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Teacher, Teach Thyself About Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”

3 Oct

Imagine yourself as a young male schoolteacher in Pennsylvania about 150 years ago.

You have been invited to attend the Thirteenth Annual Session of the Pennsylvania State Teachers’ Association in Gettysburg from July 31st to August 2nd, 1866.[1] President Lincoln’s assassination and the end of four unfathomably bloody and numbing years of war are only a few months removed in time. You have returned home from two years of military service but minus some family members, soldier colleagues, and friends. Though the gruesome and glorious events of 1861-1865 are forever etched in your memory, your job now, as it was for several months before you enlisted, is to educate schoolchildren.[2]

The chance to see the famous Gettysburg battlefield  is irresistible. While the battle raged there, you served in the 45th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment under the cousin of Pennsylvania Governor Curtin at the assault on Vicksburg.[3] That Vicksburg and several other battles in which you participated never attained the fame of Gettysburg is still beyond your comprehension. For that reason, you want to see Gettysburg. Because the Pennsylvania State Teachers’ Association has arranged for free rail fare, you have no excuse not to go.

You arrive in Gettysburg on the afternoon of July 30, 1866 at the same rail station from which wounded soldiers were borne off to hospitals back east only three years ago; you also make a mental note that President Lincoln and other famous American and foreign dignitaries passed through the same station. At the Gettysburg Courthouse you register for the event by paying an annual fee of $1.00. There you encounter the President of the State Teachers’ Association, Dr. S.P. Bates, who asks you to act as a scrivener for the Session meetings and serve as the chronicler of arranged Gettysburg battlefield visits. He explains that if you agree, you will be asked to compose a written account for the September 1866 edition of the Pennsylvania School Journal. He knows of your stenography and writing skills and offers to pay you a nominal sum for your services. You are honored by the request and immediately consent.

The opening speaker at the Association’s morning session on July 31, 1866 is Dr. Bates. He explains how an unexpectedly large turnout forced the relocation of the session meetings from the Court House to St. James Lutheran Church on York St. You wonder to yourself how the Association was caught unawares by the large turnout — why didn’t they anticipate that so many teachers would want to see the Gettysburg battlefield? You are pleased to learn that “arrangements [will] be made for a visit to the battle-field by members present, with suitable guides [so as not to] interfere with the regular session …” Dr. Bates further expresses the hope that joining together on the “great and decisive battle-field” of Gettysburg where …

“many of the soldiers here were teachers … should incite us to still greater efforts. Our schools, academics and colleges were preserved by this victory; but we should not be satisfied with this result. The cause of Education, thus preserved, must also be made progressive or rather aggressive … The future condition of [especially the Southern States] will greatly depend upon the use now to be made, by the art of the teacher, of the advantages thus conquered for its children.”[4]

The County Superintendent of Schools for Adams County, Pa., Mr. Aaron Shelley, speaks next. He had been a teacher before his first election to the post of county superintendent in 1863[5]. After welcoming us to Gettysburg, he explains that …

“there are those present who participated in the sanguinary conflict here, and to them I must leave the task of describing more fully the scene and events which have made Gettysburg so celebrated …  You will not fail to visit the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and shed a tear over the graves of the gallant dead … It is the soldier’s duty to fight for principles, but it is the teacher’s duty to establish and maintain them … Yours is truly a mission of love and good will.”[6] [emphasis added]

Late in the afternoon, you join a group visiting Pennsylvania College at the invitation of its president, Dr. Henry L. Baugher, who receives you there. A Cincinnati journalist’s description of Dr. Baugher is apt:

“a semi bald head, a hooked Roman nose, clear blue eye, and a decidedly clerical face. He would pass anywhere for a theological professor, a man of firm will, but kindly.”[7]

You express your keen interest in seeing the battlefield on Cemetery Hill to Dr. Baugher. He, like Mr. Shelley, graciously explains that you should not fail to pay homage at the Soldiers’ Cemetery and there ponder President Lincoln’s consecration address. Dr. Baugher mentions, too, the role he played in those dedication ceremonies by giving a brief closing benediction after Lincoln’s remarks.[8] You tell him what an honor it must have been to speak the closing prayer at such an auspicious event on hallowed ground with President Lincoln seated just a few feet away. [Dr. Henry Baugher, below, from the Dickinson College Archives]:Henry L BaugherpicYou then join at least 200 other teachers under the carriage[9] escort of Colonel George Fisher McFarland[10], a teacher and former principal of McAlister Academy in Juniata County, Pa., who lost a leg during the battle’s first day at Gettysburg. It was there that he led the 151st Pennsylvania Regiment (aka the “Schoolteachers Regiment”) to reinforce the Iron Brigade around Herbst Woods. Near there the 151st took up defenses along Willoughby Run. When the entire First Corps fell back, he had his regiment rally at the Lutheran Theological Seminary where he was shot in both legs.[11] By fighting a delaying action, McFarland’s regiment suffered extraordinarily high casualties and losses (337 of 467 men, or about 72%). [Below, left, a pre-Gettysburg photograph of Geo. F. McFarland  and detail of his gravestone at Harrisburg Cemetery, both from]:

Col George F McFarland buried in HarrisburgCol George F McFarland -151st PA - Harrisburg Cem2

Wrote General Abner Doubleday:

“At Gettysburg [the 151st Pa Regiment] won, under the brave McFarland, an imperishable fame. They defended the left front of the First Corps against vastly superior numbers; covered its retreat … and enabled me, by their determined resistance, to withdraw the corps in comparative safety … I can never forget the services rendered me by this regiment, directed by the gallantry and genius of McFarland. I believe they saved the First Corps, and were among the chief instruments to save the Army of the Potomac and the country from unimaginable disaster.”[12]

You are honored that the “brave McFarland” proudly leads you and the others in your group to where he understands General Reynolds fell — “the officer whose ‘magnificent rashness’ perhaps assured to us the victory.” Pausing on that ground, he speaks of Reynolds in reverential, almost hushed tones. [John F. Reynolds, pictured below, courtesy of the Library of Congress]:

Gen John F Reynolds LOC

After narrating “many incidents of the fight” and the first day’s “positions held by the troops at different times in the day,” Col. McFarland escorts your rapt and attentive group to the Lutheran Theological Seminary, also located on the battlefield, and then directs you to enter the building where his leg was amputated at a temporary hospital before the Confederates overran the position and took him prisoner. You think you hear him musing about where his amputated leg might be buried before he speaks with the highest praise for the services rendered by the surgeons and their assistants in that makeshift hospital which at present again functions as a school for higher education.

Thanks to the Colonel, you are beginning to understand the significance of Gettysburg.

Later that evening, Col. McFarland delivered a presentation in which he declared:

“the real issues involved [in the late rebellion] were better understood by the soldiers of the Union army than by those of the Rebel army … whether from the nature of the issues involved, or from other causes, more reason and less passion were exhibited by the soldiers of the Union than the Rebel army … and important differences between [the two armies] were the result of the universal diffusion of knowledge among the masses in the North, and a total want of this diffusion of knowledge amongst the masses in the South … Whole regiments of teachers responded to the calls of President Lincoln for troops, and hundreds sealed their devotion … by shedding their blood in its defence … It was the fortune of the speaker to lead full sixty teachers into battle just west of the Seminary, in the first day’s fight, [many of whom were killed or wounded]. The victory at Gettysburg [,] the work of the teacher! … And may you who have assembled upon this sacred spot to re-burnish your arms for new battles with ignorance and passion, catch the spirit of your worthy co-laborers who met here three years ago …” [emphasis added] [13]

Arising in the darkness early the following day, you depart for a tour of the second and third days’ fighting shortly after 6 a.m. Your guides are Col. McFarland, “the venerable John Burns” (the only citizen of Gettysburg reputed to have taken up arms against the Rebels at Gettysburg), Major Henry Lee, and Captain Walter L. Owens (a music teacher).[14] [John Burns, pictured below, left, in mid-July 1863 in front of his Gettysburg home, posing with a musket, by Mathew Brady photographers, courtesy the Library of Congress; and Capt. Walter L. Owens of the 151st Pa. Regiment, below, right, courtesy of the Gettysburg National Military Park library]:

01658vx1Capt Walter L Owens 151st PA Gettysburg National Military Park library

You all proceed as a singular group to the Soldiers’ Cemetery. From there, you split up and your group follows McFarland, Lee, and Burns to the right for a tour of Culp’s Hill where you are regaled with stories of heroism and observe the projectile-riddled trees and the Union breastwork defenses thrown up at the barb of their fishhook lines. The other even larger group leaves Cemetery Hill and follows Capt. Walter L. Owens[15] to the left on a tour towards the “Round Top.” One of the teachers in the Owens group later relays to you some of what he observed, allowing you to report:

“The evidences of the conflict are still to be seen in many directions. At one place [on the route to the Round Top] we found a human skull …. the farmer informed us that he had turned it up with his plough [but not why it was fixed “upon the top of a paling”]. Most of the stone breastworks on [the left] side, and those of earth and logs on Culp’s Hill still remain as they were left at the close of the great battle, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association having preserved the ground intact as far as was possible.”

When the tour returns to town before 10 a.m., you thank each of your guides by shaking their hands. Only John Burns eludes your handshake. Your appreciation of the Battle of Gettysburg and some of the town’s unusual and colorful residents has grown even greater. When official Association business resumes, several teachers debate the merits and demerits of coed schooling followed by discourses on the subject of “grammar” during the afternoon session. Then it is time to again visit Cemetery Hill. You write:

The most interesting episode of the week was the visit to the NATIONAL CEMETERY, on Wednesday evening … after an early tea, the members [of the Association] and many citizens of Gettysburg, who had heard of the proposed visit, betook themselves to Cemetery Hill. About half past six o’clock the assemblage of several hundred was called to order by COL. MCFARLAND …” [emphasis added]

Once upon the grounds of the National Cemetery, you are struck by the beauty of the final resting place for many of the Union soldiers killed at Gettysburg. It is classically simple, elegant, and geometrically curved in design. A poignant resting place with a commanding view.

“After the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, by the Glee Club,” Professor Martin L. Stoever of Gettysburg’s Pennsylvania College ” (pictured below, c.1868, from the Gettysburg College Special Collections)

Stoever – Martin L. Stoever (ca. 1868) Gettysburg College Special Collections

announced the reading of PRESIDENT LINCOLN’S inimitable address, by MAJOR HARRY T. LEE, a member of the Association.” [Henry (aka Harry) T. Lee, below left, from Kirk, Hyland C., Heavy Guns and Light: A History of the 4th NY Heavy Artillery (1890); and in a much later photo when he was a lawyer in Los Angeles, appearing in History of the Bench and Bar of Southern California (1909):[16]

Henry T Lee-4th NY Artillery Heavy_p253  Henry Thomas Lee from History of the Bench and Bar of Southern California, 1909Major Henry Thomas Lee was then a Professor in the Pardee Scientific Course of Lafayette College. He had “participated in the three days’ battle, serving on the staff of GEN. DOUBLEDAY” as a member of the 4th New York Artillery. He knows what happened here during the battle.

Professor Stoever further explains that Major Lee “was also present at the consecration of the battle-ground, when the PRESIDENT’S speech was delivered”[17] at the time your 45th Pennsylvania was in the midst of its Knoxville campaign. You realize that the Major also knows what happened here at the cemetery dedication on November 19, 1863. On that topic, Major Lee made the following remarks:

“In the presence of these graves, within sight of Gettysburg, upon this doubly consecrated spot, it is fitting that no word should be uttered save that which comes from the heart; and its has been thought appropriate that in this solemn presence we should let our martyred PRESIDENT speak again as once before he spoke to an assembled multitude upon this crowded hillside, many of them the friends and relatives of those who sleep around us … [Major Lee then summarized the November 19, 1863 ceremonies:] REV. DR. STOCKTON opened the exercises with an impressive prayer which was followed by the Oration of HON. EDWARD EVERETT. The latter … although it was scholarly, masterly, exquisite; yet it failed to touch the heart. It was faultless as a Greek statue and — as cold. “

Maj. Lee paused for several seconds to let his last point sink in before proceeding:

“Then Lincoln arose, his face seamed and furrowed with marks of care, his eyes moist with tears, and in a voice tremulous with the deepest emotion, he pronounced in his simple and unaffected manner, The Speech of that memorable day. There was not a dry eye in the vast assemblage, and from the loud sobs that interrupted the PRESIDENT during some parts of his address, it was at times impossible to hear what he had to say.”

Contemporary accounts by several journalists reported how Lincoln let loose with several tears that day on the speakers’ platform during Rev. Stockton’s opening prayer. He moistened up yet again much later at a point of time in Edward Everett’s keynote oration when — “the sufferings of dying soldiers were recited [by Everett, and] scarcely a dry eye was visible, the President mingling his tears with those of the people.” Boston Journal, November 23, 1863. A similar account appeared in the Boston Advertiser, November 23, 1863.

You don’t fully understand the impact of Lincoln’s words described by the introductory remarks of Major Lee until the Major reads aloud Lincoln’s Dedicatory Address standing near where Lincoln had once stood on a platform. Lee orates it in a “clear and distinct voice … breaking the stillness of the solemn hour as though he stood alone upon the base of the [Soldiers’] monument.” What he recites aloud to you and your fellow teachers stirs your deepest emotions.

At the conclusion of the event, before returning to the Church in town, you reflect upon:

“the appropriate character of these exercises, the witching beauty of the twilight hour, the passing loveliness of the landscape …, tender thoughts of thirty-five hundred gallants sons of the Republic, martyrs of liberty, who sleep side by side in quiet graves; and the thousand thronging memories that came crowding upon the brain as [you] stood upon the great sacrificial Altar of Freedom.”

Moved, you find yourself asking rhetorically, “what member of the Association [here] present can ever forget this reading of the DEDICATORY ADDRESS on CEMETERY HILL?”

And later, back in your quarters, you record your closing thoughts on paper:

“Of the world’s great orators and authors not one in a hundred has really added anything permanent. But … in [his] address, LINCOLN has done for the American schoolboy what even WASHINGTON never did — has given him a “new speech” — which will do more through her growing youth to mould the patriotic sentiment of coming generations of American people, than is ever possible for even the grand Farewell Address of the “Father of our Country” to accomplish. Among all of the classic models which have become a power in moulding the sentiment of the civilized world, we know of nothing better or more appropriate for the purpose indicated then the brief address of ABRAHAM LINCOLN … It has already passed into our recently published school speakers and will be as familiar to the school-boy of the future, as Webster’s Repy to Hayne, or his famous speech on Bunker Hill. PRESIDENT LINCOLN was in error when he remarked so beautifully, ‘The world will little note nor long remember what we say here.’ His brief address will live as long as Cemetery Hill endures, as long as the world shall tell the deeds that have made Gettysburg immortal in story. To the teacher who may chance to read these paragraphs, we would say: Encourage your pupils to commit this ADDRESS to memory — never to be forgotten. Let the noble sentiment which it breathes become their life-long patriotic creed.” [emphasis added]

As you depart Gettysburg by train on August 2, 1866, headed for the depot in Hanover Junction, you reflect on the sights of and stories told on the Gettysburg battlefield and compare them in your mind to your own wartime experiences. You think of your dead friends and comrades left behind in makeshift graves in southern states who deserve a final resting place and honors of burial in a setting like the Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery. But you also reflect upon the realization that some of what you have experienced in your three full days at Gettysburg faintly echoes elements of the Gettysburg Cemetery Dedication events. You understand your good fortune; this is as close as anyone could possibly have come to time traveling back to Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. From henceforth, you resolve that your curriculum for all students shall include the memorization and recitation of Lincoln’s Dedicatory Address at Gettysburg.

And it is your hope that enduring peace, prosperity, and a new birth of freedom shall be experienced by the next generation.


[Note: in reality, the Gettysburg Session of the Pennsylvania State Teachers’ Association did not conclude until the evening of August 2, 1866. On that morning, David McConaughy, a local State Senator, was introduced to the State Teachers’ Association in order to discuss the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association.  Explaining  that “the grandest monument of the battle is the field itself,” McConaughy stated that within 10 days after the battle’s end, Little Round Top (aka Granite Spur) was purchased so “that part of the field, in every respect possible, presents precisely the same appearance that it did at the close of battle.” He noted that other portions of the battlefield also had been bought by the Memorial Association and it was the group’s goal to buy all

“points of greatest interest ..;  open a broad avenue along the main lines of battle; to erect an observatory upon Round Top; and also to erect everywhere low monuments and enduring structures of granite … [with] inscriptions upon these stones [which] tell the visitor … what happened here or there … and thus the Field of Gettysburg may become the Mecca of the American patriot, the perpetual teacher of a nation of freemen.”

Space does not allow for a description of McConaughy’s involvement in the creation of the Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery, his rivalry with David Wills, his oversight of the Evergreen Cemetery, and his ten year leadership of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, etc.]

David McConaughy-65

One thing which really struck me when I first read the 1866 Pennsylvania School Journal article was its glowing praise of what we now call the “Gettysburg Address,” the statement that “it has already passed into our recently published school speakers,” and its earnest prodding that teachers should make their students memorize it. There are many historians who believe that the Gettysburg Address wasn’t widely embraced until much later when the cult of Lincoln had firmly taken root. This article suggests that many Pennsylvania teachers began emphasizing it in their classrooms relatively shortly after it was delivered — which might have occurred elsewhere too (e.g., this article was republished in the Oct. 1866 Rhode Island Schoolmaster journal). Having attended the moving 150th anniversary event at the Gettysburg National Cemetery in 2013, I have experienced the power of historical recreation. To have experienced Gettysburg in such a way in 1866 must have been quite an experience for anyone the least bit interested in American history. With all due respect to the undeniable talents of the recently deceased and beloved James A. Getty (may he rest in peace), the sincerity of Lincoln’s words narrated in the cemetery by a soldier/schoolteacher who had less than 3 years earlier witnessed Lincoln speak must have been even more powerfully conveyed and felt in 1866 than is possible today.

As for John Burns serving as one of the guides during the State Teachers’ Association visit, it wasn’t the only time he did such a thing. “Without realizing it, perhaps, the battle’s ‘civilian hero’ helped inaugurate a unique, distinctly individualistic, and somewhat lucrative occupation for some Gettysburg citizens” — serving as a battlefield guide. Bloom, Robert L., “‘We Never Expected a Battle’: The Civilians at Gettysburg, 1863,” Pennsylvania History, Vol. 55, No. 4 (October 1988) at p. 190.


Major Henry T. Lee’s 1866 description of Lincoln’s  consecration address compares favorably with an even more contemporary account by another educator. Isaac Jackson Allen, a Whig, was the former president of Farmer’s College near Cincinnati and superintendent of that city’s school system before the war began. [I.J. Allen pictured below in 1901, aged 87, from Shotwell, John B., A History of the Schools of Cincinnati (1902)]:

Isaac Jackson Allen p86 in 1901 age 87

For a portion of the war, Isaac Jackson Allen was the editor of the Daily Ohio State Journal of Columbus, OH. He was in Gettysburg as a journalist on November 19, 1863 because:

“Governor David Tod, of Ohio, invited me to join him as a member of his Staff, pro tempore; to this I assented, as that would give me the privilege of a seat on the platform at Gettysburgh.  When there, I was seated near Mr. Lincoln, with whom were seated members of his Cabinet.”[18]

Isaac Jackson Allen reported the following in the November 23, 1863 edition of the Daily Ohio State Journal [emphasis added]:

“President Lincoln rose to deliver the Dedicatory Address. Instantly every eye was fixed and every voice hushed in expectant and respectful attention … The President’s calm but earnest utterance of this brief and beautiful address stirred the deepest fountains of feeling and emotion in the hearts of the vast throng before him; and, when he had concluded, scarcely could an untearful eye be seen, while sobs of smothered emotion were heard on every hand. At our side stood a stout stalwart officer, bearing the insignia of a captain’s rank, the empty sleeve of his coat indicating that he had stood where death was revelling [sic], and as the President, speaking of our Gettysburg soldiers, uttered that beautifully touching sentence, so sublime and pregnant of meaning —

‘The world will little note, nor long remember what we here SAY, but it can never forget what they here DID:’ [sic] —

The gallant soldier’s feelings burst over all restraint; and burrying [sic] his face in his manly frame shook with no unmanly emotion. In a few moments, with a stern struggle to master his emotions, he lifted his still streaming eyes to heaven and in low and solemn tones exclaimed, “God Almighty bless Abraham Lincoln!” And to this spontaneous invocation a thousand hearts around him silently responded, Amen!

In 1904, Allen further elaborated upon Lincoln’s performance:

“Then President Lincoln rose to deliver the Address of Dedication; advanced to the reading desk, put on his steel-rimmed spectacles, took from his vest pocket a thin slip of paper, laid it before him, glanced at it a moment; then, as if not able to see its writing very well, he crumpled it in his hand, returned it to his vest pocket, removed his spectacles, and proceeded to deliver that ever-memorable Dedicatory Address that has become a classic in our American literature, and which of itself would render the name of Abraham Lincoln immortal! He spoke but seven minutes.  But, before he had spoken five minutes that whole assembled multitude were sobbing, and sympathetic tears were dimming all eyes.  Lincoln’s simple eloquence of heart in speaking of our heroic dead had touched the responsive cords [of] feeling, that Everett’s finished oratory had failed to reach.”[19]


By Craig Heberton, October 3, 2015


[1] This account is based upon and quotes from “Thirteenth Annual Session of the Pennsylvania State Teachers’ Association,” Pennsylvania School Journal, September 1866, vol.15, No. 3, pp. 58-60. It imagines that you are one of the attendees at the session meeting and you have written at least the quoted sections from the above-cited article. I have taken the liberty of describing you as a veteran of the 45th Pennsylvania Regiment who after the war has returned to your job somewhere in Pennsylvania as a schoolteacher. All of the quoted language in this article relating to the Thirteenth Annual Session of the Pennsylvania State Teachers’ Association held in Gettysburg on July 31 and August 2, 1866 is from the published piece in the Pennsylvania School Journal, Vol.15, No. 3 (September 1866) first noted below in footnote 6 unless otherwise indicated.

