The Life of Lincoln

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.

3 responses to “The Life of Lincoln

  • Steve

    I love that second photo of him with a haircut that seems totally modern. I wonder what kind of product he used in his hair.

    The photo of his suit and hat are striking; the suit hung in a manner that make it seem lifeless. I have to believe the positioning of the hat is also symbolic although I don’t understand its meaning.

    A very nice collection of photographs!

  • downeastdilettante

    haha, I too was struck by the modernity of the bed-head picture. Wonderful pictures—from the scaffolding on the Capitol to the crowd in the rain, which seems so immediate.

  • Penelope P. Neal

    Thanks for this post! Lincoln and Grant are my all time, hands down, favorites!

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