Will James likely sat for this portrait at a local postcard photographer's studio, a popular and inexpensive fashion of the time. This is the first image of the James lynching in a series of fifteen real photo postcards. Other images not reproduced here include the home of his alleged victim, Miss Anne Pelley; the home of the seven-year-old daughter of Mr. Boren, who found the murdered Miss Pelley in an alley she was crossing on the way to her grandmother's house; the "course the hounds took"; the trains the mob took over to reach Belknap, illinois, where James was apprehended, and to return him to Cairo for a public execution.
The rope from which James was hung broke before he died. His body was then "riddled with bullets," dragged by rope for a mile to the alleged scene of the crime, and burned in the presence of ten thousand spectators. According to the New York Times, five hundred "women were in the crowd and some helped to hang the negro and to drag the body."