[2] “You” are a fictitious character throughout this piece whom I have created in the attempt to place the reader into the shoes of a schoolteacher attendee at the Pennsylvania State Teachers’ Association Session in Gettysburg on July 31 and August 1, 1866. You are there primarily to see the battlefield and understand all of the hoopla over its fame. While there, you meet and speak to Rev. Henry L. Baugher, President of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg who gave the closing benediction on the speakers’ stand seconds after Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address;” John L. Burns (the “Hero of Gettysburg”) who likewise was present at the dedication event and walked arm-in-arm with President Lincoln to Gettysburg’s Presbyterian Church after the dedication ceremonies and a public reception at David Wills’ home;  Colonel George Fisher McFarland, who was wounded at Gettysburg on July 1 while covering the First Corps’ retreat and had one of his legs amputated in the halls of the Lutheran Theological Seminary; and Major Henry T. Lee who both served at the Battle of Gettysburg under Doubleday and attended the Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery Dedication event on November 19, 1863. Burns, McFarland, and Lee, among others, serve as your guides, taking you to some of the most dramatic portions of the battlefield and they describe to you what they saw and experienced. On Cemetery Hill, standing in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, Maj. Lee paints a picture of Lincoln’s address and then reads it in the way he recalls that Lincoln did less than 3 years earlier. Some of what you experience faintly echoes elements of the Gettysburg Cemetery Dedication event. It is a close as you will ever come to having been in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.

[3] Perhaps there really was a member of the 45th Pennsylvania Regiment who survived the war, took a job as a teacher, and attended the Gettysburg Session of the Pennsylvania State Teachers’ Association held on July 31 to August 1, 1866. However, I’m not aware of such a person. If you do know of someone, by all means, let me know!

[4] Burrows, Thomas H., ed., “Thirteenth Annual Session of the Pennsylvania State Teachers’ Association,” Pennsylvania School Journal, Vol.15, No. 3 (September 1866) at p. 51.

[5] History of Cumberland County and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania (Beers & Co., 1886) at p. 372.

[6] Pennsylvania School Journal, Vol.15, No. 3 (September 1866) at pp. 51-52; Shelley was an advocate of the use of paying teacher incentives to reward quality teaching. See Wickersham, J.P., A History of Education in Pennsylvania, Private and Public Schools (1868) at pp. 8-9.

[7]  Cincinnati Daily Commercial, November 24, 1863.

[8] Baugher’s benediction read: “O Thou King of kings and Lord of lords, God of the nations of the earth, who by Thy kind providence has permitted us to engage in these solemn services, grant us Thy blessing. Bless this consecrated ground, and these holy graves. Bless the President of these United States, and his Cabinet. Bless the Governors and the representatives of the States here assembled with all needed grace to conduct the affairs committed into their hands, to the glory of Thy name, and the greatest good of the people. May this great nation be delivered from treason and rebellion at home, and from the power of enemies abroad. And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our Heavenly Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”

[9] Not only had McFarland lost his leg, but his other wounded leg caused him great pain. It is presumed that he was transported about by horse-drawn carriage.


[11] Eventually, the wound received in his unamputated leg caused an infection which killed him in 1891. For more on the 151st Pennsylvania, see

[12] “Colonel McFarland’s Diary Reveals War-School Career,” Gettysburg Times, June 27, 1941; Deese, Michael A., The 151st Pennsylvania Volunteers at Gettysburg: Like Ripe Apples in a Storm at p. 6. For ideas related to teaching about McFarland, see

[13] McFarland, George F., “The Victory at Gettysburg, the Work of the Teacher,” The Pennsylvania School Journal (October 1866) at pp. 95-96.

[14] (July 23, 2014 entry on Capt. Owens).

[15] Captain Owens took command of the 151st Pennsylvania after Lt. Colonel McFarland was wounded and later captured. He maintained that command throughout the remaining days of the battle. “Colonel McFarland’s Diary Reveals War-School Career,” Gettysburg Times, June 27, 1941. The 151st was involved in repulsing “Pickett’s Charge” on the final day of battle and surely Captain Owen spoke about what he experienced near the Bloody Angle.


[17] Major Lee must have been present in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 in his capacity as an aide on the staff of the then wounded Gen. Abner Doubleday. Doubleday was one of several wounded generals at Gettysburg who attended the dedication event. Lee “was never wounded” during the war, “but at Sutherland’s Station he received seven bullet-holes through his clothing.”

[18] Allen, Isaac Jackson. Memoranda Genealogical and Biographical Of the Allen Family (1904) at p. 25.


Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” (1990) Remastered for 2015 and Beyond

7 Sep

If you visit the PBS website at you will find links to the viewing schedule for the remastered 25th anniversary HD version of Ken Burns’ The Civil War at your local PBS affiliate:

“Twenty-five years ago, a film about history made history … From Director Ken Burns, for the first time in high-definition,  “The Civil War,” starts Monday September 7, [2015] at 9:00 pm (8:00 Central) [and concludes on September 11]. Only on PBS.

No historical documentary has ever had the impact of THE CIVIL WAR when it was first broadcast by PBS a quarter of a century ago. More than 40 million people watched its first run. It won more than 40 major television and film awards. Millions more have seen it in classrooms or on videotape.

THE CIVIL WAR, the award-winning film produced and directed by Ken Burns, will be rebroadcast over five consecutive nights … The broadcast, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the series’ initial broadcast in September 1990, will present for the first time a newly restored, high-definition version. This is also the first time the film will be seen with the same fidelity and framing as the negative that Burns and his co-cinematographers … shot more than 25 years ago.”

The Civil War Defines Who We are Today

Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. And I believe that firmly. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars beginning with the First World War did what they did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became … good and bad things …  and it is very necessary if you are going to understand the American character in the [21st] century to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the cross-roads of our being … and it was a hell of a crossroads.”   — Shelby Foote, Historian, quoted in Episode 1 of The Civil War (pictured below, left, with Ken Burns, c. 1990, courtesy of Florentine Films)

ken burns shelby foote

Why Watch the Remastered Film “The Civil War?”

Today’s audiences expect sharper images and richer sound—so much sharper and richer that no one 25 years ago could have imagined the improvements we now take for granted. To reach a whole new audience with the story of America’s greatest crisis, and to offer those who have already seen the series a far more compelling experience, we decided to completely restore the series to ultra high definition4K resolution—to bring it up to the standards that current audiences demand

The 4K film scans capture every nuance of detail in the sharpest focus in the photographs, stock footage, interviews, and live material that are the basic building blocks of the series’ visuals

Visually, THE CIVIL WAR is now rock steady, sharper in focus, cleaner, and with a greatly enhanced visual beauty. The color is now as it was intended to be when the film was originally shot. The still photographs all have been assigned a variety of black-and-white or sepia tones that correspond to the intended emotional effect of the sequences. There is also 10 percent more image area than in the previous version, which was cropped out due to the 4:3 square broadcast.”   — Paul Barnes, Lead Editor of “The Civil War” [emphasis added]

The Starring Role of Civil War Photography in the Film

THE CIVIL WAR was five years in the making. The film vividly embraces the entire sweep of the war: the complex causes and lasting effects of America’s greatest and most moving calamity, the battles and the homefronts, the generals and the private soldiers, the anguish of death in battle and the grief of families at home. 

Archival images of 16,000 photographs, taken from a total of 1 million pictures of the Civil War, along with period paintings, lithographs, and headlines, were combined with moving newsreel footage of Civil War veterans, evocative live cinematography of the now quiet battle sites, interviews with distinguished historians, and the inclusion of first-person accounts.”

The Strengths of the Original Film

The Civil War documentary which first aired in 1990 represents the coming together of many great elements of documentary film-making.  For starters, it offers up a “national treasure trove” of narrators and voices such as: David McCullough (to whom I could listen all day long), Sam Waterston as Abraham Lincoln, Morgan Freeman as Frederick Douglass, Jason Robards as Ulysses S. Grant, Garrison Keillor as Walt Whitman, Arthur Miller as William Tecumseh Sherman, George Black as Robert E. Lee, Horton Foote as Jefferson Davis, Jody Powell as Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Julie Harris as Mary Chesnut, Paul Roebling as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Christopher Murney as Elisha Hunt Rhodes, Charley McDowell as Sam Watkins, and Studs Terkel as Gen. Benjamin Butler.

They dramatically breathe life into the actual words penned or spoken by their real-life characters a century and a half ago.

The film’s telling of the story of the Civil War relies heavily on the words of many of the most famous (as well as some of the more obscure) figures involved in the conflict. But Burns also strategically interjects clips of distinguished historians ruminating about key personalities, battles, triumphs, tragedies, strategies, anecdotes, political machinations, higher purposes, and how the Civil War relates to and continues to impact modern times.  Those historians serve as the modern glue which holds the entirety of the work together.

Say what you will about the music. Some people love the song “Ashokan Farewell” which is played numerous times (25) during the series. Others hate it.  Many don’t realize it was composed in 1982. Even though it is the only modern music used in the series,  it is the tune most identified with Ken Burns’ masterpiece. But it isn’t the film’s only music by any stretch. “Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Bonnie Blue Flag” are two other very catchy period songs which immediately come to mind. And don’t forget about the tremendous sound effects.

But what resonates the most within the film’s nine episodes is its sweeping visual impact thanks in large measure to Ken Burn’s heavy reliance upon images from surviving Civil War photographs and sketches. Although there is some incredibly stunning video — particularly clips from the Gettysburg veterans’ anniversary reunions in 1913 and 1938 as well as  beautiful modern color footage — Burns’ videographers relied almost exclusively upon 1860s photographs. Repeatedly, they zoom-in upon astonishing photographic details in magnificent data-laden wet-plate collodion slides and prints created by men associated with Mathew B. Brady, Alexander Gardner, Andrew J. Russell, George N. Barnard, the Anthonys, Sam A. Cooley, George S. Cook, and others. Unfortunately, 1990 technology made it difficult to quickly discern those details in the original release.

The film’s restorer, Daniel J. White, has promised that within the 2015 HD version “new details will become visible in the hundreds of black-and-white photos used in the film.” Let’s hope so! But also be aware that super hi-resolution scans of the vast majority of photographs used in The Civil War can be viewed online and downloaded sometimes in .tiff files up to 100 to 200 megs in size at the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the National Portrait Gallery, and other institutions.

Because the vast majority of Civil War photographs were taken by photographers living in the “North,” those images offer the richest source of photographic history. Yet Burns’ team still made every effort to film many images taken by southern photographers too.

It should come as no surprise that the surviving photographs don’t always dovetail perfectly with the story-line for The Civil War, particularly relative to the underrepresented western theater of the war. Lacking “on the money” imagery to visually drive home a point, Burns understandably was compelled at times to rely upon photographs unequivalent to the time, place, and/or subject matter addressed by the film’s narrator. In fairness, in some instances no one knows for sure when or where or by whom specific photos were taken because the photographers usually left no records of such and historians haven’t yet solved those mysteries.

But had Civil War photographs played an even more central role in defining the story-line of the film, Ken Burns might have devoted a few minutes to explain the basics of outdoor Civil War photography —  including that nearly 3/4 of the photos were shot so that they can be viewed today in 3D. Despite the cumbersome tasks that befell outdoor photographers in the 1860s and the limitations of their slow exposure technology, the thousands of Civil War photographs they managed to take allow us, several generations later, to “see” and get a “visual feel” for the war which cost us more American lives than the sum total of all of the other conflicts in which Americans have been engaged both before and ever since.

What Is Supposed to Look Better in the Remastered Film

In a September 4, 2015 Washington Post blog article titled “25 years after ‘The Civil War,’ Ken Burns finally made his dream movie” by Alyssa Rosenberg,  there is an illustration of the quality improvement in the new version of “The Civil War.” Ken Burns and his restorer, Daniel J. White, have said that a “murkiness” in many images will be replaced by clearer, more realistic looking scenes. A frame from modern footage of the Burnside Bridge (originally called Rohrbach’s or Lower Bridge) at the Antietam National Battlefield was used to highlight the “before” and “after” differences (see below).

Before-after KB Burnside Bridge, Anitetam Battlefield NP

What I’m most looking forward to seeing is the improvement in the quality of the Civil War photographs used in the film.

In the The Washington Post article, Mr. Burns highlighted the impact of significantly improved photographic imagery by noting the film’s use of an image of Lincoln posing with General McClellan in a tent in early October 1862 near Sharpsburg, MD two weeks after the Battle of Antietam.  Photographer Alexander Gardner’s men took this and other images in that locale to chronicle Lincoln’s visit to the Commander of the Army of the Potomac, George B. McClellan. At the time of the visit, Lincoln was greatly disappointed by McClellan’s failure to pursue General Lee’s numerically inferior forces after repelling them at Antietam Creek on September 17. Lincoln wanted McClellan to destroy or capture the Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan, on the other hand, thought he should be congratulated for the Antietam “victory” and that Lincoln should defer to his military judgment not to pursue Lee in the aftermath of the single bloodiest day in American history.

Alyssa Rosenberg wrote that “it’s now possible to read President Abraham Lincoln and Gen. George McClellan’s facial expressions in a snapshot of the two men taken during the meeting at which Lincoln fired his top commander.” To be more precise, Ken Burns was quoted as saying:  

You can now see in the pictures of them in the tent the tension between them. Now, it may have been apparent in the previous images because of the quality of the writing, whatever the music and the sound effects were suggesting, but now you’ve taken away that veil and you’re permitted to see that interpersonal dynamic, and suddenly you can understand McClellan’s kind of combination of arrogant distance from Lincoln and Lincoln’s exasperation, and the fact that his sorry butt is going to be axed in a couple of moments is terrific.” (detail from two views at the Library of Congress, LC-B811- 602 and LC-B817- 7948, below)

LC-B811- 602 01131ax3  LC-B817- 7948 04351ax

My own take on the Lincoln-McClellan “tent” photographs is a bit less dramatic, especially in view of the vagaries of outdoor photography in 1862 as well as Lincoln’s record of posing before the camera. For starters, Lincoln did not relieve McClellan of his command of the Army of the Potomac until November 5, 1862, more than a month after these “tent” poses were taken. Although there surely was tension between Lincoln and McClellan throughout their relationship and Lincoln visited McClellan to try to cajole him into action, I think Mr. Burns reads too much into his interpretation of Lincoln’s face and body language by suggesting that there is palpable “exasperation” on Lincoln’s face.

Perhaps it can be said that McClellan’s face or attitude betrays some form of “arrogant distance,” but I think even that overplays the simple fact that McClellan’s paramount concern during the picture taking session was to look squarely at Lincoln with his “I am the commander” look and hold his pose for several seconds. For that matter, I have not seen any photographs of McClellan in uniform in which he didn’t try to look “dashing” or “authoritative;” he surely didn’t earn the moniker “Young Napoleon” for nothing (examples, below, courtesy of the Library of Congress).

19389v 34112v

The Alexander Gardner photographic team prepared the glass plate for each of the Lincoln-McClellan photographs shortly before they were created. It would have taken them about 5 minutes of time to do so, followed by another 5 minutes to complete the development of each specific negative shortly thereafter [I believe the Gardner team simultaneously prepared the two negative plates used for the creation of these photos]. In other words, sitting for a photograph was a lengthy process by today’s standards, especially for an ultra-busy and fidgety President who was in the midst of prosecuting a war which hadn’t been going too well up to that point. The two images captured by the photographers were not candid snapshots. The technology which then existed required the men to be posed and to hold their poses.

In the first photograph of Lincoln seated in the tent with McClellan (above), Alexander Gardner situated the Commander-in-Chief slightly forward of McClellan and likely asked Lincoln not to gaze directly at McClellan. To make the scene as patriotic looking as possible, Lincoln was posed next to a table draped with the American flag upon which his stovepipe hat rested between two candlesticks. It needs to be understood that Lincoln never looked completely comfortable when he was photographed. As Ohio politician Donn Piatt recalled, Lincoln “had a face that defied artistic skill to soften or idealize.” Writes Harold Holzer, “photographs did little to disguise Lincoln’s sometimes vacant expression, his so-called photographer’s face.” Lloyd Ostendorf describes Lincoln’s “photographer’s face” in the following manner:

Whenever Lincoln posed, a dark melancholy settled over his features. He put on what Mrs. Lincoln called his ‘photographer’s face.’ There is no camera study which shows him laughing, for such an attitude, unfortunately, was impossible when long exposures were required. A man who knew Lincoln, Dr. James Miner, commented: ‘His large bony face when in repose was unspeakably sad and as unreadable as that of a sphinx, his eyes were as expressionless as those of a dead fish’” (emphasis added)

It is THAT “photographer’s face” which I see particularly in the first photograph — Lincoln with vacant and expressionless eyes gazing off into the distance. I detect no palpable tension in Lincoln’s face, although he surely felt some discomfort over posing rigidly during each of the several second exposures (perhaps for as long as 5 to 10 seconds as betrayed by the flag blurred by the movement of a breeze and the piece of paper blown up against the bottom of Lincoln’s chair in the second view).

Lincoln-McClellan-tent Antietam

McClellan’s gaze is locked onto Lincoln’s face in both views. In the first, the General sat with his left hand relaxed on his leg and a cigar perched in that hand. But in the second, when Lincoln presumably was directed by Alexander Gardner to look McClellan straight in the eye, McClellan sat up straighter in his chair and leaned slightly forward so his face wasn’t partially in the sunlight. You might conclude that his demeanor was a bit more attentive and even respectful (for example, his cigar can no longer be seen).


McClellan looks somewhat less comfortable in that second photo. But his slight discomfort probably had little to do with Lincoln’s gaze. Alex Gardner likely directed him to bring his face completely into the shadows — so that it wouldn’t be bisected half-in and half-out of the sunlight as occurred in the first view. Lincoln, on the other hand, did not do anything between the exposures other than execute a slight turn of his head in order to look directly at McClellan’s face. Yet, in profile he still affected his “photographer’s face;” kind of like a poker-face expression. If anything, Lincoln’s appearance and demeanor in the second view might be described as “cool as a cucumber.”LC-B817- 7948 04351az

Watch for the appearance of the second “tent” photograph in Episode 3, “Forever Free.” When you see it, realize that Ken Burns in 1990 did not have access to the ultra-high resolution digital scans I have used in this piece. The quality of the photographs which he then filmed with his 16mm camera just wasn’t anything like what can be seen today. His 2015 edition is the product of remastering that original 16mm film stock. It does not utilize today’s digital scans of what are presumed to be first or early generation glass plate negatives. Without criticizing or taking away anything from Ken Burn’s Civil War masterpiece, I think the best way to answer what the faces of men like Lincoln project or betray in 150+ year old photographs is to look at their modern day digital scans.

Craig Heberton, September 7, 2015

[Stay tuned for updates after episodes of the 2015 remastered The Civil War run over the course of the next several days]

If You Like the Improvement in Civil War Photo Quality, Check This Out …

If you are finding the Civil War photographs used in the 2015 remastered version of  “The Civil War” to be a significant step forward in improved quality, you might want to watch Burns’ short video “Restoring the Film” at which explains the restoration process. Here is a capture of one of the examples used in that video. It is a “before-and-after” vidcap of detail within a photograph of “Fighting Joe” Hooker, a Union General who briefly commanded the Army of the Potomac. The “before” version is on the right side; the “after” on the left.

Ken Burns_Restoration examples in video-02

Ken Burns explains in the video that within the Civil War photographs, you now can see that “the whites are whiter and the blacks are deeper and richer.” His restorers also elaborate that this is so because the digital scanning process applied to the original film stock allowed them to manipulate the contrast in order to enhance details within the original photographs which were filmed by Burns and his team in 16mm.

But if you want to see the same image in even more amazing detail on your computer screen, go to the source which houses the original print image — the Library of Congress — and see and download (if you are inclined) at their website a 104.7 megabyte .tiff file of the print.  You can find it here. Now place detail of Hooker from that Library of Congress scan next to the restored Ken Burns image. After some of my own photo editing work, here is what they look like side-by-side. The details in Hooker’s face are substantially better revealed in the Library of Congress scan.


However, the most impressive details to be seen within super hi-res scans at the Library of Congress collection are those made from the glass plate negatives in its collection or housed at the National Archives. The General Hooker example, above, is from a print so there are limitations in the amount of detail that even very high resolution scans can extract from such an old print.

Craig Heberton, September 9, 2015

It’s Lincoln or Bust!

5 Jul

Whenever I read of a newly discovered photograph of a famous historical figure or the image of a legendary name hidden in a well known old photograph, my attention is grabbed.  After which, my next usual impulse is to evaluate whether the discovery is for real.

For a few moments the other day, my attention was grabbed.

I happened to review a positive digital image of a photographic plate at the National Archives labeled 111-B-5152. You can see it here at: The photograph clearly was taken in the Washington, D.C. studio of Mathew B. Brady.


At first blush, the image was of no special interest to me. It is titled “Gen. Francis Preston Blair, Jr. and staff of fifteen” by the National Archives. Although undated, the photo clearly was shot sometime after November 1862 when Blair was promoted to Major General. A second star insignia on Blair’s right shoulder strap is barely visible, denoting his rank.

