) was the son of Junius Brutus Booth (1796-1852), an English actor who emigrated to the United States in 1821. He was the older brother of John Wilkes Booth, himself a successful actor who gained notoriety as the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.
Edwin Booth was born on the Booth farm near Bel Air Maryland. He was educated in the local private schools and also accompanied his father on theatrical tours from the age of thirteen. He made his theatrical debut in 1849 in Boston in a small part in Richard III, and in the two years following played juvenile parts in his father's productions. He accompanied his father to California in July 1852, where they acted in San Francisco and Sacramento under the Management of Junius Brutus Booth Jr. The elder J.B. Booth started to return to Maryland, but died on the way. Edwin Booth stayed in the west and toured the mining towns and acted in his brother's company in San Francisco. He stayed in California until 1856, interrupted by a tour of Australia in 1854. After he returned east, he toured the south, acted in Boston and New York, and toured again in the west and south.
Edwin Booth married Mary Devlin in 1860. In 1861 they sailed to England, where he appeared in London, Liverpool and Manchester in rather unsuccessful engagements. Their daughter, Edwina was born on December 9, 1861.
They returned to New York where Booth acted at the Winter Garden until his wife's sudden death in February 1863. He temporarily retired from the stage, returning to undertake the management of the Winter Garden in September 1863. Booth's management of the Winter Garden was interrupted by his brother's assassination of Lincoln in April 1865. He returned to it in January 1866, but the theatre burned in March 1867. To replace the Winter Garden, he built Booth's Theatre in New York, which opened February 3, 1869. The financial panic of 1873-74 forced him to withdraw in 1873 and in 1874 he became bankrupt. For the rest of his career he toured the United States, the British Isles and Europe without having a permanent theatre home.
In June 1869, he married his leading lady, Mary McVicker. She retired from the stage and delivered their son, Edgar who died soon afterwards on July 3, 1870. Mary McVickar contracted tuberculosis and died \in 1881. Booth's final performance was in Hamlet, April 4, 1891 in Brooklyn. He died June 7, 1893.
The collection consists of 54 letters written by Edwin Booth to John E. Russell during the years 1864 to 1881, concerning acting, theatre critics, Booth's theatre and family and social matters. John Russell was a theatre critic and journalist, who appears to have written for the New York Sun as well as other papers. He lived in Leicester, Massachusetts, but appears to have been in New Orleans in 1870.