As this weekend marks Abraham Lincoln’s actual birthday, February 12 (as opposed to the consolidated “Presidents’ Day” which seems to be a holiday of convenience rather than commemoration) I sought out some images of his life in the vast collections of the Library of Congress. In assembling these images, I focused on his life as opposed to his death, as my initial impression is that many Lincolniana collections are rather macabrely-focused on the latter, constituting a “cult of remembrance” for the martyred President. I’m more interested in the man than his death, but I did include a photograph of a late nineteenth-century Smithsonian exhibit featuring only Lincoln’s suit and hat. The photograph of the President, Allan Pinkerton and General McClellan on the battlefield at Antietam in October of 1862 has been reproduced many times and is widely available, but I could not resist including it as it is such a striking image: the iconic figure of Lincoln with other people. He is so often alone.
My collection of images is organized chronologically, beginning with the first photograph of Lincoln as a newly elected congressman in 1846-47, through his presidency. The two crowd photographs are from his first and second inaugurals in 1861 and 1865, and the last two images (oddly clothing-related) are from the later nineteenth century.
Photography credits: all images but the last two from the Library of Congress Digital Collections; the remainder from the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.