The Blair House of Politics

A Princeton College graduate, Blair was born in Lexington, KY in 1821 and engaged in politics in Missouri after establishing his legal practice in St. Louis.  He became a dominant Republican in his home state and oversaw efforts to elect Lincoln in 1860 because, among other things, Blair was opposed to the further expansion of slavery.  He also served several terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before and during the Civil War. He is “credited with being the principal leader in saving Missouri for the Union in 1861.”[i] His father, Francis Preston Blair, Sr. was a mover-and-shaker in the creation of the Republican Party in 1854 (Hal Holbrook portrayed his father in Steven Spielberg’s movie Lincoln (2012)). His parents’ home in Washington, D.C. is still known as the Blair House and has served as the President’s Guest House since the U.S. government bought it during World War II. Francis P. Blair, Jr.’s brother Montgomery Blair, served as Postmaster-General in Lincoln’s cabinet for several years. Thus, at the time of the Civil War, the Blairs, perhaps, were as prominent and powerful of a political family as existed.

Francis Preston Blair, Jr.’s distinguished military service during the Civil War — including at Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and under Gen. Sherman in the “March to the Sea” — only made him more popular before the war’s end. [ii] Ulysses S. Grant wrote this about Frank Blair in July 1861: “There was no man braver than he, nor was there any who obeyed all orders of his superior in rank with more unquestioning alacrity.”[iii]

Or I’ll Eat My …

Scanning the National Archive’s  image, something in the foreground along the left-hand margin caught my attention.  “Is there someone lurking in the shadows?,” I blurted out loud to no one in particular.  Zooming in, I saw the nearly all-white profile of a face and part of an upper torso. Its appearance led me to conclude that  it must be a sculpted bust resting on a pedestal … and that it looked like Abraham Lincoln (detail, below, of the apparent bust).


Comparing Lincoln’s profile in a photo taken by Anthony Berger in Brady’s Washington studio on February 9, 1864 to the fuzzy & out-of-focus profile in 111-B-5152, revealed the following:

profile cf O-89 cf

So then I wondered, “is there any possibility that this might be Lincoln himself?” Lincoln visited Brady’s studio on several occasions during his presidency. Surely it was possible that Lincoln might have visited the studio on the same day that Brady’s studio manager, Anthony Berger, was creating photographs of the president’s political ally, Major General Frank P. Blair, Jr., of the powerful conservative faction of the Republican Party? Might Lincoln have arrived early, peeked in on Blair, placed his fidgety right arm and hand atop a pedestal, and accidentally photo-bombed the last seconds of a photo shoot? Reaching my own conclusions, I nevertheless decided to turn to several Civil War photo enthusiasts for their input.  In a cover message, I wrote:

“assuming its Lincoln’s profile, is it a bust or the real man? I’m not sure. But to me it looks possible that there is an arm with a fidgety hand perched on the pedestal.  Not quite sure what the white blob is. So I cannot say it is definitively a bust.”

The first gentleman to respond proclaimed — ” Well that’s damned interesting!  … I’m speechless (for now).” Three hours later he wrote:

Here’s what I see. Abraham Lincoln is standing behind an open door to Brady’s studio … He’s holding a book in his right hand. The binding is facing in our direction. The object overlaying the book is Lincoln’s right hand, which is moving in front of the door’s brass door knob. The President has just entered the room unannounced, as the exposure finished up … If this were a bust, we’d see the table on which it must sit. The bright object seen below the visible portion of Lincoln’s shirt may be his watch.”

But soon he messaged the group that he had found a variant view of General Blair posing at Brady’s studio with the same men within the Library of Congress’ collection, identified as  LC-BH831- 575 (see below), and added — ” if this is not Lincoln’s distinctive profile, I’ll eat my (fill in the blank).” Oh!,” I exclaimed, as I wondered out loud what object he would consume if we were to conclude it wasn’t Lincoln’s profile — perhaps a stove pipe hat?

LC-BH831- 575 03120a[0]

The variant view clearly shows Gen. Blair and his staff posing at Brady’s studio on the same day. In fact the camera position and the space framed is identical. But that view doesn’t seem to show the Lincoln-appearing white image in profile on the extreme left edge of the plate. This observation caused some more preliminary “thinking out loud” speculation in support of the supposition that President Lincoln may have photo-bombed 111-B-5152.

Yet the discovery of the variant LC-BH831- 575 view ultimately helped the group answer my initial question, but only after we navigated through several other prickly minefields.

For starters, another Civil War photography expert asked, “seriously if that is Lincoln [in the flesh] wouldn’t his beard be dark?” I wrote in reply that perhaps his face and dark hair and beard were all washed out because we were seeing a “ghost image” caused by movement during the course of a multi-second studio exposure, enhanced by the face being out of focus and in bright, direct sunlight from an unseen skylight above.  Maybe it was possible that Lincoln had moved partially into view only at the tail-end of the exposure. The more a person moved, the more their features could be distorted in a wet-plate collodion exposure. Also, the shorter the time period one appeared in an several second exposure (which may have reached something like ten seconds in Brady’s studio), the more washed out their image might appear (examples, below — “Ghost image” of a (twinned) boy in motion at Gettysburg’s Soldiers’ Cemetery, November 19, 1863, from LC-B815- 1159; a boy outside Castle Thunder, Richmond, Va., April 1865,  from LC-B811- 3362):

04063u_crop outside Castle Thunder, a tobacco warehouse converted into a prison. Richmond, VA, 1865

But the problem of interpreting much of what is seen on the extreme left side of the 111-B-5152 and explaining why it differed from the same area in LC-BH831- 575 remained unanswered. Moreover, a quick search didn’t yield the same Lincoln-like profile, let alone a bust of Lincoln, in any other Brady studio photos, again hinting that what appeared in the left-hand margin of 111-B-5152 might be someone’s fleeting appearance and not a bust perched in Brady’s studio. Ultimately, however, the ” I’ll eat my (fill in the blank)” researcher soon noted something which had also dawned upon me.

He realized that a piece of tape placed on the negative plate for LC-BH831- 575 had prevented us from recognizing that the extreme left of LC-BH831- 575 almost certainly was identical to the same area in 111-B-5152. What I initially thought was a highly illuminated area in LC-BH831- 575 had resulted from someone covering the plate with tape which made that area look white after the plate was scanned and the negative was turned into a positive image (see detail below, right). In fact, on our first pass we had failed to notice a much smaller piece of tape placed in the upper left-hand corner of  111-B-5152 which produced the same effect (see detail below, left). A side-by-side comparison of detail within 111-B-5152 and LC-BH831- 575 reveals that if we could remove the tape from LC-BH831- 575’s plate, what apparently is Lincoln’s bust would be visible in it too:


The apparent bust of Lincoln, moreover, probably was on a pedestal or table behind what was likely a screen and hadn’t moved at all between the shooting of the two photos (which could have been several minutes apart because of the long prep time needed to prepare a glass plate negative for use). Our intrepid “I’ll eat my …” researcher determined that the bust likely was a form of “Parian Ware,” a process, he explained, “of mass producing statuary, designed to imitate carved marble …  a fellow called Martin Milmore apparently was on the cutting edge of [producing this] around the time of our Gen. Blair group shot. It’s not unreasonable to think that Brady might have owned one of Milmore’s Lincoln busts, which he produced and signed. Christies sold one in 2009 for $4,750.” The same gentleman created the following marked interpretation of 111-B-5152:

LC-BH831- 575_stuff[1]

Other clues revealed a possible date for when the photographs were taken. They are:

  1. The officer in the top row, second from the left, apparently could no longer button his coat;
  2. The presumed officer in the top row, second from the right, was out of uniform; and
  3. A few of the officers are wearing a black or dark mourning ribbon or band tied on their left arms (marked, below).

LC-BH831- 575 03120asashdetail

These clues suggest that the Civil War was over (at least the Appomattox Courthouse surrender had occurred) and Lincoln had been assassinated. Many soldiers presumably wore black mourning bands or sashes to mark the murder of their President when Lincoln’s funeral procession passed through Washington, D.C. on April 19, 1865. The Daily National Republican of April 17, 1865 reported that Secretary Stanton had ordered the military to wear the badge of mourning on the left arm. The same symbol of mourning and remembrance was tied to soldiers’ arms in other cities to which Lincoln’s catafalque traveled, including New York City. See also, Some soldiers likely chose to wear those arm bands during the Grand Review of the Union Army which occurred in Washington, D.C. on May 23-24, 1865. Although there are reports in the historical record that the city of Washington no longer was in formal mourning for Lincoln as of the time of the Grand Review of the Union Army, some photos show flags at half mast and specific buildings decked out in black mourning crepe (e.g., LC-B8184-7748, below, captioned “Washington, D.C. Spectators at side of the Capitol, which is hung with crepe and has flag at half-mast during the ‘grand review’ of the Union Army”). In Proclamation No. 129, President Johnson declared May 25, 1865 to be “a day of humiliation and mourning” for Lincoln but later postponed that date until June 1st.LC-B8184-7748 23873ux

Gen. Blair and his officers, as members of Sherman’s Army, would have participated in the Grand Review on May 24. This may explain why they were all gathered together in the nation’s capitol, that some wore mourning bands during the photo session, and their boots were outfitted with spurs for riding possibly in the procession. See below, for example, LC-USZ62-1770, an 1865 copyrighted image of General Ulysses S. Grant posing for Frederick Gutekunst while wearing a mourning sash tied onto his left arm said to be in honor of President Lincoln (courtesy of the Library of Congress).

LC-USZ62-1770 by Gutekunst

Thus, the date of the photo session may have been on or about May 23, 24, or 25, 1865, near the time that Blair and his staff rode in the Grand Review and when the nation still collectively mourned for Abraham Lincoln.

We don’t know to whom the apparent bust of Lincoln belonged or why it was placed where it would appear in the outer fringes of the negative. Perhaps the bust wasn’t a fixture in the Brady studio and General Blair had recently purchased it. If so, I’d like to think that the General desired to take it back home with him to better remember his fallen commander-in-chief.

So in about 24 hours, our little group concluded that a bust of Lincoln probably had made two unexpected appearances in Brady studio photographs. Not quite on par with spotting a new photographic image of Abraham Lincoln in the flesh-and-blood, but a very cool “profile of Lincoln” discovery, nonetheless.

Unless someone else shows us to the contrary within the next 24 hours, no stove-pipe hats will be eaten.

by Craig Heberton IV, July 5, 2015


[i] William E. Parrish, Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative (1998) (dust cover)


[iii] Parrish, Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative (1998), at p. 174.

Among the Most Powerful and Moving Images of Character Ever Achieved by Portrait Photographers

20 Apr

Historian David Hackett Fischer is probably best known as the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Washington’s Crossing (2004) about George Washington’s leadership in 1776 leading up to the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, as well as Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989).

His most important work on how imagery has shaped the history of America is Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas (2005). Perhaps that book’s finest chapter is entitled “The Long ‘Shaddow’ of Abraham Lincoln; a Living Symbol of Liberty and Freedom in the Camera’s Eye.” In it, Fischer notes that “one of Lincoln’s political strengths was his skill in the manipulation of imagery, including his own image.” Lincoln immediately was put to the test following his presidential election as a dark-horse candidate by the challenge of overcoming the vicious invectives and unflattering cartoons and other imagery hurled at him by adversarial members of the national and international media.

For example, the British illustrated magazine Punch

“used caricatures of Lincoln’s features to attack him as an incompetent fool, a cowardly bully, a dishonest lawyer, a primitive clown, and a party hack. The assault continued to the hour of Union victory and the moment of Lincoln’s assassination. Then suddenly a chastened editor of Punch issued a public apology:

Yes, he had lived to shame me from my sneer,
To lame my pencil, and confute my pen —
To make me own this hind of princes peer.
This rail-splitter a true-born king of men.”

1862-10-18 Punch-ABE LINCOLN'S LAST CARD OR, ROUGE-ET-NOIR  1864-11-19 Punch blackdraftMED1

One key instrument which Lincoln applied to combat the attacks on his intellect, competence, judgment, integrity, and fortitude was “the camera’s eye, which he was among the first to use in a systematic way for political purposes.” Liberty and Freedom at p. 342. Lincoln evolved from referring to sitting for a portrait as having had his “shaddow” taken to quickly understanding the exploitative power of posing in the studio of an expert photographic artist in a way which constructed and projected his own image first as a man suited to the presidency and then as an executive capable of forcing the seceding states back into the Union.

“As the war went on, the president’s demeanor showed growing strength and steadiness. The line of his jaw suggested firmness of purpose, and the set of his eyes showed a clarity of vision in this extraordinary man. His appearance increasingly displayed qualities of character, integrity, and moral leadership that were the source of his greatness.” Ibid. at pp. 346-347.

The means by which this was accomplished primarily resulted from Lincoln’s visits to Alexander Gardner’s and Mathew B. Brady’s photographic studios in Washington, D.C. in 1863 and 1864. During those pilgrimages, Lincoln:

“had many portraits taken by Alexander Gardner and Anthony Berger, two very able portrait photographers. Both were attentive to the qualities of character that increasingly appeared in Lincoln’s face and used every trick of their art to make them more evident. In 1863 and 1864, Gardner and Berger made much use of tight close-ups. Gardner was known for his path-breaking work in the use of photo-enlargement. Berger was highly skilled in the manipulation of light. Both men used these techniques to emphasize the facial lines that Brady had removed by retouching in 1860. They also set the camera below the plane of Lincoln’s head to create a monumental feeling and reinforced the shadows above his eyes to add depth and texture to the face.

The results are among the most powerful and moving images of character that portrait photographers have ever achieved. One of them was a photograph of Lincoln by Alexander Gardner after the battle of Gettysburg, in the period when the president was writing his address. Lincoln appears full face. The camera is very close and slightly below the sitter’s head. The features are dark and worn. The face of Lincoln is an image of pain and worry and exhaustion. At the same time one is made to feel the presence of a strong resolve to see the struggle through to victory [below, courtesy of the Library of Congress].

LC 3a53289r

“[Prior to] the fall of 1864, with a critical election at hand, Anthony Berger created an image of Lincoln as a wise and experienced leader, with an aura of growing strength and confidence. But the deep lines and shadows are still there and are made more visible by the photographer’s technique” [emphasis added]. Ibid. at pp. 347-348.

O-92 LC-B8175- 3-X

Professor Fischer is one of the few historians to realize the artistic genius of Anthony Berger and to ascribe credit to both Berger and Gardner for fashioning visual images of Lincoln as a strong, but deeply sympathetic leader. This imagery helped win Lincoln the overwhelming faith, trust, and loyalty especially of the vast majority of Union soldiers in the field as well as their votes in numbers necessary for his re-election in 1864. The same imagery has gained in symbolic power and scope as the years have passed following Lincoln’s death.

“All of this appeared in the great photographs of Gardner, Berger, and Brady during the last year of the war. They carefully created the image of Lincoln that still lives in the hearts of the American people. The war-ravaged face of this man became the image of the nation’s greatest leader and the symbol of its largest cause. It was also a new vision of freedom, with a depth of sympathy for the suffering of others. Even today one can ‘scarcely look at it without crying.'”

Ibid., at p. 348.

Craig Heberton, April 20, 2015

Anthony Berger “Herolds” Forth a Lincoln Conspirator

14 Apr

Fifty-six year old President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by the misguided and murderous thespian, John Wilkes Booth, at Ford’s Theatre on the night of April 14, 1865. Lincoln died the next morning at 7:22 a.m. in the Peterson House across the street from the theatre. Charles Leale, a young army surgeon who attended to Lincoln at the theatre remained by Lincoln’s side to the bitter end and “held his hand firmly to let him know, in his blindness, that he had a friend.”

As soon as the Chief Magistrate was pronounced dead, Secretary of State Stanton said either “now he belongs to the ages” or “now he belongs to the angels.” The exact wording is not important because both versions are equally poignant. Edwin M. Stanton walked away from Lincoln’s deathbed to oversee a massive manhunt for Booth and his co-conspirators during which others suspected of aiding and abetting either the plot or Booth’s attempted getaway also were rounded up.

Because photoengraving technology did not then exist, sketch artists and woodcut engravers were utilized in order to recreate photographic images on the pages of newspapers and journals. Few American dailies made regular use of those artists in April of 1865 probably because of the crush of time and the expense of doing so. The Philadelphia Inquirer, however, managed to print a relatively crude woodcut image of Booth on the front page of its April 17th edition (below). That drawing appears to have been based upon a horizontally flipped version of a Booth photo represented in the Library of Congress collection (also below):

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On April 26, 1865, John Wilkes Booth — who also had masterminded Lewis Powell’s nearly fatal attack on Secretary of State Seward and George Atzerodt’s aborted scheme to murder Vice President Johnson — was hunted down and killed by Federal cavalrymen on Richard H. Garrett’s farm near Port Royal, VA. Before he was shot dead, Booth would have been displeased to learn that members of the 22nd U.S. Colored Regiment were part of his manhunt.

At that same time and place, Booth’s sole get-away compatriot, David E. Herold, surrendered to the Federal posse. While on the run after the assassination of Lincoln, Booth wrote a rambling entry in his small calendar day book under the date of April 21, apparently averring that the 22 year-old Herold was a pious “brave boy:”

after being hunted like a dog … [while] wet cold and starving … every man’s hand [was] against me [and] I am here in despair … A country that groaned beneath [Lincoln’s] tyranny and prayed for this end and yet now behold the cold hand they extend to me … And it is with [God] to damn or bless me [a]nd this brave boy with me who often prays (yes before and since) with a true and sincere heart ….

Some accounts suggest that by the time Herold surrendered to the military posse, Booth considered Herold a coward.

How Newsworthy Images Were Then Seen: The Illustrated Weekly Newspaper

The most widely circulated journal during the Civil War was Harper’s Weekly at 100,000 copies a week.  It was the primary medium by which many Americans viewed “images” of that war. In the words of J. Henry Harper, “what the dailies told Harper’s Weekly pictured.” Moreover, “after the Civil War began, its [conciliatory tone towards slavery] changed and Harper’s Weekly became wholeheartedly Northern and pro-Lincoln.” (Peter Hutchinson, “A Publishers History of American Magazines: Major Publishers Enter the Magazine Market” (2011), at pp. 1-2 ).

The magnificent illustrated art work which filled the pages of Harper’s Weekly, created by the likes of Winslow Homer and Thomas Nast, took time to create and get into print. Consequently,  neither Harper’s nor its main weekly competitor, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, was able to publish either stories about Lincoln’s assassination or relevant images when each went to press for its April 15 and April 22 publications.

Even with a team of engravers working on individual square sections of an illustration, it took Leslie’s and Harper’s two weeks to picture the news. Consequently, April 22, 1865 came too soon to permit coverage of the assassination, so the feature 2-page illustration which appeared in that edition of Harper’s was (by our standards) a very much dated rendition of Richmond falling to the Union army on April 3rd.

1865-04-22 Harper's Weekly 2 page

Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper finally printed images of Booth and stories of the assassination in their April 29 editions (Leslie’s, below left, & Harper’s illustration and opening text, below right):


The Leslie’s engraving was based upon the photo below, left, and Harper’s probably utilized some variant of the photo below, right (both courtesy of the Library of Congress). The 26 year-old Booth had posed for many photographs during his lifetime in several different cities.

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The illustrations in Harper’s also included an artist’s rendering of Lincoln’s shooting and a two-page Thomas Nast sketch meant to symbolize the mourning of a grieving nation:

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Frank Leslie’s printed its own illustrations of the shooting as well as Lincoln’s death bed scene:

1865-04-29_Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper_071865-04-29_Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper_08

One of Anthony Berger’s Photographs of Lincoln is Immortalized

To honor and memorialize the loss of “Father Abraham,” the cover of Harper’s next edition on May 6, 1865 featured a large engraving of a bespectacled Lincoln seated in a chair with his youngest son, Tad, standing directly by his side.


This paternalistic image was derived from a photograph taken by Anthony Berger on February 9, 1864 when Berger managed Mathew Brady’s Washington, D.C. gallery. An 1865 copyrighted version by Berger reveals that he supplied to Harper’s a retouched photo to make it appear (a) as if it had been taken at the White House rather than Brady’s studio and (b) that the President was reading Bible passages to his youngest son. The “book” perched on Lincoln’s crossed leg actually was a photograph album handed to Lincoln in the studio in order to grab Tad’s rapt attention. Even the chair was modified by the placement of fringe dangling from its arm and some sort of fabric draped on its slightly straightened back.

1865-05-06 Harper's Weekly 00b

Harper’s Weekly likely received a copy of Anthony Berger’s photograph of Lincoln within a few days after Lincoln’s death in order to have the necessary two week lead time required for an engraving of it to appear on its May 6th cover. But Harper’s erroneously credited “Brady” as the photographer in the caption beneath the image (see above). This misattribution was corrected by a short notice buried in the back pages of the May 13, 1865 issue which explained that the Harper’s portrait actually was “copied from the admirable photograph of Mr. A. Berger, 285 Fulton Street, Brooklyn.”

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On May 9, 1865, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced that “Mr. A. Berger will conduct” a photographic business at 285 Fulton Street in Brooklyn, NY:

1865-05-09 Brooklyn Eagle-Anthony Berger-Lincoln engraving

It is possible that prior sales of albumin prints of an unretouched version of the Lincoln photo with the “Brady & Co.” label created editorial confusion at Harper’s Weekly. But another possible explanation for Harper’s misattribution of Berger’s Lincoln and son portrait is that Anthony Berger might not have ceased working for Brady until sometime shortly before or immediately after Lincoln’s assassination so that at least one of Harper’s editors still assumed that any images purchased from Berger constituted transactions done on behalf of (and warranting credit to) Brady.

Berger must have cultivated a good working relationship with Harper’s staff over the course of his tenure managing Brady’s gallery in Washington, D.C., probably submitting a number of earlier “Brady” photos for use by Harper’s Weekly. After printing a “Brady” photograph of Secretary of the Interior Harlan (below) in its March 25, 1865 edition (possibly submitted by Berger), Harper’s didn’t publish any illustrations credited to Brady until the aforementioned erroneous attribution in its May 6th edition.


“I’ll Have another Berger, Please”

But Harper’s wasn’t quite finished yet in utilizing Anthony Berger’s photographs as a source for its illustrations in the wake of Lincoln’s assassination. The very first image of Booth’s get-away companion, David E. Herold, that was printed on the pages of Harper’s Weekly appeared in its June 10, 1865 edition as an engraving based upon a picture “Photographed by A. Berger, Brooklyn, N.Y.” (below, courtesy of the Library of Congress). That image accompanied Harper’s first feature story on Herold (erroneously identified as “David C. Harold”) which pointed out that Herold had confessed to playing a role in Booth’s escape when captured.

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The Harper’s Weekly illustration of David E. Herold derived from Anthony Berger’s photograph raises a multitude of questions. When and where was Herold photographed by Berger? Was the picture taken before or after Herold’s capture? If after, how was Berger able to gain access to him? If before, was Berger still working for Brady or was he on his own? Where  was it taken? Why did Harper’s Weekly select Berger’s photo as its first published illustration of Booth’s youthful get away companion? Did Berger actually photograph David E. Herold or someone mistaken for him?

Did Berger Photograph Herold After Lincoln’s Murder?

There is no tangible proof to support that Anthony Berger somehow received permission to photograph Herold following his capture. Even the famous “Brady of Broadway” apparently lacked the pull to secure such a sitting as no M.B. Brady attributed photos of Booth’s imprisoned co-conspirators have ever come to light. It seems farfetched that Berger photographed Herold  (but none of the other conspirators) in captivity on behalf of Brady after Herold was captured on April 26, quit Brady shortly thereafter, moved to Brooklyn with the only negative plate of Herold in his possession, opened his own business prior to the 9th of May, and then sold the image to Harper’s.

Alexander Gardner, whom D. Mark Katz says then was still in the employ of the U.S. Secret Service, took  “mug” shots of David Herold and several other suspected Lincoln/Seward co-conspirators onboard the monitors Montauk and Saugus on the morning following Booth’s autopsy performed on the Montauk on April 26, 1865. The Washington Evening Star on April 28th reported on David Herold’s April 27 photographic session:


The photo described in the Evening Star article probably refers to the following image of David Herold taken by Alexander Gardner on April 27 only several hours after Herold was captured (courtesy of the Library of Congress):

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For some reason, more than a month passed before engravings derived from the Alexander Gardner photographs — including Herold’s — were printed on the pages of the July 1, 1865 edition of Harper’s Weekly.  The  Gardner photo of Herold eventually selected for reproduction appears below, right (courtesy of the Library of Congress), next to the July 1, 1865 Harper’s engraving (below, left, courtesy of the University of Michigan Library):

mugshot-Gardner-Harpers July 1 1865

Why did it take so long to publish engravings of the Gardner photos? Why did the June 10, 1865 edition of Harper’s Weekly feature an image based upon Berger’s rather than Gardner’s photographs?

The best explanation seems to be that Secretary of War Stanton and bureaucratic red-tape probably held up the dissemination of select Gardner mug-shots, forcing Harper’s Weekly to look for other sources. Because Herold and the other accused conspirators were tried before a military tribunal in proceedings beginning on May 12, photographers were kept at a distance (although accounts indicate that at least one sketch artist for Harper’s Weekly was present in the courtroom during the tribunal proceedings).

In a later Harper’s publication on July 22, 1865, some of the execution photos of four of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, including Herold, were published as engravings. The only photographers authorized to attend and memorialize the executions conducted behind the high walls of the Washington Arsenal — in front of people who were given special passes by General Hancock — were Alexander Gardner and his assistant Timothy O’Sullivan. Detail from one of the Gardner/O’Sullivan photos, below, shows Herold only minutes before he was hung.


All of this cumulatively points to the conclusion that it is unlikely that Berger sought, let alone received, photojournalistic access to the imprisoned David Herold before he was hung.

Did Berger Photograph Herold Before Lincoln’s Murder?

It certainly is possible that the photograph from which the David Herold engraving was based was shot when Berger managed Brady’s studio in Washington, D.C. simply because some of Berger’s time in Washington overlapped Herold’s residency there.

After attending pharmacy school at Georgetown, Herold is said to have been employed at Thompson’s Pharmacy in D.C. when he first met John Wilkes Booth in 1863 (it is even believed by some that Herold delivered a bottle of castor oil to the White House in 1863, possibly handing it directly to Abraham Lincoln; see, e.g., William Thompson’s pharmacy was located at 15th Street on the west corner of New York Avenue, a short distance from the White House.

In a statement Herold gave to Special Judge Advocate John A. Bingham on April 27, 1865, he said that he lived and worked with the druggist F.S. Ward in Washington, D.C. for 11 months prior to the early fall of 1864. After that, he claimed to have tramped through Maryland shooting partridges and hunting for game over the course of two or three months before returning to his mother’s residence on Eighth Street between L & M Streets in Washington near the Navy Yard. Much testimony was submitted concerning his presence at his mother’s home in early and mid-February 1865. The press reported that by early 1865, Herold “had been cut out of employment for some time past.” The media reports also indicated that no one was entirely sure where Herold had been over much of the year and a half time period after his father died, speculating that he spent much of his time on the back roads of Maryland punctuated by short visits to his mother’s home in D.C.

We don’t know when Anthony Berger’s employment with Brady in Washington, D.C. ceased. It is reasonable to assume that it didn’t occur any earlier than September 7, 1864 when a presumably cash-strapped Mathew Brady sold a 50 percent stake in his Washington, D.C. gallery to James F. Gibson, quite likely leading to Berger’s eventual removal as that gallery’s manager. Assuming that Berger took Herold’s picture in Washington, D.C., it is fair to posit that he did so while working for Brady.

It has to be considered highly unlikely that Berger would have left Brady’s employ with a negative plate (or even a print) of someone mired in the lowest depths of obscurity and historical irrelevance. If Berger happened to photograph Herold at Brady’s in D.C. when Herold was publicly anonymous, then by the time Berger bid adieu to Brady, David Herold must have been notorious as there otherwise would have been no reason for Berger to depart with any photographic representation of Herold. This line of reasoning would place Berger’s departure from Brady somewhere in the time frame just after the news first broke that Herold was involved in Lincoln’s death.

The general public first came to learn of Mr. Herold when he was erroneously described as “David C. Harold” in a WANTED broadside poster released by Secretary of War Stanton on April 20, 1865 (see below, courtesy of the Library of Congress).


In what is believed to be a first for WANTED posters, prints of available photographs of the fugitives were pasted onto some but not all of the posters. A carte de visite image of a youthful looking David Herold had been turned over by Herold’s mother to investigators on the evening of April 15. Mrs. Herold’s identification of her son in the photo was authenticated by a man named Louis J. Weichmann who knew Herold and the Surratts by sight. Alexander Gardner photographed the Herold portrait and created multiple prints of it for the posters (see detail from the broadside poster below (right) and the corresponding studio photo (left), courtesy of the Library of Congress).


For some reason the $100,000 Reward! poster released on April 20th identified David E. Herold as “David C. Harold.” This occurred despite the fact that newspapers like The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.) correctly reported on April 20, 1865 that a “heavy reward” was offered by the War Department for the apprehension of Lincoln’s murder accomplices, including “David Herold” who “until recently was a clerk in a drug store in the Sixth Ward” and “known as a sympathizer with the South.” How the press got the spelling right and the War Department’s printer got it wrong is a bit of a mystery. A greater mystery is why, nearly two months later, the June 10, 1865 Harper’s Weekly editors elected to use the same erroneous spelling from the WANTED poster.

Presumably, the carte de visite procured by Officer McDevitt from Herold’s mother for use by the War Department in the WANTED posters never was made available to Harper’s even after David Herold was in custody. But the Philadelphia Inquirer on May 19, 1865 clearly “borrowed” this photo from a WANTED poster in creating the following:

herold-phila May 19, 1865

To read more about Philadelphia Inquirer illustrations involving the assassination, see It should also be noted that a book published in 1865, Trial of the Assassins and Conspirators for the Murder of Abraham Lincoln, contains Philadelphia Inquirer stories about and illustrations relating to the trial of the accused conspirators and perpetrators. See

Did Herold Really Pose for Anthony Berger?

Whether the engraving of “David C. Harold” in the June 10, 1865 Harper’s Weekly Illustrated publication was based on a photograph of David E. Herold or some other man mistaken for him is not immediately clear after a visual comparison of the engraving with Herold’s known photographs (see, below left, the engraving of Berger’s photo laid next to several Library of Congress and National Archives photo images of David E. Herold).


It can be said that a number of the facial features of the man portrayed in the sketch appear to be at least similar to the same in the photos: the nose, distinctive eyebrows, a relatively long face, and a soft chin.

However, the presence of a moustache, wispy facial hair, and the location of his hair part in the engraving stand out as differences, along with what looks to be a more elongated face. Whether these were embellishments added by the engraver to make Herold look older or visible features in the photograph is unknown. Efforts to locate the original photograph have gone unrewarded.

It is instructive to note that Herold’s appearance on the day his death warrant was read to him in court was described in a July 7, 1865 Brooklyn Daily Eagle story as follows:

 “He was a lad of nineteen [sic; actually 22]; draped in a faded blue suit, in height about five feet four inches, black hair, lively dark hazel eyes, slight tuft of beard along the chin and jaws and faintly surrounding the mouth; rather round face; full but not prominent nose; full lips; a foolish, weak, confiding countenance indicating but little intelligence and not the faintest trace of ferocity [bolding added].”

Previously, the June 12, 1865 Washington Evening Star reported that Herold’s “mustaches have been shaved off clean since Saturday [June 10].” The National Police Gazette issue of July 15, 1865 included a sketch of Herold sporting facial hair (below, left). The suit and bow tie worn by Herold in that image also bear a general resemblance to the outfit seen on Herold in the engraving derived from Anthony Berger’s photograph in Harper’s (below, right).


General Lew Wallace, who was a member of the military commission which tried the Booth conspiracy defendants, also sketched an image of David E. Herold (below, right) sporting a light beard and moustache (from the collection of the Indiana Historical Society, via David Taylor’s July 4, 2014 article, “General Lew Wallace Study & Museum,”

Sketch of David Herold drawn by military commission member lew Wallace-Indiana Historical Society

There are other instances of photographs of notorious people (rather than just engravings derived from photos) which have proven initially baffling even for the experts to conclusively identify. For example, a story by John Wilkes Booth photo collector Steven G. Miller in the Winter/Spring 2005 edition of the Lincoln Rail Splitter, details how a Booth photograph auctioned on eBay threw him and other Booth photo experts for a bit of a loop because “the man in [that] photo is unkempt … like someone who doesn’t care much about appearances,” whereas known photographs of Booth show him “dressed in the height of fashion … brushed, unwrinkled and very together looking … there is [always] something elegant looking about him.” The hair on the man in the auctioned photo also looked unlike Booth’s, as it was “piled up on his head” in an uncharacteristic manner. The Miller article, titled “Discovering an Unpublished, International Photograph of John Wilkes Booth,” also detailed that the photo had been taken by a photographer in London, Ontario, Canada named J.H. Griffiths, an award winning painter, probably on November 10, 1861. This story illustrates that identifying someone in a previously unpublished and unknown photo can be a challenging task; doing so based upon an engraving derived from an unknown photograph is even more daunting.

All of this conceivably revives the possibility that Anthony Berger somehow obtained access to the prisoner David Herold and photographed him at Washington’s Old Penitentiary at some point of time prior to June 10, 1865, however odd that possibility may seem. Otherwise, this cumulatively suggests that Herold may have sported  a “slight tuft of beard along the chin and jaws and faintly surrounding the mouth” from time-to-time in the months prior to his incarceration.

The Strange Case of the Indian Herb Doctor in Brooklyn

If Anthony Berger photographed someone he believed to be David E. Herold in a case of mistaken identity, there is a fascinating story to explain how THAT scenario could have happened.

As previously noted, Anthony Berger likely was relieved of his position as manager of his Washington, D.C. gallery sometime after September 7, 1864 when Mathew Brady sold a 50 percent stake in his Washington, D.C. gallery to James F. Gibson (according to Josephine Cobb).  After becoming an equal partner in the D.C. gallery, Gibson — a former Brady photographer who worked for Alexander Gardner after leaving Brady — surely took control over day-to-day operations, thereby displacing Berger as the gallery’s manager. According to Josephine Cobb, Brady had brought Berger in as the D.C. manager to oversee Gibson sometime in 1863. In September 1864, Gibson was given the opportunity to return the favor in a reversal of fortunes.

Was Berger then demoted to a position under Gibson in D.C., reassigned back to New York, fired, or simply packed his bags and quit? We just don’t know. Assuming that Anthony Berger left Brady as early as the fall of 1864, it sets up the possibility that David Herold was photographed by Berger in Brooklyn some time before Lincoln’s assassination.

To put this into its proper context, in the days immediately following Lincoln’s assassination, the press reported that several hundred people were rounded up and incarcerated for several days in Washington, D.C. as potential suspects in a conspiracy of a then unknown size and scale. Rumors abounded. Theories that the conspiracy was masterminded or aided and abetted by characters ranging from Jefferson Davis to shady Confederate spies residing in Canada were vetted (especially after the secret “Sanford Conover” testimony before the Commission — later shown to have been perjured — was leaked to the press).

After nearly 20 days had passed, the media reported that 17 suspects remained confined in isolation from one another in Washington, D.C.’s Old Penitentiary building adjoining the Arsenal. At the direction of Secretary of War Stanton, great pressure was exerted to swiftly investigate, apprehend, question, adjudicate, and then mete out punishment to everyone involved in the crime.

It is possible that Harper’s reached out to Anthony Berger or was contacted by him because of a story which first ran under the following headline in the May 4, 1865 Brooklyn Daily Eagle (later republished in part in the New York Evening Express on May 4 and Washington’s Daily National Republican on May 5):


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle story began by describing an unnamed boy (an approximately 15 year-old pick pocket, according to later reports) who “was in the habit of being a good deal of his time with Booth, being employed by him as a sort of errand boy, carrying letters. etc.” Think of him as sort of  an “Artful Dodger” character from Oliver Twist. The day after the assassination of Lincoln, that boy went missing. Investigators learned that “a boy answering in every particular, the description of the boy whom the police were in search had taken passage on a train from Washington to Baltimore.” The police followed his trail first to Baltimore and then to New York. The boy was “caught” by government officers on Court Street in Brooklyn and held at a local police precinct station. It was there he told one of the officers that “[David] Harold had lived in Brooklyn for several months prior to the formation of the plot to assassinate the President and the Cabinet, and was well known in this city.”

About a year or two earlier a man known as the “Indian Herb Doctor” arrived in Brooklyn and began hawking “astounding cures” along Brooklyn’s Fulton Street — a lengthy commercial thoroughfare on which Berger’s gallery came to be located at least by early May of 1865. Referring to himself at times as Dr. Blackburn, the “medicine man’s” real name was Dr. Francis Tumblety.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle also reported that Tumblety let three rooms on Fulton near Nassau Street. This placed him about 4-5 blocks from where Anthony Berger opened his Brooklyn gallery. There he was said to have lived with a man whom he treated “as a sort of confidential valet” and another who tended to their horses.” Dr. Tumblety alleged in 1866 that he had cured John Mott, 226 Fulton St. in Brooklyn, of  “affection of the lungs, dyspepsia, costiveness, etc.” Its possible he had a patient by that name because a tailor named “John Mott” was listed at 296 Fulton in the 1864 Brooklyn City Directory.

Everybody who has been in the habit of traveling in Fulton street during the past year, will have a distinct recollection of the doctor and his valet … [who] was none other than THE NOTORIOUS HAROLD … now awaiting the just punishment of his horrible crime.”  The author of this May 4th Brooklyn Eagle article theorized  that the sycophantic Herold “had attached himself to the Indian Herb Doctor in the same manner in which he subsequently attached himself to Booth in a womanish sort of admiration for his supposed cleverness.” Whatever that means.

Washington’s Daily National Republican reported on May 5, 1865 that “the citizens of Brooklyn will feel astonished when they learn that Harold, the companion of Booth’s flight, has resided [there] for nearly two years.”  That report claimed that it was in Washington, D.C. that David Herold — who “had some experience in the compounding of drugs” — met Dr. Tumblety and was employed as his assistant, removing with the doctor to Fulton St. in Brooklyn. Although the 15 year old boy who originally told this story did not know “for certain whether [Tumblety] was connected with Booth in the assassination plot,” he did assert that “Booth and this doctor were on very intimate terms.”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle chronicled Tumblety’s presence in Brooklyn for just under a year prior to Lincoln’s assassination. Tumblety had appeared in a Brooklyn criminal court to answer to assault charges filed by an asthmatic patient whom the doctor allegedly kicked down a flight of stairs after the patient, Mr. Scully, demanded his money back. According to a story in the May 10, 1864 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tumblety was acquitted of the charges after producing “two witnesses, who magnanimously swore that the Doctor never touched Scully, that the latter was disorderly in his behavior, drove several patients out of the office, and that the Doctor, after politely requesting him to leave, took him by the arm and led him out.” Reporting on the Scully incident, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on May 6, 1864 described the flamboyant, circus-like appearing Tumblety as:

“an  unusually elongated young man, with a [large, handle-bar like] mustache that has excited the admiration of young ladies, the envy of young men, and the astonishment of everybody else. Whether this remarkable hirsute appendage is a product of “simple herbs,” or somebody’s onguent [sic], is a secret only known to the Indian Doctor himself. To add further to these characteristics which distinguish him from ordinary human beings the Doctor wears a butternut-colored suit, the unusual width of his pantaloons being counter balanced by the brevity of his coat tails. A pork-pie cap and a stout yellow cane complete the outfit of this singular personage. He is generally accompanied by a large [greyhound] …. The Doctor is a mystery; his presence being too awe inspiring to permit anybody to inquire into his history. He is supposed, however, to be as genuine an Indian as most of the Indians exhibited in this latitude. It is given out that he was a great medicine man of the Saltz-an-Sennah tribe, who, instead of placing himself in the Museum of the L. I. Historical Society, as a curiosity, concluded to make a living and bless his fellowmen by practising the healing art.”

Twenty-three years later, the December 15, 1888 edition of the Atchison Daily Globe expanded a bit upon this story (see

“[Tumblety’s] companion when in Brooklyn was young Herold, who was implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and who formed one of the quartet that subsequently swung from the gallows tree. Tumblety, at that time, had an office on Fulton Street, where he sold herbs for removing pimples from the face. Herold – who was a pale faced, large eyed, poetical looking boy – was with Tumblety constantly. He seemed a compromise between friend, companion and servant to the doctor. Tumblety had a large following in Brooklyn at this time, but played himself out after a time, and went across the river to New York.”

As a consequence of the boy’s tale told in a Brooklyn police station, Tumblety, who had mysteriously “gone missing” with the alleged Herold from Brooklyn about “six months” earlier, was arrested by orders of the War Department on May 6 in St. Louis and “charged with complicity with Harold in the assassination and conspiracy.” The Chicago Tribune on May 5, 1865 wrote that Tumblety “was at Mr. Lincoln’s funeral at Springfield [Illinois] yesterday, and today is in the Military Prison.”

Tumblety eventually was released from confinement. The Government never went on the record explaining why Tumblety was incarcerated, what charges against him had been considered, what if anything the Intelligence Service knew of him before his arrest, or why he was released from custody.  The New York Times on June 10, 1865 printed a triumphant letter to the editor penned by Tumblety, which stated in part:

“After three weeks’ imprisonment in the Old Capitol Prison in this city, I have been unconditionally and honorably released from confinement by direction of the Honorable Secretary of War, there being no evidence whatever to connect me with the yellow fever or assassination plot with which some of the Northern journals charged me of having some knowledge … While in imprisonment I noticed in some of the New-York and other Northern papers, a paragraph setting forth that the villain Herrold, who now stands charged with being one of the leading conspirators in the assassination plot, was at one time in my employ. This, too, is false in every particular, and I am at a loss to see how it originated, or to trace it to its origin. For the past five years I have had but one man in my employment, and he is yet with me, his character being beyond reproach. I never saw Herrold [sic], to my knowledge, and I have no desire to see him. Another paper has gone so far as to inform the public that I was an intimate acquaintance of Booth’s; but this, too, is news to me, as I never spoke to Booth in my life, or any of his family.”

Tumblety put his huge ego, chutzpah, southern sympathies, and financial resources on full display by writing and privately publishing in 1866 a short book titled A Few Passages in the Life of Dr. Francis Tumblety: The Indian Herb Doctor. An engraving from that book appears below.

Kidnaping of Dr Tumblety

In a rambling work covering 82 pages, he laid out tiny bits of his purported life’s story and reproduced letters of introduction, patient testimonials, and lists of people whom he had cured (of afflictions such as pimples, rheumatism, scurvy, consumption, tape worm, paralysis, blindness, typhus, heart palpitations, various tumors, and cancer).

Relative to his time spent in Washington, D.C. circa 1861 – 1862, Tumblety boasted that he had so inserted himself within the upper echelons of high society, “that no person was better personally known in and around Washington than myself … Nay, not only in Washington, but in every city throughout the United States, as well as the British Provinces, I am recognized …” Of all of his claims, this one may best represent his penchant for incredible puffery if not outright lying. In short, the book revealed just how highly Tumblety regarded himself and how much he despised Secretary of War Stanton and Col. Lafayette C. Baker, the head of the Intelligence Service who had been charged with rounding up Booth and the other Lincoln conspiracy suspects.

Commenting on his confinement by the Government first in St. Louis (for 2 days) and then in Washington (for 3 weeks), Dr. Tumblety claimed he never was interrogated — “no examination whatsoever having been made of the case.” How odd that no one ever took the time to ask him any questions! Nevertheless, Tumblety asserted that he had gotten his hands on several New York and other northern city newspaper articles during his solitary confinement which revealed “that beside being charged as … Dr. Blackburn, of yellow-fever-plot notoriety, I was also accused of complicity in the assassination of the President.”

The doctor’s defenses against selected accusations listed in several newspapers can be summarized as follows:

1.  His professional standing and personal reputation was so unassailable as to render those charges impossible;

2.  How could anyone who claimed to have inquired about volunteering to serve as a surgeon in the Army of the Potomac (until his health “declined”) and was willing to give up his lucrative private practice which netted $30,000 during his time in Washington, possibly be anything other than a loyal supporter of the Union cause?;

3.  How could anyone who was given a pass by General McClellan “to go and come where and when [he] pleased” to mix with the Union troops, be suspected of violating that trust?;

 4. How could anyone who admired and frequently hobnobbed with President Lincoln at the White House, “was a constant attendant at the President’s levees,”  received from Lincoln a letter of introduction to the American Minister at the Court of St. James, and attended Lincoln’s funeral service in Springfield, IL the day before his arrest, have plotted to kill him?;

5.  He neither was acquainted with nor ever saw “the fiend in human form named Dr. Blackburn” who was tied to a “hellish yellow-fever plot;”

6.  Even though he claimed to have never met Dr. Blackburn, he asserted that he looked nothing like “the notorious Dr. Blackburn;”

7.  To his knowledge he had never seen David Herold and over “the past five years … had but one man in my employment, and he is with me yet, his character being beyond reproach;” and

8.  He “never spoke to [Booth] in [his] life, or any of his family.”

Tumblety’s public defense of the accusations leveled against him in several newspapers focused most heavily upon the assertion that he went by the name “Dr. Blackburn” in Brooklyn. Tumblety never specifically denied ever passing himself off as a “Dr. Blackburn,” let alone being involved in a plot to infect blankets with yellow fever or cholera. In his letter to The New York Times editor, he merely asserted that he had been released from confinement because “there [existed] no evidence whatever to connect me with the yellow fever … plot.” Instead, he chose to specifically deny only being acquainted with or seeing “the fiend … Dr. Blackburn.” These words reveal that he understood or presumed that a Dr. Blackburn actually existed in Brooklyn.  Despite claiming never to have laid his eyes on Dr. Blackburn, Tumblety vehemently asserted that he looked nothing like Blackburn — a curious statement given that he cited no press accounts describing the real Dr. Blackburn’s appearance. Essentially his argument was “how could this Dr. Blackburn fellow be mistaken for remarkable looking me, or vice-versa?:”

“[Dr. Blackburn’s] person is the antipodes of [a] description of [me] embodied in a military pass I obtained during the memorable period of martial law, in 1865: Age, thirty-two; height, six feet; eyes, blue; complexion, fair; hair dark; occupation, physician. I will venture to assert that the only part of resemblance between myself and [Dr. Blackburn] is in the last item; otherwise, I am rejoiced to state , we have no nearer likeness than ‘I to Hercules.'”

Interestingly, the Brooklyn City Directory covering the period running from May 1, 1864 to May 1, 1865 lists a physician named M.A. Blackburn at 181 Fulton St., Brooklyn. That address was located at the corner of Fulton and Nassau Streets, exactly where the Brooklyn Daily Eagle claimed that Tumblety ran his place of business in the name of Blackburn. To have appeared in that publication, “M. A. Blackburn” must have provided his listing information sometime prior to May 1, 1864.

From the published list of Brooklyn patients he claimed to have cured, it can be inferred that Tumblety spent at least several months living in Brooklyn. The May 10, 1864 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article establishes that he had a physical office in a multi-level building somewhere in Brooklyn at that time. But of even greater interest is the fact that no listing for a physician named “Blackburn” appears in the Brooklyn City Directories for May 1862 to May 1863, May 1863 to May 1864, or May 1865 to May 1866. Thus, the only listing for a Dr. Blackburn in Brooklyn in the 1862-1866 time frame appears to coincide with the general time period that Tumblety apparently was in Brooklyn.  Moreover, there are no listings for a Francis Tumblety (or variations thereof) in that same period. Is this a mere coincidence or circumstantial evidence in support of the position that Tumblety did on occasion pose in Brooklyn not only as the Indian Herb Doctor, but as Dr. Blackburn, or that one of his two assistants really was named Blackburn?

Tumblety briefly addressed the claim that he employed David Herold in Brooklyn by asserting he could not recall ever seeing Herold and that he “had but one man in [his] employment” between 1861 to 1866 and that man was not Herold. This contradicts the 15 year old boy’s story that Tumblety had two men working for him in Brooklyn. Could it be that by the time he ended up in Cincinnati in 1866 where he published his book, Tumblety had “lost” one of his two men? Perhaps to the gallows? Tumblety’s denials of employing or associating with David Herold are not definitive proof that Herold never worked for him in Brooklyn.

Tumblety wrote two more books about himself, the first of which, published in 1872, was titled Narrative of Dr. Tumblety: How He was Kidnapped during the American War, His Incarceration and Discharge. A Veritable Reign of Terror… [etc.] That book restated nearly verbatim much of the text of his first publication. But it also included a section captioned “Supplementary to the Life of Francis Tumblety, M.D.,” in which he again hurled invectives at former Secretary of War William Stanton for incarcerating him in 1865 and claimed to have sent “pamphlets” about his false imprisonment to luminaries such as General William T. Sherman and Robert E. Lee. Tumblety closed his tirade by describing how he had lobbied a Commission established to settle claims by and among citizens of Great Britain and the United States against each other’s governments.

Having apparently been born in Ireland, rendering him a British citizen, Tumblety filed a claim of “illegal imprisonment” against the United States under an 1871 U.S. and Great Britain Treaty. He sought $100,000 for his imprisonment and confiscation of personal property. His claim, however, was disallowed on January 23, 1873 (see Stephen P. Ryder’s research on the Papers Relating to the Treaty of Washington. Volume VI.–Washington Arbitration and General Appendix. Containing the Report of Robert S. Hale, Agent and Counsel of the United States Before the Commission on Claims of Citizens of the United States Against Great Britain, and of Subjects of Her Britannic Majesty Against the United States, Under the Twelfth Article of the Treaty of May 8, 1871, Between the United States and Great Britain; And General Appendix to Papers Relating to the Treaty of Washington. Washington, D.C. (1874) at

Tumblety the Ripper?

Tumblety was no stranger to criminal courts during his lifetime, including an arrest in Boston for accidentally killing a patient. For the War Department to jump to the conclusion that the “good doctor” had something to do with the killing of Lincoln was made all too easy by Tumblety’s highly checkered past. Ironically, the same logic made Tumblety a potential suspect in the Jack the Ripper slayings in London in 1888, as reported in the New York World Herald.

“Another arrest was a man who gave the name of Dr Kumblety of New York. The police could not hold him on suspicion of the Whitechapel crimes, but he will be committed for trial at the Central Criminal Court under the special law passed soon after the Modern Babylon exposures. The police say this is the man’s right name, as proved by letters in his possession; that he is from New York, and that he has been in the habit of crossing the ocean twice a year for several years.”  *** “Dr Kumblety is well known in this city. His name however is Twomblety, not Kumblety. Twenty-four years ago he made his advent in this city and was since then known only as ‘Dr Twomblety’ a most eccentric character.”

After Tumblety was detained in London for questioning, he jumped bail and boarded a ship back to New York City on December 2, 1888. This inspired many new stories in the American press which played upon fears that the Ripper might be on the prowl in American cities. For example, the New York Times reported in a story on December 4, 1888 entitled “Watching Dr Tumblety” that:

 “Dr” Francis Tumblety, who left his bondsmen in London in the lurch, arrived by La Bretagne of the Transatlantic Line Sunday. Chief Inspector Byrnes had no charge whatever against him, but he had him followed so as to secure his temporary address, and will keep him in view as a matter of ordinary police precaution. Mr. Byrnes does not believe that he will have to interfere with Tumblety for anything he may have done in Europe, and laughs at the suggestion that he was the Whitechapel murderer or his abettor or accomplice. The man who is supposed to be Tumblety came over on the steamship as “Frank Townsend,” and kept in his stateroom, under the plea of sickness.

Tumblety yet again published defenses which didn’t address the charges laid at this feet, relying instead upon bombast. In an 1889 publication, he made a “grandiose and megalomaniacal comparison [between his own his arrest in London and] tawdry escape and the ordeals of the Irish Home Rule parliamentarian Charles Stewart Parnell.” See R.J. Palmer in

Comments made in 1903 by London’s former Chief Inspector John Littlechild, who had been Head of the Special Branch at the time of the Whitechapel murders, that the Tumblety ‘dossier’ was large and that Francis Tumblety was “a very likely suspect” have helped to keep the Tumblety mystery alive and kicking to this very day.

Did Berger Photograph Herold or one of Tumblety’s Accomplices?

The fantastic tale of the amazing and well-traveled Dr. Tumblety, including his time spent in Brooklyn, raises the possibility that one of his assistants wandered into Anthony Berger’s photographic studio on Fulton Street and posed for his picture before Berger’s camera.

If Tumblety’s presence on Brooklyn’s Fulton Street overlapped at all with Berger’s presence at that same place, surely Berger would have seen the Indian Herb Doctor decked out in one of in his resplendent costumes accompanied by his assistants and known who they were. The May 10, 1865 Brooklyn Eagle reported:

Often would [Tumblety] be seen down [Fulton Street], mounted upon a spotted circus horse, richly accoutred, and displaying fine horsemanship, or at other times would appear upon the promenade followed by a fine looking mulatto and a mouse-colored hound, which he still retain[s] … His eccentricities of dress and business ingenuity have been subjects of comment for some time. His offices have been crowded with applicants for medical relief, and the daily papers have been filled with notices of his “wonderful cures.” It is said that when he first opened his office on Olive street, he hired a newsboy to perambulate the streets, with his face painted red like an Indian boy, and his head adorned with long feathers. This boy would stand at the foot of the stairs, and deal out to passers programmes and “dodgers.” Most of our readers will doubtless remember the arrest of the doctor some time ago by the Provost Guard for appearing in the street in military clothing.

This is what Tumblety is supposed to have looked like:


francis tumblety-bigWhen Berger first read the May 4, 1865 Brooklyn Daily Eagle story that Herold WAS one of Tumblety’s assistants in Brooklyn, he might have concluded without the least bit of doubt that he had photographed none other than David Herold. On May 8, 1865, that Brooklyn paper printed the following account:

“On Thursday last, the EAGLE published from what it knew to be a reliable source, an account of the strange fact, that the notorious Harold, the accomplice of Booth in his infamous crimes, and his partner in his subsequent fatal flight, was a personage well known in this city from his connection with the “Indian Herb Doctor,” with whom he came here about a year ago, in the role of valet, and his appearance, as well as his master, created considerable remark among the denizens of Fulton street, particularly the tailors, milliners and dressmakers, by the boldness with which they defied public opinion in the original cut and color of the habiliments in which they arrayed themselves, and the regularity with which two or three times a day they promenaded Fulton street, in company with a huge greyhound … The following telegram confirms the truth of the intelligence which was published in the EAGLE four days in advance of all its co[n]temporaries:

St. Louis, Saturday, May 6.

J. H. Blackburn, alias Dr. Tumblety, charged with complicity with Harold in the assassination and conspiracy, was arrested here to-day in accordance with orders from the War Department.”

That Herold was ever in Brooklyn and had plied his pharmacological skills there as a chemist for the Indian Herb Doctor seems unlikely but cannot be definitively ruled out in light of the confusion over his whereabouts for long stretches of time between the fall of 1864 and his capture on April 26, 1865.

There are accounts that after Tumblety’s death on May 28, 1903, a Mark Blackburn received a bequest under Tumblety’s will. Perhaps he was “M.A. Blackburn,” the man who lived with and assisted Tumblety in Brooklyn and elsewhere, and is the same fellow whom Anthony Berger photographed.

After Tumblety was released from confinement in Washington, D.C., he wrote a letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle which was published on June 19, 1865. At the end of that letter, an editor added the following:

“We give the above card from Mr. Tumblety that he may have the full benefit of his statements where this is known. When the Doctor was in Brooklyn the young man who was with him, and who was since identified with Harold, gave his name indifferently as Farrell and Blackburn, and the Doctor used the latter name at one time in his business. However, as the Doctor has been discharged it is fair to suppose that he is innocent of any offence against the government.”

But was he?

So for now, the mystery of whether Anthony Berger really did photograph David Herold and where he took that portrait cannot be unraveled with any certainty. Likewise, the questions of whether Tumblety actually was involved in a Confederate plot to distribute yellow fever or cholera infected blankets in New York City or Washington, D.C. under the pseudonym of Dr. Blackburn, let alone played any sort of role in the Jack the Ripper murders, are still being debated.

Some good mysteries simply go unsolved.

Craig Heberton, April 14 , 2015, on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination


April 20, 2015 supplement:

Listening to Harold Holzer speak to an audience at the National Archives recently, I was made aware of what Mr. Holzer described as a “turgid novel” of fact and fiction by newspaper reporter  George Alfred Townsend, published 30 years after the Booth assassination — Katy of Cacoctin or the Chain Breakers; a National Romance (1895) Townsend had served as a war correspondent for The New York Herald and The New York World during the Civil War and claimed to have had contact with Lincoln, Booth, and other key figures in the national tragedy. He wrote several news stories during the month following the assassination and compiled those stories into a book entitled The Life, Crime, and Capture of John Wilkes Booth (1865).

In 1886, Townsend described his novel Katy of Cacoctin as a tale of “a romance [based] upon the conspiracy of Booth” which had been planted in his mind “from the hour that the author had stood by the dead face of Abraham Lincoln in the Executive Mansion.” In a footnote on the bottom of page 490, Townsend wrote that he spoke with Charles Stone — whom David E. Herold chose as legal counsel for his trial — and Stone had revealed to Townsend exactly what J.W. Booth said to Herold when Booth resolved to kill Lincoln. Townsend also claimed that Herold’s career as a wage earner had been “as high as hospital assistant and as low as a monkey of a quack doctor who practiced upon the vices of the town.” Thus, a few decades removed from Lincoln’s murder,  George Alfred Townsend embraced the story that Herold had worked for the Indian Herb Doctor, Francis Tumbelty, even though his news letters from April to May 1865 republished in The Life, Crime, and Capture of John Wilkes Booth never made mention of the same.

— Craig Heberton


February 9, 1864: Lincoln’s Magical Photographic Session with Anthony Berger

10 Feb


The cover of Harvard Professor Doris Goodwin Kearns’ best-selling book A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005) — on which Steven Spielberg based part of his  movie Lincoln (2012) — features an image from the painting The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet.  Although the book jacket for A Team of Rivals notes that Alexander Hays Ritchie engraved the image, it neither mentions who painted the scene nor explains that the painter made use of photographic studies by Anthony Berger of several of the depicted dignitaries, the most notable of whom is Abraham Lincoln (see below):

3a05802v LCcrop

Francis Bicknell Carpenter’s The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet (Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

The somewhat forgotten American painter who created this work, Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830-1900), is both the instigator and story-teller of how several of the most famous, well recognized, highly replicated, and widely revered photographs of Abraham Lincoln were created in February and April of 1864 over the course of three eventful sittings with the photographer Anthony Berger. But for Mr. Carpenter, Lincoln never would have sat for 13 extraordinary photographic views and the world would never know that Anthony Berger was the man who created these iconic studio images.

Francis Carpenter and Anthony Berger probably first crossed paths in the 1854 to 1855 time period. From 1853 to 1855, Carpenter maintained a “portrait painter” studio on the second floor of the same 359 Broadway, New York City building in which the famous Mathew Brady occupied the top three floors. It is conceivable that Carpenter supplemented his income as a portrait painter by providing occasional retouching services for Brady during his slower times, for in his later years F.B. Carpenter described M. B. Brady as “my friend Brady.” See, for example, the following advertisement appearing in the January 17, 1855 edition of The Crayon, Vol. I No. 3, below:

359 Broadway_1856 The Crayon p045clean

 The 1855-56 Trow’s Directory of New York City also places the artist Anthony (then known as Anton) Berger at the same address:

1856 Trow's New York City directory_071b

Carpenter appears to have overlapped Berger’s earliest tenure at 359 Broadway during the year 1855. That year also marks when Mathew Brady began advertising the use of a new revolutionary form of photography — the wet plate collodion process — which would soon overtake daguerreotypes and ambrotypes in popularity.

It is not clear whether Berger first leased space at 359 Broadway in order to operate as an independent painter, like Carpenter, or if he was employed there by Brady from day one. Because Berger listed himself in the 1854-1855 Wilson’s Business Directory as a “landscape painter” working out of his home at 251 Bowery, either scenario is possible. As explained in Footnote 4 in the article “Chewing on ‘A. Berger,'” many photographers and the retouchers whom they employed were artists with a background grounded in painting subject matter on canvas or other objects. Those who fit that description and wanted to make pictures had to learn the chemistry and techniques involved in preparing the sticky wet collodion film on glass plates, developing the exposed plates, and printing the negatives as positive images on albumin-treated paper.

But as of 1855, even the talented daguerreotypists and ambrotypists at famous New York City galleries, such as Mathew B. Brady’s establishment, were still learning how to master the chemistry and the new processes involved in making wet-plate collodion negatives. Although the wet-plate process first was described in writing by the Englishman Frederick Scott Archer in 1851, it took a few years for it to catch on in the United States. Anthony Berger’s first appearance at 359 Broadway was perfectly timed to coincide with the advent of American wet plate collodion photography.

Berger and Carpenter conceivably first crossed paths even earlier. Carpenter resided in Brooklyn in 1854 (and for many years thereafter).  A census schedule entry appears to show that Anthony Berger lived in Brooklyn for several months after arriving in New York City from England in February of 1854. Thus, Berger’s initial introduction to fellow painter F.B. Carpenter may have occurred in Brooklyn. In that case, it is likely that Carpenter secured for Berger an introduction to and possibly a job with the famous “Brady of Broadway.” By 1856, Brady’s need for skilled artisans on his staff grew after introducing to an eager audience his expensive “Brady Imperials” which were photographic images blown up by solar enlargers onto a large canvas and then heavily colored by oil painters — resulting in sort of a mix between a photo and a painting. It is speculated that Alexander Gardner, who joined Brady’s staff in 1856, introduced M.B. Brady to that lucrative innovation.

Francis B. Carpenter first gained substantial notoriety as a portrait painter in 1852 when he was commissioned to paint President Millard Fillmore, which led to a painting of Fillmore’s successor, President Franklin Pierce. By 1855, he was well-recognized as an accomplished portraitist. In that year he painted  Salmon Chase at the close of his term as United States Senator. Chase went on to become the Secretary of the Treasury and later Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in Lincoln’s Administration. He also painted William H. Seward, who later served as Lincoln’s Secretary of State and most trusted adviser. Below, an engraving of Francis B. Carpenter from The Picture and the Men (1867):


Now jump ahead nearly a decade.

Lincoln is President, a horribly bloody Civil War has been raging, and M.B. Brady owns two celebrated photographic galleries in NYC and Washington, D.C., the latter of which is managed and operated for Brady by Anthony Berger. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had been formally signed and went into effect on January 1, 1863. It represented one of the most significant steps taken by the Administration to aid in prosecuting the War to a successful conclusion. Of greater importance, the Proclamation begat the eventual passage of the Thirteenth Amendment by the House of Representatives just over a year later, forever abolishing slavery.

On November 29, 1863, Francis Carpenter wrote in his diary that he had “conceived the idea of painting a picture commemorative of the First Reading in Cabinet council of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln.” It was to be a fitting tribute memorializing what he considered to be among the most monumental events in human history — the moment that President Lincoln first read his carefully crafted Proclamation aloud in a meeting with his Cabinet sometime in 1862. As good fortune had it, Carpenter quickly induced a wealthy friend to fund the project as well as U.S. Representative Schuyler Colfax of Indiana to approach Lincoln and secure the President’s assent. On December 25, 1864, Carpenter penned in his diary that Mary Todd Lincoln “informed [him] that President Lincoln would sit for my large picture of the ‘Reading of the Proclamation of Freedom to the Cabinet.” He dreamed that this particular work would become his defining masterpiece, placing him on the same pedestal as other great American painters of history such as John Trumbull, Gilbert Stuart, Charles Wilson Peale, and Benjamin West.

But Carpenter needed even more help. He wanted his studio to be located in the White House and desired sufficient entree to Lincoln and his Cabinet members in order to sketch them and learn how to precisely reconstruct the exact scene of that first reading while their memories were still fresh [Note: ironically, the individual subjects never agreed when Lincoln performed his first reading because no one had recorded that date; they also disagreed on where everyone had been positioned and several Cabinet members thought the first reading of the draft Proclamation was of little historical consequence in light of subsequent revisions to and readings of the Proclamation].

To achieve this goal, Francis Carpenter turned to Congressman Owen Lovejoy of Illinois, one of Lincoln’s dearest long-time friends in Washington. On February 4, 1864, Carpenter called on the seriously ill Lovejoy “who sat up in bed to write a note introducing [Carpenter] to the President.” Lovejoy was sold on the concept of trying to paint the historical event as it had really happened and while all of the key actors were still in office, rather than an overly romanticized and exaggerated work made years after-the-fact. Carpenter also promised that the painting would be exhibited across the country and made into engravings for distribution to an even wider audience. He was extremely fortunate to gain an audience with Lovejoy because Lincoln’s “bosom friend” died soon thereafter on March 25. Carpenter wrote that he “took [Lovejoy’s] note of introduction at once to the White House.”

There was no time to spare. From this point on, events moved quickly for Francis B. Carpenter.

Saturday, February 6, 1864:

Francis Carpenter arrived at the White House for an afternoon reception hosted by Lincoln. Upon his introduction to the President, Lincoln remarked, “Oh yes; I know; this is the painter.” Quipped Lincoln, “Do you think, Mr. C., that you can make a handsome picture of me?” After the reception ended, Carpenter met with Lincoln in the President’s study which also served as the Cabinet room (now known as the Lincoln Bedroom) where Lincoln reviewed Lovejoy’s note. Lincoln then said,  “well, Mr. C., we will turn you loose in here, and try to give you a good chance to work out your idea.” The President proceeded to give a detailed accounting of the history of the proclamation and showed Carpenter where each of his Cabinet members had been arranged around the table in his study/Cabinet room during the first reading:

As nearly as I remember,” said Lincoln, “I sat near the head of the table; the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of War were here, at my right hand; the others were grouped at the left.”

Lincoln also assented to Carpenter’s guiding concept that the painting should form a part of the historical record. Carpenter wrote in 1866:

I had resolved to discard all … tricks of picture-making, and endeavor, as faithfully as possible, to represent the scene as it actually transpired; room, furniture, accessories, all were to be painted from the actualities. It was a scene second only in historical importance and interest to that of the Declaration of Independence; and I felt assured, that, if honestly and earnestly painted [I would represent the event as would the historian in making a written record].

But like any good artist, Carpenter confessed that “a curious mingling of fact and allegory” were taking place in his mind. By placing Lincoln at the head of the table, he would be situated between his radical and conservative members, serving as “the uniting point of both.”

Monday, February 8, 1864:

By this day, Carpenter completed on the “back of a visiting card” his first sketch which became the model for what he painted.

Tuesday, February 9, 1864:

From Carpenter’s recollections written in 1866 we learn that he spent the morning of February 9th with Judge Holt in a Cabinet meeting with Lincoln. There the President introduced him to his Cabinet members, saying, “He has an idea of painting a picture of us all together.” Carpenter noted that, “This, of course, started conversation on the topic of art,” encouraging Lincoln to tell a story about an artist (Thomas D. Jones) sculpting a bust of General Winfield Scott:

The General sat patiently; but when he came to see the result, his countenance indicated decided displeasure. ‘Why, [sir] what have you been doing?’ he asked. ‘Oh,’ rejoined the sculptor, ‘not much, I confess, General; I have been working out the details of the face a little more, this morning.’ ‘Details?’ exclaimed the General, warmly; ‘ the details! Why, my man, you are spoiling the bust!’ ”

The creation of some very spectacular art, however, was still yet to happen on February 9th.

Carpenter had made an appointment for Lincoln to engage in a sitting on that day with Anthony Berger at Brady’s Photographic Gallery located several blocks from the White House. Lincoln’s humorous tale about Scott’s experience probably foreshadowed his own misgivings about appearing before the lens of a camera. As Ohio politician Donn Piatt recalled, Lincoln “had a face that defied artistic skill to soften or idealize.” Carpenter, however, desired those portraits as studies of Lincoln to supplement the live sketches of Father Abraham he intended to create in the White House. Both were to serve him when he painted Lincoln’s visage into his “First Reading” portrait. Writes Harold Holzer:

on a surprisingly large … number of occasions, Lincoln sat for photographers not merely to produce new likenesses that could be marketed individually but at the request of artists who often posed them to supplement life sittings in other media. For these artists, Lincoln photographs were not a final visual record but an intermediary visual resource …  Accurate as they were, photographs did little to disguise Lincoln’s sometimes vacant expression, his so-called photographer’s face.”

Lloyd Ostendorf describes Lincoln’s “photographer’s face” thusly:

Whenever Lincoln posed, a dark melancholy settled over his features. He put on what Mrs. Lincoln called his ‘photographer’s face.’ There is no camera study which shows him laughing, for such an attitude, unfortunately, was impossible when long exposures were required. A man who knew Lincoln, Dr. James Miner, commented: ‘His large bony face when in repose was unspeakably sad and as unreadable as that of a sphinx, his eyes were as expressionless as those of a dead fish; but when he smiled or laughed at one of his own stories or that of another then everything about him changed; his figure became alert, a lightning change came over his countenance, his eyes scintillated and I thought he had the most expressive features I had ever seen on the face of a man.’ “

Understanding the impulse to see Lincoln painted on canvas may be difficult for many to grasp in a day and age when digitized images of Lincoln photographs are instantly available on the internet or reproduced on or in tangible objects ranging from posters and flat-paged books to utilitarian expressions of value such as coins and stamps. Lincoln’s pictures are far better known and appreciated today than ANY of the largely forgotten paintings and sculptures of him derived from those photographic images. Those of us now willing to take a moment to study an image of Lincoln probably do so in the hope of  “seeing” beyond his “photographer’s face” to find some evidence of his genius, foibles, hopes, fears, and emotions. Simply put, most people today want to examine images of the “real” person — the “final visual record” — rather than “outdated” and stylized painted interpretations of the man.

Although Carpenter had never visited Brady’s Washington gallery, it can be presumed he chose that establishment because of the relationship he had struck up with “Brady of Broadway” in the early 1850s in New York City. But the choice of Brady’s establishment did not mean that Brady would personally take and develop the photos. Brady had stopped performing those tasks over a decade earlier due to eyesight issues and the scale of his business.  As of 1864, Brady’s role was more that of an overseer and marketer of his galleries & the cadre of men whom he underwrote to capture the history of the Civil War. Carpenter just as easily could have selected, for example, Alexander Gardner, or any of the several other accomplished photographers who had left Brady to go to work for Gardner’s gallery in Washington, D.C.

For example, on August 9, 1863, Lincoln went to Alexander Gardner’s new studio for a sitting. The President had promised Gardner to be his new gallery’s very first sitter and, thus, arrived there on the day before its official opening. This resulted in 6 poses and many  more images of Lincoln because Gardner used a four lens camera for several of the shots.  Alexander Gardner had another session with Lincoln on November 8, 1863, just 11 days before the delivery of his momentous Gettysburg Address. There were a “great many pictures taken,” in the words of John Hay, one of Lincoln’s personal assistants who also posed with Lincoln and fellow assistant John Nicolay in one of the views. It is clear, therefore, that Lincoln greatly respected and was completely comfortable with Gardner, as were members of his inner circle.

The question must be asked, why did Francis Carpenter entrust to Anthony Berger the hugely important task of creating photographs which he would use to paint Lincoln’s image on a portrait he hoped would be considered one of America’s most treasured pieces of its collective historical record? From where did such trust emanate? Why didn’t he just go to Alexander Gardner, who would have been available because the Union Army’s spring campaign of 1864 in the East was many weeks away from commencing?

Certainly there must have existed a prior relationship between Berger and Carpenter sufficient to engender such trust and that relationship necessarily dated back many years to the 1854 to 1855 time period. It also can be reasoned that Berger’s background as a formally trained painter at the Staedelehe Institute in Frankfurt, Germany and his practiced artistic eye must have attracted Carpenter to him for this assignment. The formal instruction which Berger had received as a painter outshined Carpenter’s paltry formal training. Perhaps, then, Berger was well suited to compliment and augment Carpenter’s skills. It also bears mentioning that when Carpenter later arranged for Secretary of War Stanton to visit Berger for a picture taking session some time prior to February 23rd, such was his complete trust and faith in Berger’s talents and judgment that the session was conducted in Carpenter’s absence. But given that his relationship with Lincoln as of February 9 was just then budding and because of the enormity of the task he faced in trying to get Lincoln’s countenance “just right,” there was no way that Carpenter could possibly miss being present for Lincoln’s first sitting with Berger … or, for that matter, the other two sessions which were to follow. And when Cabinet members couldn’t make themselves available to pose for Mr. Berger, Carpenter stood in for them and posed for Berger’s camera. This Carpenter did on April 26, 1864, according to Harold Holzer, by assuming “the pose he planned to paint [of] Secretary of State William H. Seward” which Berger captured on a glass plate negative now in the possession of Carpenter descendants. Thus, it can be said that Berger served as Carpenter’s “go-to” photographer for all aspects of this important project.

Perhaps, too, Anthony Berger was the cameraman responsible for capturing Lincoln in 5 poses at Brady’s D.C. gallery on January 8, 1864. Each of those views appears to have been taken by a four lens camera. Although it is not known which Brady photographer recorded those views, by virtue of Anthony Berger’s role as manager of the gallery it stands to reason that he played at least some role in their creation and likely shot them unless he was then away from Washington City.

By 3 p.m. on February 9, 1864, Lincoln’s Cabinet meeting had been adjourned and Carpenter joined Lincoln on the front portico steps of the White House to wait for a carriage to be brought up to take them, Mrs. Lincoln, and Tad Lincoln to Brady’s gallery. But after a delay, Lincoln told Carpenter, “Well, we will not wait any longer for the carriage; it won’t hurt you and me to walk down.” Carpenter recounted that the walk “of a mile or more was made very agreeable and interesting to me by a variety of stories, of which Mr. Lincoln’s mind was so prolific.”

We don’t know exactly when Lincoln’s photography session at Brady’s gallery began, who assisted Anthony Berger, or how long it took to complete the session. In fact, Carpenter’s contemporaneous reference in his diary only mentioned — “Got ambrotype of President at Brady’s this P.M.” Apparently F.B. Carpenter at that time didn’t understand the difference between the making of a positive image ambrotype and a negative on a wet-plate collodion glass plate (Berger employed the latter of the two processes). It was only later in his 1866 memoirs, Six Months at the White House, that Carpenter expanded upon the visit and identified Berger as the cameraman on February 9th.

We do know that Lincoln sat through seven poses in front of Anthony Berger’s camera that day. Lloyd Ostendorf  has labeled those views as O-88, O-89, O-90, O-91, O-92, O-93 and O-94 (See Charles Hamilton and Lloyd Ostendorf, Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose, rev. ed. (Dayton, Ohio: Morningside, 1985), pp. 190–95. We also know that the process involved in preparing a glass plate for an exposure had to occur shortly before its use and required about 5 minutes of time, followed by another 5 minutes to complete the development of each specific negative shortly thereafter.  Thus, even assuming that Berger was assisted by someone who worked on creating the plates as quickly as possible and a second person who focused solely upon their development, it is likely that Lincoln’s session lasted at least an hour by taking into account the time necessary to pose him, to evaluate the natural light filtering into the studio through the skylights, and for other related delays.

View O-88 (below) created by Anthony Berger is known as “The Famous Profile” and “is perhaps the most familiar of [all] Lincoln profiles [created by any photographer],” according to Lloyd Ostendorf.

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The O-88 view was used in conjunction with O-89 (below), the so-called “Penny Profile,” by the artist Victor D. Brenner in 1909 to model the image of Lincoln on the Lincoln-head penny. Both views were shot with a four-lens camera.

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O-90 (below) also was taken with a four-lens camera.

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O-91 (below) shows Lincoln affecting a “faint suggestion of merriment in his sparkling eyes, as though a smile were about to ignite his masklike face.” This image was adapted into an engraving currently used on the U.S. Five Dollar bill.  It also “inspired many paintings,” according to Lloyd Ostendorf.



O-92 (below) also is a very well recognized image of Lincoln and is known as his “Most Satisfactory Likeness.”

O-92 Oval albumen print, 8 & 1-8 x 6 & 1-8-Bonham's Auctions

Robert Lincoln, Abraham’s eldest son who eventually became U.S. Secretary of War, and the only Lincoln child who survived into adulthood, wrote the following to Frederick Meserve some three decades after his father’s death:

I have always thought the Brady photograph of my father, of which I attach a copy, to be the most satisfactory likeness of him.”

It also was used to create an oval engraving of Lincoln which was affixed to the old Five Dollar bill printed from 1928 until 1995 (below).


Frank Carpenter wrote the following on the back of a cabinet card print of O-92:

From a negative made in 1864, by A. Berger, partner of M.B. Brady, at Brady’s gallery.”

O-93 is my favorite image of Lincoln produced during the February 9, 1864 Lincoln sitting. Berger shot Lincoln seated in his famous “Lincoln chair” — once used by Lincoln when he was in the House of Representatives — looking at a photo album with his son Tad standing next to him peering down at the book. It represents the “only close-up of [Abraham Lincoln] wearing spectacles” and “was issued in huge quantities in many variations, with and without Brady’s permission.” In fact, after Berger left Brady’s employ, he copyrighted and began offering for sale his own retouched version of O-93 (below) shortly after Lincoln’s assassination. This he did from his 285 Fulton St. studio in Brooklyn, NY. For more on that, see “A. Berger Joint opens at 285 Fulton St., Brooklyn.”

19198uO-94 (below) is a full length standing portrait of Lincoln and is possibly the least well known of the seven February 9 views taken by Anthony Berger.O-94 by Berger Feb 9 1864_3a17893u

As noted by George Sullivan, “thanks to these images [taken by Anthony Berger on February 9, 1864] … the face of Lincoln is better known to Americans today than it was in his lifetime.”

Here’s a shout-out to each of the main participants — Anthony Berger, Francis B. Carpenter, Abraham Lincoln, and Tad Lincoln — on the 151st anniversary of the photo shoot which arguably produced our most recognizable images of Abraham Lincoln. Absent the execution of the Emancipation Proclamation, the vision of painter Francis B. Carpenter, and Anthony Berger’s work behind the lens of his camera, none of the photographic images produced at Brady’s Washington D.C. gallery on February 9, 1864 would have come into existence and the world would be a very different place than it is today.

By Craig Heberton, February 9, 2015

The 150th Anniversary of Lincoln Posing for Alexander Gardner on February 5, 1865

6 Feb

On February 5, 1865, one hundred and fifty years ago, the portrait painter Matthew Wilson induced a war-weary President Abraham Lincoln into making a visit to Alexander Gardner’s photographic gallery in Washington, D.C.  Wilson had been commissioned by Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, to create a fitting portrait of Lincoln for Welles’ private collection.  Given the President’s unwillingness and unavailability to sit motionless for hours on end over the course of several days, Wilson had to get his hands on some photographic “mug shots” in order to tackle his challenging task. Lincoln found a slight opening in his schedule a mere five days after the momentous Thirteenth Amendment had passed the House of Representatives and possibly felt he could “exhale” for a few moments at Gardner’s studio in order to satisfy Wilson’s needs. The photographic results proved to be magical.

The candid photos taken that day reveal both a fairly relaxed Lincoln and a physically haggard, aged-beyond-his-years looking Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief. Around the same time, Horace Greeley more colorfully described Lincoln’s face as looking “care-ploughed, tempest-tossed, and weatherbeaten.” Fortunately, the President’s junket to Gardner’s studio was to produce photographs far more artistic, compelling, and enduring than the painted portrait which Matthew Wilson completed only after Lincoln was assassinated and died on April 15, 1865.

To get to his appointment for picture taking, Lincoln is believed by some to have walked several blocks from the White House to Alexander Gardner’s gallery at 511 7th St. with his youngest son Tad. We know the sitting occurred on February 5th only because the painter, Matthew Wilson, recorded it in his diary. Lincoln and Tad met Wilson at Gardner’s gallery at 2 p.m. (Wilson had traveled to Washington from his home in Philadelphia a few days earlier). Perhaps the time spent in conversation with Tad on the way to Alexander Gardner’s studio relaxed the President because their visit resulted in a wonderful bounty of Lincoln images — 14 in all — including one in which Father Abraham appears with Tad, each casually leaning towards the other with one of their arms on a table.

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Although haggard looking, “Father Abraham’s” inner warmth, relatively relaxed persona, and paternalism were revealed by the lenses of two of Alexander Gardner’s cameras (Gardner used both a single lens and a four-lens camera during the shoot).  Gardner’s cameras also showed Lincoln’s careworn hands. In one memorable image, Lincoln fidgeted with the spectacles and pencil grasped between his hands, causing those objects to blur.  Surely Lincoln’s impatience to get back to work increased with the passage of time during the course of the sitting.  Notwithstanding the distractions which may have crept into Lincoln’s consciousness, many of the Gardner views seem to plumb the inner depths of the President’s mind, exposing  the thoughts of a man who knew that two very historic events were looming on the near horizon  —  the end of both the long and bloody war with the Confederacy and the institution of slavery once the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified by the required number of states.

Walt Whitman lamented that “the current [painted] portraits [of Lincoln] are all failures — most of them caricatures.” None “caught the deep, though subtle and indirect expression on the man’s face [because] there is something else there …”

As Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer has put it, “could it be that painting could not capture Lincoln — that Lincoln needed to be photographed?” Answering that question in the affirmative, I’d add that Abraham Lincoln, moreover, needed to be photographed by someone as skilled as the great Alexander Gardner and we all needed to be able to see exactly what he looked like at that moment in time 150 years ago.



All images above are courtesy of the Library of Congress’s Leafy Depiction of Photographing the Gettysburg Address

25 Oct

Have you seen the commercial which “virtually recreates” the scene at the dedication of the Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery on November 19, 1863? It’s pretty cool. If you haven’t, CLICK HERE to watch it.

I’m sure a number of people who have seen this commercial have checked out As someone who has used that service, I can vouch for it as a powerful digital research tool for one’s family tree. With the 151st anniversary of the Gettysburg Address fast approaching, we undoubtedly will continue to see this commercial in numerous television and internet spots. As these kinds of advertisements go, Ancestry’s digital recreation of one of America’s most compelling historical events is visually stunning even though it is littered with many troubling historical inaccuracies. But why let history get in the way of making an aesthetically pleasing commercial designed to induce people to subscribe to a service?

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Having seen the commercial, you surely noticed a digitally enhanced Abraham Lincoln standing by a table on a single-level platform delivering his Gettysburg Address, surrounded on the rostrum by a sparse, numerically unimpressive group of dignitaries. The advert also depicts a large, low slung white tent, off to the side, facing the speakers’ platform. In the direction of that tent, standing on an elevated position above the ground-level spectators, is a photographer — the ancestral “star” of the commercial — who aims his tripod-mounted camera at Lincoln’s sun-illuminated side profile. The photographer’s view of his prize is completely unimpeded.

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Several seconds into the commercial, a gentle breeze whimsically blows an “leaf” from the screen of a laptop held by a woman searching nearly 151 years into the past to a scene representing a portion of the battlefield where the Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery was dedicated. Soon thereafter, the animated leaf loops its way towards Lincoln’s face and then away from the speakers’ platform, dragging the viewer’s perspective along with it over to the photographer and his camera positioned on top of an open wagon. The sight of the dancing leaf instantly reminded me of the dancing feather imagery used in the movie Forrest Gump — the greatest modern day depiction of a man seemingly unequipped for greatness, but who repeatedly does great deeds all the while crossing paths with the most famous people at the most historic events of his time. But I digress. Meanwhile, the Ancestry ad’s narrator melodically describes the leaf icon as a sort of metaphorical representation of a helping aid employed by to guide its subscribers on a journey to their “past filled with stories that intrigue and inspire, and, in doing so, reveal the one unique, improbable, and completely remarkable path that led to YOU. [So] discover your story by searching for free now at” Soft, pleasing music accompanies the spot throughout, reminding me again of the final “feather” scene in Forrest Gump. It is just a brilliantly crafted and conceived ad!

During this narrated segment, as the viewer’s perspective pans to the right, the photographer’s head pops up from behind his camera just before he moves to the side and lifts the cap off its single lens in order to expose a presumably magnificent image of Lincoln giving his most famous oration.

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All the while, the focus upon the cameraman continues to tighten until superimposed graphics appear above his head revealing his identity and vital statistics. At the commercial’s conclusion, the photographer’s descendant is shown in the present day closing her laptop and swelling with pride after her search on revealed that it was HER forefather who photographed Lincoln delivering the immortal Gettysburg Address seven score and eleven years ago. Wow! Imagine discovering it was one of your ancestor’s who did THAT!

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It was at that moment, during my first viewing of the ad in the midst of a commercial break from the PBS show “Finding Your Roots,” that I moved my face closer to the television screen and squinted in order to try to make out the photographer’s superimposed name. Not only was I was extremely excited to see a Civil War era photographer depicted as an ancestor in whom one should take GREAT, GREAT PRIDE, but I wondered to myself which known photographer’s name Ancestry would choose for the advert. Would they flash on the screen “Alexander Gardner,” the Washington, D.C.-based genius whose team of photographers created the only known pictures taken anywhere remotely close to the general vicinity depicted in the commercial? Or would Ancestry select Baltimore’s “David Bachrach,” the photographer whom William Frassanito believes most likely took the only known image of Lincoln on the Gettysburg speakers’ platform? Or how about “Anthony Berger” or “David Woodbury,” the two Mathew Brady photographers whose dedication ceremony images somehow have gone missing with the passage of time? Surely Ancestry wouldn’t hit us with a dark-horse local candidate like “Peter S. Weaver,” who took at least one and maybe two long-range images of the ceremony, or one of the Tyson brothers (not the fellows with the chicken business, but the brothers who had a photography studio in Gettysburg).

When my eyes finally came into focus on the photographer’s name and his vital statistics, it read:

FREDRIC MILLER (1829-1885), husband of Susan Hutton (1833-1889).

Wait a second. Fredric Miller? Who the heck is Fredric Miller and the genealogist in me wants to know how is it that he and his wife both died at the age of 56?

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If you have used’s search engine in an effort to find this “Fredric Miller,” then you are aware that no one by that name is known to have photographed the dedication ceremony, let alone Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address. Moreover, no photos of Lincoln orating or even standing on the rostrum at Gettysburg are known to exist. The brevity of Honest Abe’s speech is credited for the failure of photographers then present to capture such an image. In fact, I am not aware of the existence of any prominent or obscure professional photographer named “Frederic Miller” during the entire Civil War. If Ancestry ever proves me wrong, I’ll be quick to dole out mea culpas. But until then, I think that should pronounce this guy a fake.

So what did I really think of this ad? On the one hand, I learned that a company in the business of helping people find accurate information about their past has elected to market itself by making up a fake name for a photographer, placing that fellow where no photographer is known to have situated his camera, and then depicting him taking a photographic image of Lincoln orating at Gettysburg despite the fact that no such image is known to exist. I can only surmise that the Ancestry Legal Department instructed its Marketing Department that it is wiser to depict a fictitious person engaged in a fictitious act of photographing Lincoln at a very famous historic event rather than risk being sued by the descendants of a real photographer who might claim that Ancestry is unfairly profiting from the use of their ancestor’s name and image. Perhaps visions of suits by image copyright holders also served as further motivation. When in doubt, fictionalize.

On the other hand, I’m more or less at ease with Ancestry’s aesthetically pleasing commercial despite their failure to depict the scene accurately and to identify one of the REAL PHOTOGRAPHERS at the Gettysburg dedication on November 19, 1863. Although it is hard for me to ignore blatant historical inaccuracies, I have to admit that the commercial wildly succeeded in calling attention to how we should celebrate and take pride in those cameramen (many of whom still are not properly credited 150+ years later) who played critical roles in capturing historic events on glass plate negative slides during America’s bloody Civil War. Anyone lucky enough to discover family connections to the people who toiled to create the photo-historical record of Gettysburg in November 1863 have every reason to be supremely proud of their ancestor.

— Craig Heberton, October 25, 2014


Note: The images herein are used under the doctrine of fair use for the purpose of commentary



Saving Annie Leibovitz: Her Pilgrimage to Anthony Berger’s Lincoln

27 Jul

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Girl, Interrupted

The photographer Annie Leibovitz is best known for her magazine shoots of actors, rock stars, models, politicians, and other luminaries appearing on the covers of old-line vanguard publications such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Vogue. Her many photographic successes long ago vaulted her into the same exclusive club occupied by many of her subjects — celebrityhood. In more recent years, however, Ms. Leibovitz’s life experiences have sent her veering off in dramatically different directions.

The Big Bounce (Back)

First came the publication of her deeply personal and introspective book titled A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005 (2006), which Sarah Boxer describes as:

“an unholy mix of celebrity portraits and snapshots from her private life, including pictures of herself and of [Susan] Sontag without clothes, of her family members dying and being born, of the hotels she stayed in and the real estate she owned, of herself pregnant at age fifty-one and, most famously, of Sontag laid out on her deathbed in a crinkly black dress. It was a tombstone of a book, heavy, gloomy, and unsettling.”[i]

Rebounding from that controversial publication, the deaths of family members and her partner Sontag, as well as her own personal bankruptcy — all of which severely tested her — Annie Leibovitz began a long-distance pilgrimage, of sorts. Along the way she traveled to many destinations on a photo assignment for no one other than herself. As she embarked on that journey an objective came into focus: to visually capture the power of, and stories behind, historic objects and locations which resonated with her — something more akin to her September 2001 images of Ground Zero, but executed in a far more up-close and personal fashion. At times she found herself moved to tears by objects which once belonged to dynamically creative and larger-than-life figures whom she reveres (including women such as Georgia O’Keefe, Marian Anderson, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, and Louisa May Alcott).

Night (and Day) at the Museum

Her favorite and most compelling photographs of objects from her travels hither and yon were placed in a book she aptly titled Pilgrimage (2011), the text to which she wrote with the help of Sharon DeLano. Scenes taken in places such as Gettysburg, which Leibovitz first visited as a child, also are represented.

The book has spawned several exhibitions of the photographs appearing on its pages, including at several institutions known less for their works of art than their displays of historically compelling objects and images, such as the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. Presently, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL is hosting an “Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage” exhibition through August 31, 2014.

To Save A Life

Ms. Leibovitz’s description of her underlying motivation for the book reveals that Pilgrimage just as easily could have been christened “Salvation:”

“I NEEDED to save myself. I needed to remind myself of what I like to do, what I can do … There was a spiritual aspect to this journey at first. It didn’t stay at that level — because I began to feel better. But somehow, it saved me to go into other worlds.”[ii]

So how exactly did photographing anything other than living people “save” Annie Leibovitz and in what way did this open up new worlds to her? Leibovitz’s several interviews explain how she came to the realization that an inert object with a storyline or context connecting it to an inspirational historical figure can metaphorically “speak” to us, the living, on a very personal level. She also concluded that it was possible to photograph those objects in a way that would allow others to form their own powerful connections to them and the famous people to whom they once belonged.

Deep Impact

Ms. Leibovitz’s insights, interestingly, emerged at a time that physical objects from our nation’s past are losing much of their appeal, especially to the youngest generations of digitally-obsessed Americans. To the historically challenged, old objects merely represent “stuff” that is irrelevant to their lives and symbolically linked to a past they often care little to know. Perhaps Ms. Leibovitz’s photographs and accompanying narrative in Pilgrimage will arouse their curiosity to explore exactly why for several years a famed photographer NEEDED to focus her camera on historical objects rather than the hottest celebrity de jure. In Leibovitz’s own words:

“I had to learn to photograph objects. We don’t know [a famous person like] Thoreau, do we? We have only his work, and his things. When I first saw the cane bed he slept on, I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t know how to deal with it … I have a bit of a feeling that I’ve had it with people. But you don’t ever get away from people, really. And these are pictures of people to me. It’s all we have left to represent them. I’m dealing with things that are going away, disappearing, crumbling. How do we hold on to stuff?”

Being There

One object which Ms. Leibovitz was drawn to photograph and feature on two pages of Pilgrimage merits special mention. Unlike nearly all of the other objects photographed for that book, Leibovitz was not attracted to it because of who once owned it or physically handled it.

Her picture of this unique object is compelling on several levels, not the least of which is that it verges on qualifying as the product of a celebrity photo shoot. In a virtual sense, Ms. Leibovitz pointed her cutting-edge digital camera directly at the visage of Abraham Lincoln. Although space-time continuum barriers sadly prevented her from photographing Lincoln in the flesh, she still managed to gain access to the National Archives to photograph what may be an original wet-plate glass negative[iii] of four images of Lincoln created when he was seated in front of a multi-lens camera operated by Anthony Berger on February 9, 1864 in Mathew Brady’s Washington, D.C. photographic gallery. To view Leibovitz’s photograph of the Lincoln plate appearing in Pilgrimage, click here.[iv] Photographing this negative offered Annie Leibovitz the closest experience to “being there” with one of the most influential American figures of all time and a man who enjoys an exalted position in the pantheon of our most famous celebrities.

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At first blush, the four side-by-side negative images of Lincoln (backlit on a photo tray) are eerily ghost-like in appearance.

“It is this physical, and yet somehow ghostly, aspect of photography—its “spooky action at a distance” quality (to quote Einstein out of context)—that gives photography its particular aura. And this intensely interests Leibovitz.”[v]

The glass plate images might even remind some of the handiwork of William Mumler, a Boston and New York-based photographer from the mid-19th century who created expensive studio portrait photos into which he inserted apparitional figures made to resemble deceased loved ones. Mumler claimed to be able to photograph spirits which magically appeared around his paying customers in the midst of a studio session. Joining a long list of other Mumler hoax victims, Mary Todd Lincoln visited his studio in the early 1870s to pose for a photo into which Mumler inserted the extremely wispy, bleached image of something looking sort of like her dearly departed husband standing over her with both of his hands lovingly resting upon her shoulders (as well as a less detailed white figure presumably representing her departed son Willie).[vi] Although very touching and reassuring for Mrs. Lincoln — who thought the photo was legitimate because she claimed to have introduced herself to Mr. Mumler under a pseudonym — it still was a fake.

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Images of Mrs. Lincoln appeared in thousands of carte de visite prints sold both before and after her husband’s death.[vii] An example of a Brady photo of Mary Todd Lincoln copyrighted in 1862 appears below, left, and possibly another example from the same photo session, courtesy of the National Archives, to the right:

Mary Todd Lincoln taken by Brady-1862-02 Portrait 

As she mourned for her husband, much of the nation mourned with Mrs. Lincoln by placing her calling card-sized image in their respective family photo albums. Mary Todd Lincoln would have been immediately recognizable to a then-successful big city photographer like William L. Mumler, even if he had never before met her, simply because he had handled and probably sold dozens upon dozens of pirated prints of her pictures taken in other photography studios, a practice then widespread among many professional photographers.

But there is nothing fake about the item photographed by Ms. Leibovitz; it is an unadulterated object. Adding to the dramatic visual effect of Anthony Berger’s delicate glass plate negative, two of its Lincoln images are beset with bisecting cracks from which pieces of glass have broken off from the slide. The consequences of rough handling over the years have extracted their toll. If Mr. Mumler was still alive, he might insist that the missing triangular-shaped wedges of glass are shaped like opposing dagger tips which hauntingly meet one another at the top and bottom of one of Lincoln’s hands, metaphorically nailing that hand to the arm of the chair. Were these cracks symbolically created by someone from the afterlife or are their locations and shapes just a mere coincidence? The correct answer must be: “Mum-ler’s the word!”

And That’s a Wrap

On yet another level, Leibovitz’s photo represents something far more meaningful than just a picture of a 150 year-old glass negative. I suppose that the object Annie Leibovitz photographed can be thought of as Lincoln’s version of the Shroud of Turin. Considering it from that perspective, it might even be viewed  as a form of a holy relic.

The glass negative images were produced in consequence of Lincoln’s physical presence, during a few moments that particles of light bounced off of him, passed through the camera’s four optical lenses, and interacted with the chemicals on the surface of the exposed glass plate. This, in turn, imprinted his reversed image onto the plate in a negative format. In a sense, Lincoln MADE the images on the glass plate. This photo-chemical process (completed after “developing” and “fixing” chemicals were applied to the plate in a darkroom) rendered the three-dimensional Lincoln as a series of two-dimensional negative images on a thin piece of glass, harkening back to roughly how some people believe a crucified Jesus Christ  imprinted an image of himself on his wispy death shroud now said to be in Turin, Italy.

During her visit to the National Archives, Annie Leibovitz was able to see and photograph several other famous glass plate negative portraits of Abraham Lincoln taken by Anthony Berger in that same February 9, 1864 sitting, including the famous “Penny View” of Lincoln used as the basis for the image on the U.S. penny and the two Berger views used to create Lincoln’s image on the old and new $5 bills (two of those images appear below, courtesy of the National Archives; the one on the top, dubbed the “Famous Profile,” was used in conjunction with the very similar “Penny Profile” view by Victor D. Brenner for the Lincoln-head cent):

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Leibovitz’s reaction to that experience was described by Sarah Boxer in the following way:

“When speaking of the photographic plates of Lincoln that were made by Anthony Berger at Mathew Brady’s studio (which were used as templates for the five-dollar bill and the penny), [Ms. Leibovitz] described them as “very spiritual” because ‘the photons that bounced off Lincoln had once passed through’ them. It is eerie to think that Lincoln’s very body physically affected the plates that captured his image.”[viii]

The glass plate negative slides of Abraham Lincoln housed at the National Archives also are “very spiritual” simply because they reveal moments of time, 150 years ago, burned onto a tiny layer of chemical film clinging to the slides’ surface. In Boxer’s words, Lincoln’s:

“body acted on the light in such a way that the light struck the photographic plate or negative and physically changed it to form an image. Every photograph [made in this way] is an indexical trace, a brand made by its subject.”

Using even more visceral terms, Boxer described all non-digital photographs produced on negative film as like  “cattle branding: burning an impression into the cow’s hide, so that it will be forever linked to its owner.”

Jurrasic Park Meets the Nutty Professor in 3-D

Yet another metaphor borrowed from Christianity can be used to describe the inherent spirituality of Anthony Berger’s glass plate negative of Lincoln. In a sense, that object offers its viewers the chance to see a version of Lincoln resurrected from the dead and visually brought back to life into our modern spatial world of three dimensions. To achieve this result, we need only to reverse the process that converted Lincoln’s 3-D physical being into a series of 2-D negative images on a remarkably thin piece of glass. But how? What mad alchemist could possibly achieve this crazy sounding task?

Well, here’s how. The images of Lincoln were “branded” onto the glass plate by the photographer’s use of  a single camera with at least one row of four side-by-side lenses. The spacing of those lenses more-or-less mimicked the distance between a human’s eyes. Consequently, the viewer can experience a 3-D effect when a set of those image pairs are viewed stereoscopically. Seen in this manner, Lincoln is optically “brought back to life” again in all three of his glorious dimensions.

Lloyd Ostendorf, co-author of Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose, has concluded that Anthony Berger used a multi-lens camera in order to speed up the process of mass producing prints of Lincoln’s image. This means that at least the photographs of Lincoln shot with a multi-lens camera were taken — from Anthony Berger’s perspective — with the primary objective of selling a great number of prints (published by E.& H. T. Anthony & Co.) to the public. An unintended consequence of that business decision by Anthony Berger, however, was to permit future generations the ability to stereoscopically bring Abraham Lincoln “back to life” in 3-D from several moments in time on February 9, 1864.

Little Big Men

The pose struck by the Great Emancipator was choreographed and captured in a several second exposure as the result of the collaborative efforts of two men — Anthony Berger (the photographer) and Francis B. Carpenter (a painter who arranged for the session with Lincoln and helped orchestrate his poses). Mr. Carpenter convinced Mr. Lincoln to sit for this and twelve other photographic poses despite the President’s great impatience with the long, drawn-out process entailed in posing for what he called “sun pictures.” In fact, so impatient was Lincoln on the day of the February 9, 1864 photo shoot, that when his carriage was delayed, he chose to walk from the White House to Brady’s Pennsylvania Avenue studio and dragged Carpenter along with him. Carpenter quoted Lincoln as saying “I’m pretty much split up for our having had to wait like this.” It is amazing that Lincoln later was able to sit through seven poses at the studio on that day. The collodion process then used in making wet-plate negatives was lengthy and tedious both for photographers and the sitters.

Carpenter essentially was an “artist-in-residence” (in the words of Harold Holzer) at the White House for a six month period during the first half of 1864, enjoying what he described as “the freedom of [Lincoln’s] offices at almost all hours.”[ix] His interaction with Lincoln reveals both the special relationship he forged with the President and the great trust Lincoln placed in him. Carpenter obtained this level of intimate access after he pitched the following project to his President — to create a painting of Lincoln and his cabinet members in a scene entitled “The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet.” Carpenter’s goal was to memorialize as historically accurately as possible what he considered to be one of the greatest moments in the history of mankind.

As far as Francis Bicknell Carpenter must have been concerned, the photos of Lincoln which he arranged for Anthony Berger to shoot were to serve a singular purpose — to provide him with positive prints of Lincoln in poses desired for use as figure studies for The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet. Any other poses struck by Lincoln and photographed by Berger, such as his “quiet family moment” view of Tad Lincoln standing next to his father while both stared at a photo album prop, would have been shot on Berger’s own initiative as they had absolutely no relevance to Carpenter’s painting of the The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet. Granted, Carpenter later used that father-son photo as the very rough basis for two separate paintings (on a much, much smaller physical scale) titled “President Abraham Lincoln and Tad,”[x] which is part of the White House collection, and “The Lincoln Family,” at The New York Historical Society; but they and other similar paintings were afterthoughts and sidelights to his main objective. From the beginning, he envisioned that his Emancipation painting would be mass-produced in the form of engravings for all to see and enjoy, making his work well known, immensely popular, and a key part of America’s cherished historical record.

It is not known how it came to pass that Anthony Berger served as the photographer of Lincoln on each and every occasion that Carpenter arranged for a presidential photo session. Three Lincoln photo shoots occurred, on February 9, April 20, and April 26, 1864, the last of which was set in Lincoln’s study/cabinet room in the White House where the Emancipation Proclamation was first read. Some unknown cameraman (perhaps Berger?) also took five views of Lincoln at Brady’s Washington studio with a four-lens camera on January 8, 1864 and Thomas Le Mere photographed Lincoln in a standing pose on about April 17, 1863 when he worked for Brady in D.C.,[xi]  demonstrating that other Brady men could answer the call to photograph the President. Carpenter also relied upon Anthony Berger to photograph at least some of the Lincoln cabinet members who were to appear in his painting, including Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.[xii] Carpenter was not present for the session with Stanton, trusting Berger to follow his prior instructions on how to pose Stanton.[xiii] On one occasion, Carpenter even posed himself in front of Berger’s camera as a stand-in for Secretary of State William Seward to create the desired figure study pose for Seward in “The First Reading.[xiv]

All of this points to the conclusion that Carpenter chose Berger to work exclusively on this several month long project and that he did so both because of their familiarity with one another and his admiration for Berger’s talents. If Francis Carpenter had preferred a man from one of the other highly-regarded studios in D.C. (such as Wenderoth & Taylor, at which Lincoln was photographed sometime in 1864, for example) or even a different Brady cameraman, he surely would have brought in someone other than Anthony Berger to help him with what he thought would become his greatest masterpiece and elevate him to the status of the exalted Gilbert Stuart or John Trumbull who famously painted George Washington.

Although Messrs. Holzer, Borritt, and Neely assign all of the credit to Francis Carpenter for how Lincoln was posed in the Berger photos, I don’t think that Berger’s formal training as a painter in Frankfurt, Germany should be discounted. Those three Lincoln scholars assert that:

“the great Lincoln photographs which became the lasting models for coins, stamps, and currency were composed under Carpenter’s eye: sittings before the same photographers did not produce equal results when Carpenter was absent.”[xv]

This conclusion ignores one point — that we only definitively know of a handful of the photos which were taken by Anthony Berger when he worked for Brady. In each such instance, that knowledge comes entirely from Carpenter’s published and unpublished writings. All of Berger’s known photographs involved Carpenter’s collaboration, perhaps with the exception of the supremely compelling photo that Berger took of Lincoln with his youngest son Tad. Thus, we don’t have a body of Berger’s work independent of Carpenter against which to compare. Granted, Carpenter “did have a keen eye for portraiture and documentary groupings,” but who is to say that Anthony Berger never took any other portrait photos without Carpenter’s involvement of equal or greater artistic merit? The Anthony Berger photographs, in the words of  David Hackett Fisher, showed Lincoln “as a wise and experienced leader, with an aura of growing strength and confidence.”[xvi] Should that  achievement be attributed solely to Carpenter, despite the fact that “there were doubts about Carpenter’s reputation even in his own day” and one modern art historian unfairly characterized him as a “very boring” artist? Or is it more likely that the combined talents of Carpenter and Berger produced photographs of Lincoln beyond either of their individual powers?

Branded (in a Good Way)

Besides creating memorable photographs “branded” onto photographic film, Annie Leibovitz has excelled at other forms of branding — in particular, linking the names of celebrities to her widely-recognized photographs of them. To think of a celebrity and then immediately conjure up in one’s mind their image from a Leibovitz photograph is a supreme achievement. Declares Sarah Boxer, “she is a genius at it.” By so succeeding, Leibovitz also has created her own brand.

The original concept of creating compelling photographic images of celebrities was most successfully executed in America first and foremost by the man who employed Anthony Berger for approximately a decade — Mathew Brady. It was Brady who created the widely recognized “Brady of Broadway,” “Brady’s National Photographic Portrait Gallery,” and “Photograph by Brady” brands. The celebrities photographed in Brady’s studios included Presidents, members of royalty, noted politicians, philosophers, religious figures, ambassadors, high-ranking military officers and heroes, actors, and even members of P.T. Barnum’s circus. These photographs of stars made Mathew Brady, in kind, a veritable rock star in his day. Few knew and hob-knobbed with as many of the rich and famous as Mathew Brady. Now, exactly 170 years after Brady opened his first studio, there are not many photographers as successful in the pursuit of ever-lasting images of celebrities as Ms. Leibovitz. At some point in her career of creating the equivalent of trademark images of stars, Annie Leibovitz has become her own brand just as Brady once did.

In the same way that Annie Leibovitz has proven herself a modern artistic genius by imprinting in our minds immediately recognizable photographs of celebrities — such as John Lennon naked and curled around Yoko Ono, Dolly Parton paired with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dan Akyroyd and John Belushi as the “Blues Brothers,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” Demi Moore naked and pregnant,  etc.  — with “the props, the settings, the clothes, and even the gestures and expressions that will cling to each person’s image … linking one to the another,”[xvii] so too were Anthony Berger and Francis B. Carpenter geniuses. Their collaboration, which resulted in thirteen known poses of Lincoln, produced several which are immediately recognizable and considered iconic a full century and a half later. Yet, because those photos were linked for the better part of the last 150 years only to Mathew Brady, any fame and notoriety due to Messrs. Berger & Carpenter has gone largely missing. Their story would have a modern-day parallel if, for example, it were to be demonstrated conclusively that the crème de la crème of Annie Leibovitz’s most iconic photographs over the last several decades were not taken by her, but by an obscure younger protégé in her employ essentially unknown to the art world [Note: this is nothing more than a hypothetical used for illustrative purposes].

Excuse My Dust

In her “Annie Leibovitz’s Ghosts” piece, Sarah Boxer quotes part of a passage (and the title) from Walt Whitman’s 1871 elegy to Abraham Lincoln, among his “Leaves of Grass” compiled works, which Whitman began after Lincoln was assassinated in April of 1865:

This dust was once the man,
Gentle, plain, just and resolute, under whose cautious hand,
Against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age,
Was saved the Union of these States

Boxer then rhetorically asks “when you hear the name Annie Leibovitz, what images spring to mind?” Answering her own question, she listed several easily recollected celebrity photos by Leibovitz. But Boxer also posits that as a result of Leibovitz’s photo of Anthony Berger’s multi-lens glass plate negative of Lincoln appearing at pp. 89-90 in Pilgrimage, “maybe the dust of Abraham Lincoln” should be added to that list.

Deservedly so, Lebovitz’s genius and artistic talent are widely known. But when most people hear the name Anthony Berger, do images of anyone, let alone Lincoln, spring to their minds? Do they realize that most, if not all, of the images of Lincoln branded into their memories from his visage on U.S. stamps, coins, currency, and countless books and advertisements were derived from Anthony Berger’s photographs? The unfortunate answer to both questions is “most certainly not.”

“When Mathew Brady and Anthony Berger first looked at the … photographs that were taken at the Brady studio that February afternoon in 1864, they surely had no idea what they had actually created. They could not have realized the countless different ways in which the images were to be used or the enormous impact they would have. But it is thanks to these images … that the face of Lincoln is better known to Americans today than it was in his lifetime.”[xviii]

Ms. Leibovitz’s picture of Anthony Berger’s photographic negative gives me hope that the time finally has come, 150 years after the fact, for us to collectively tip our hats in recognition of the brilliance of Anthony Berger and Francis B. Carpenter for so artfully collecting “the dust” of Lincoln on several glass plates.

I encourage anyone intrigued by these sentiments to make their own pilgrimage to Anthony Berger’s Lincoln images by viewing them online in high resolution at the National Archives and the Library of Congress. See, e.g., I also highly recommend Ms. Leibovitz’s book Pilgrimage and the current and future exhibitions associated with that book.


By Craig Heberton, July 26, 2014, © 2014


To read an interesting story about  the struggle to save tangible historical objects in a digital world, see Jessica Bennett’s “Inside The New York Times Photo Morgue, a Possible New Life for Print” (May 7, 2012) at:

“To hold a newspaper in your hand that your great grandmother … might have read, especially in a world that is today so focused on speed, there is something very human and visceral about it.”


Update on October 27, 2014:

Here’s another example of how knowing the history of an otherwise ordinary looking object completely changes its meaning:


Update on November 30, 2014:

10 Questions for Annie Leibovitz;” Ms. Leibovitz answers ten head-on questions posed to her by intervewer Sarah Luscombe on behalf of subscribers  —,32068,3335573001_1862545,00.html


Update on January 6, 2015:

Read how one man’s “stuff” left sitting untouched in a room for nearly a century presents us with a real time capsule looking back to a life sacrificed in World War I and how things once were.


[i]  Boxer, Sarah, “Annie Leibovitz’s Ghosts,” The New Yorker, March 19, 2012.

[ii]  Browning, Dominque, “A Pilgrim’s Progress,” The New York Times, October 30, 2011.

[iii]  “Brady had a special process for copying glass or collodion negatives so that the duplicate plate could not be distinguished from the original.” Ostendorf, Lloyd and Hamilton, Charles,  Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose (1963),  at p. 165.

[iv]  To view Leibovitz’s photo of the plate in Pilgimage, see:; or; or

[v]  Boxer, Sarah, “Annie Leibovitz’s Ghosts,” The New Yorker, March 19, 2012

[vi]  “The Ghost and Mr. Mumler,” American History Magazine, February 8, 2008.; Moye, David, “William H. Mumler, Spirit Photographs, Amazed Audiences with Ghostly Images,” The Huffington Post, August 22, 2013.

[vii]  To see some of her photographs, visit

[viii]  Boxer, Sarah, “Annie Leibovitz’s Ghosts,” The New Yorker, March 19, 2012

[ix] Holzer, Harold, Borritt, Gabor S., and Neely, Mark E., “Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830-1900): Painter of Abraham Lincoln and His Circle,” American Art Journal, at p. 87, fn 2, quoting Carpenter, Francis B., “Personal Impressions of Mr. Lincoln,” New York Independent, April 27, 1865, p. 1.

[x]  An image of the painting can be seen at Holzer, Harold, Borritt, Gabor S., and Neely, Mark E., “Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830-1900): Painter of Abraham Lincoln and His Circle,” American Art Journal, at p. 87. Interestingly, the relative positioning of Lincoln and Tad was swapped in this and Carpenter’s other painting, as if the underlying photograph was horizontally flipped. The part in Lincoln’s hair in the painting, on the left side of his head, is different than the way it is depicted in all of his February 9, 1864 photos, on the right side of his head. This was an anomaly, in that Lincoln’s part otherwise is on the left side of his head in all other photographs. Carpenter wrote on the back of a cabinet-sized print of the Berger photograph used as the basis for the old U.S. $5 bill: ‘From a negative made in 1864, by A. Berger, partner of M.B. Brady, at Brady Gallery ….[Lincoln’s] barber by mistake this day [February 9, 1864] for some unaccountable reason, parted his hair on the President’s right side, instead of his left.” Ostendorf, Lloyd and  Hamilton, Charles,  Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose (1963),  at p. 177. This language also was quoted by Carpenter’s grandson and then owner of the cabinet card sized print, Emerson Carpenter Ives, in a letter to the editor, published in Life Magazine, March 7, 1955.

[xi] Ostendorf, Lloyd and  Hamilton, Charles,  Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose (1963),  at pp. 128-129.

[xii]  Carpenter wrote in his diary on February 23, 1864, “Found that Berger at Brady’s had made a picture of Mr. Stanton in the position I told him to put him in …” Ostendorf, Lloyd and  Hamilton, Charles,  Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose (1963),  at p. 186. In Diary of Gideon Welles: Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Volume I (1911), at p. 527, Welles writes that on February 17, 1864 he went to Brady’s studio “with Mr. Carpenter, an artist, to have a photograph taken. Mr. C. is to paint an historical picture of the President and Cabinet at the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.” Although no mention was made of whether Berger was the photographer, it is likely that he was.

[xiii] To see the sketch of Stanton which Francis B. Carpenter presumably completed from Berger’s photograph, as well as several other figure studies sketched by Carpenter of Lincoln’s cabinet members, see Holzer, Harold, Borritt, Gabor S., and Neely, Mark E., “Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830-1900): Painter of Abraham Lincoln and His Circle,” American Art Journal, at pp. 72-73.

[xiv]  Holzer, Harold, Borritt, Gabor S., and Neely, Mark E., “Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830-1900): Painter of Abraham Lincoln and His Circle,” American Art Journal, at p. 67.

[xv]  Ibid.

[xvi]  Fisher, David H., Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas (2004), at p. 347.

[xvii]  Boxer, Sarah, “Annie Leibovitz’s Ghosts,” The New Yorker, March 19, 2012.

[xviii]  Sullivan, George, Picturing Lincoln: Famous Photographs that Popularized the President (2000), at p. 82.

A. Berger Joint Opens at 285 Fulton St., Brooklyn

15 Jul

On May 9, 1865, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced that “Mr. A. Berger will conduct” a photographic business at 285 Fulton Street in Brooklyn, NY:

1865-05-09 Brooklyn Eagle-Anthony Berger-Lincoln engraving

This was not to be the first photographic gallery at that location. The Brooklyn City Directory for May 1863 to May 1864 shows the photographer George Vandorn/Van Dorn at 285 Fulton Street. An example of a carte de visite print with a Van Dorn back mark from 285 Fulton St., follows:

Van Dorn-285 Fulton

At some point in time, Van Dorn partnered with another photographer, evidenced by carte de visite sized photographs with the back mark “Van Dorn & Bennett, Photographic Artists, No. 285 Fulton St., Brooklyn.” This appears to have represented a transition phase, in that the Brooklyn City Directory for May 1864 to May 1865 lists Van Dorn’s photography business at 314 Fulton Street and the photographers Frank H. & George H. Bennett at 285 Fulton Street, operating as the Bennett Bro’s:

Bennet Bros

The Bennett Brothers were not the only entrepreneurs doing business at 285 Fulton. A few days before its grand opening, J. Weschler & Co. published notices in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that it would commence operating at 285 Fulton Street “on or about Monday, February 13, [1865] with an entire new stock of dry goods, cloaks, mantillas, & c., purchased at the recent prices, thus being enabled to offer their stocks at very advantageous terms.”  That business soon became known as the dry goods store of Weschler & Abraham. Partners Joseph Weschler and 22 year-old Abraham Abraham each contributed $5,000 to their new venture. The New York Times on May 19, 1865 reported that “the dry goods store [at] No. 285 Fulton-street [Brooklyn], was feloniously enterred [sic] yesterday morning and robbed of silks valued at $998.” Recovering from the theft, Weschler & Abrahm eventually moved elsewhere on Fulton Street and was succeeded by Abraham & Straus in 1893, which became a part of the Federated Stores in 1929, and then merged into Macy’s in 1995.

The Weschler & Abraham store at 285 Fulton was only 25 feet by 90 feet in a multi-story building on Brooklyn Height’s main commercial thoroughfare. In February of 1865, Hunter’s Commercial Academy published notices that it had removed from 285 Fulton Street to a new space on Montague Street.  Simultaneously, Weschler & Abraham advertised that it had available to let “a large front room, on first floor, suitable for business; also second floor for dwelling, at 285 Fulton street; Inquiries in the store.”

Anthony Berger undoubtedly took over the former Van Dorn/Bennett Brothers photography studio space. Perhaps, too, he sublet from Weschler & Abraham and purchased some or all of the Bennett Brothers’ equipment and supplies. A one-third page advertisement for Berger’s business in the 1865-66 Brooklyn City Directory, appears below:

1866 Brooklyn Directory-popp 27 third page adx

From all of this it can be inferred that Berger’s split with Mathew Brady and move to Brooklyn did not occur until the spring of 1865 — around the time that President Lincoln was shot in the back of the head by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865.

Then I Can Make It, (Almost) Anywhere

Why did Berger choose Brooklyn? As mentioned in Part I of “Chewing on A. Berger,”  there is evidence in the 1855 New York State Census that Anthony Berger and his family may have lived in Brooklyn shortly after he first arrived in America. If true, he would have been familiar with that city and possibly a number of its inhabitants, especially resident artists such as Francis Bicknell Carpenter. It was Carpenter who arranged for and oversaw Berger’s three photo shoots with President Lincoln. Also, at the start of the Civil War, the 1860 U.S. Census shows that Brooklyn was the 3rd most populous city in the U.S., with over 266,000 inhabitants, situated a short ferry ride away from America’s largest city and its 813,000 residents. In a sense, Brooklyn Heights, where Berger operated, was Manhattan’s first commuter suburb. Anthony Berger likely perceived that Brooklyn offered more favorable commercial and artistic opportunities than a place like Manhattan, where the competition included internationally renowned photographic heavyweights such as Brady, Gurney, Bogardus, Fredericks, Sarony, and the Anthonys. Although there was plenty of competition in Brooklyn, Berger may have felt that he stood a better chance of making a go of it there both as a professional photographer and a painter.

How did Berger wind up at 285 Fulton Street in Brooklyn? As revealed in the 1865 New York State Census returns, as of June 19, 1865 Anthony Berger (aged 34) and his wife resided in the 4th ward of Brooklyn in a brownstone residence owned by a Weschler & Abrahm partner — Abraham Abraham (listed therein as 22 year-old dry goods merchant “Abram Abrams” — see below).

1865 NY State

This suggests two things. First, the Bergers probably were in a temporary living situation and had only recently moved to Brooklyn. Second, there existed some sort of pre-existing relationship or connection between the Bergers and the Abrahams which resulted in Anthony Berger leasing space at 285 Fulton St. and presumably residing on a temporary basis with Abraham Abraham and his 17 year-old younger brother Samuel. The common thread may have been that the Abrahams were sons of a Bavarian merchant. Perhaps, too, the Bergers were Jewish like the Abrahams.

Mourning “Father Abraham” in Pictures

The short announcement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of the opening of Anthony Berger’s business was silent on Berger’s prior association with M.B. Brady. Instead, it focused upon the newspaper’s receipt of a retouched version of what was becoming a wildly popular and repeatedly plagiarized photograph taken by Anthony Berger of the recently martyred President in Brady’s Washington studio on February 9, 1864.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s description of the image was wrong on two counts; in actuality, the underlying photograph reveals a seated Lincoln peering at a Brady studio photo album (not a Bible) with his youngest son Tad (the middle son, Willie, had died in 1862). The paper’s source for the first mistake was Anthony Berger. Lloyd Ostendorf reveals that Lincoln expressed misgivings to his friend/journalist Noah Brooks that the large photo album with brass clasps might be mistaken for a Bible and that it only came to be used in the photo session when the photographer [Anthony Berger] “hit upon [it] as a good device … to bring the two sitters [father and son] together.” Having personally placed into Lincoln’s hands an album from the Brady studio to use as a prop, Berger knew full well that it was not a Bible. Nevertheless, he titled a retouched version of his own photograph as “PRESIDENT  A. LINCOLN READING THE BIBLE TO HIS SON,” had it created in a large format by the high-end New York City printer William Schaus, and copyrighted it in 1865 (see, below, courtesy of the Library of Congress). The full caption reads:

Retouched and photographed by A. Berger, 285 Fulton Street, BrooklynPRESIDENT A. LINCOLN READING THE BIBLE TO HIS SON – Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1865 by Anthony Berger in the Clerks [sic] office of the District Court of the Eastern District of New York.”


Berger’s emotionally stirring picture of Lincoln, posed to appear as if the President was enjoying a “family moment” with his youngest son, tugged upon the most sentimental heartstrings of Northerners. Many must have felt an irresistible urge to acquire a calling card sized rendering of that image (called a carte de visite) of the martyred “Father Abraham” for insertion into their cherished family photo album. Two carte de visite prints of Berger’s retouched photograph of President Lincoln & Tad appear below (top, courtesy of Walnutts Antiques – Walnutts on eBay, and bottom, courtesy of bandj.images on eBay):

Walnutts-ebay-285 Fulton-02 bandj

According to Lloyd Ostendorf, the incentive to profit from the heavy demand for this keepsake also was great:

“it was “one of the most popular Lincoln portraits [and] it is the only close-up of him wearing spectacles. It was issued in huge quantities in many variations, with and without Brady’s permission.”

The copyright laws then existing did not yet explicitly prohibit photographing someone else’s work, retouching features of it on a duplicate negative, printing copies of the altered original image, and then selling them in one’s own name with impunity. Copyright laws had not yet caught up with the reproductive powers of photography. Thus, printers and photographers quickly seized on the image’s popularity after Lincoln’s death and sought to cash in. See, for example, three different Philadelphia newspaper advertisements — one calling it “just the thing for the photograph albums of all loyal men and women” — which appeared in the April 28, 1865 Daily Evening Bulletin (top), the April 28, 1865 Philadelphia Press (middle), and the April 29, 1865 Daily Evening Bulletin (bottom):

1865-04-19_Phila Press + twojpg

Brady, likewise, didn’t miss out on selling prints of the father-son photograph taken by Anthony Berger and Harper’s Weekly used it as the basis for a cover illustration a few weeks after Lincoln’s assassination. A print of what the Brooklyn Daily Eagle described as Anthony Berger’s “India Ink drawing” appears below (middle) sandwiched between a Harper’s Weekly May 6, 1865 cover illustration (below, left) and an unretouched print by “Brady & Co.” (below, right). Harper’s, by the way, notated that its illustration was “Photographed by Brady.”


The most obvious revisions made by Anthony Berger to the original photographic image are: (1) seating Lincoln in a straight-backed chair with a flowing jacket or piece of cloth draped from its back, (2) fancy fringe hanging from the chair’s arm, (3) subtle alterations to the photo album making it appear to be a Bible, and (4) recasting the setting to resemble a room in the White House. Note, also, how the Harper’s Weekly illustration looks very similar to Berger’s retouched version in many respects despite its attribution to Brady. A major exception is that Harper’s Weekly did not depict the chair with a ramrod straight back, sticking, instead, to a tilted back more closely resembling the actual chair’s appearance.

Why did Berger alter the chair, let alone do so to such a degree? The simple answer probably is that the chair in which Lincoln sat was a very widely recognized prop in Brady’s Washington gallery, having been given by Lincoln to Mathew Brady in 1860 after Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech. It had served as Abraham Lincoln’s chair in the House of Representatives and, therefore, was of a size sufficient to comfortably accommodate Lincoln’s frame. Brady and his operators also photographed many other famous people who posed in the Washington gallery seated in that very same chair, including luminaries ranging from Walt Whitman to Robert E. Lee.

If the Harper’s illustrators based their work exclusively on a print provided by Brady’s gallery, then Berger presumably altered or oversaw the retouching of the original image when employed by Brady — possibly making more than one variant form — and upon his departure took with him a duplicate plate of his handiwork. In which case, Harper’s Weekly could have based its illustration exclusively upon a Berger retouched version submitted by Brady. Although it is at first counterintuitive to think that Brady would have submitted a variant of the original photo touched up in a manner to obliterate his trademark “Brady Lincoln chair,” he may have desired simply to create the illusion that the photo was taken in the White House by altering the chair and the surroundings. Many discerning people who had been in his D.C. gallery conceivably would have recognized the chair as a studio prop, undercutting the desired effect. Thus, Harper’s might have received the retouched work from someone at Brady’s a week or two before the printing of its May 9, 1865 issue when Berger still may have worked for Brady. But what if Berger left Brady months before Lincoln’s assassination? Did Harper’s Weekly combine elements from both a print of the original photograph and a version copyrighted in Berger’s own name, relying most heavily upon Berger’s variation despite crediting Brady? Regardless of the correct answer to these questions, one way or the other, the Harper’s Weekly illustration was based on a photo taken by Berger on February 9, 1864 and likely retouched by Berger, either before or after he left Brady.

[Note: Harper’s Weekly posted a clarification in its May 13, 1865 publication that the “Portrait of Mr. Lincoln at Home” on the cover of its May 6, 1865 issue, was “copied from the admirable Photograph of Mr. A. Berger, 285 Fulton Street, Brooklyn.” This attribution to Anthony Berger, coming a week late and buried in a back page, symbolized the shadow of anonymity under which Berger had operated during his course of employment with Brady.]

1865-05-13_Harper's Weekly_291_A. Berger's Photox

Parting Company with Mathew Brady

Whatever precipitated the end of Anthony Berger’s employment with Brady might have resulted from a deal which Brady struck in September of 1864 (as discussed below). But it can be supposed, too, that factors contributing to the Brady-Berger schism paralleled Philip Kunhardt’s and Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt’s explanation for why another cameraman parted company with Brady:

“Brady was often unable to support operations in the field … David Woodbury, a young photographer who greatly admired Brady and worked diligently for him through most of the war [nevertheless was] all but abandoned [when Brady failed] to send him the supplies he required. Woodbury, like other of Brady’s battlefield photographers, finally quit in frustration and disgust.” — Sullivan, George, Mathew Brady: His Life and Photographs (1994), at p. 105.

Berger, likewise, may have been owed unpaid wages and/or unreimbursed field expenses by Brady. For example, Andrew Burgess, who also worked for Brady in Washington appears to have retained some duplicate Brady glass plate slides as compensation for unpaid wages. By 1874 he even felt entitled to advertise his photography business as a “successor” to Brady’s from the same Pennsylvania Avenue location which Brady later was forced by his creditors to close in 1872. Ironically, those glass plate negatives ultimately came to be owned by the Ansco Co., which claimed them as compensation for debts unpaid by Brady to Ansco’s predecessor, E.H. & T. Anthony & Co.  Today they are part of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery collection.

Alexander Gardner — who like Berger had managed Brady’s Washington gallery —  may have been the first to establish the “tradition” of gathering up and departing with all accessible duplicate plates of one’s own work when separating from Brady.

“When Gardner left Brady’s studio he took all the negatives from the year 1862 with him, including [the work of O’Sullivan, Barnard, and Gibson] — more than four hundred negatives in all … [T]hey certainly had been copied [and] O’Sullivan, Barnard, and Gibson soon went to work for Gardner in his new gallery.”  Robert Wilson, Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation, at p. 148.

Add to this cauldron of potential disgruntlement the inescapable conclusion that Anthony Berger must have been relieved of his position as manager of Brady’s Washington, D.C. gallery sometime shortly after September 7, 1864 when a presumably cash-strapped Mathew Brady sold a 50 percent stake in his Washington, D.C. gallery to James F. Gibson for $10,000, half in cash and the other half in promissory notes (according to Josephine Cobb). After becoming an equal partner in the D.C. gallery, Gibson — a former Brady photographer who had worked for Alexander Gardner after leaving Brady — surely took over the reins of managing the Washington gallery’s day-to-day operations, thereby displacing Berger as its manager. Josephine Cobb described James F. Gibson as “a good photographer but a man lacking business ability and personal integrity.” Her research shows that Brady had brought Berger in as the D.C. manager to oversee Gibson sometime in 1863 before Gibson defected to Alexander Gardner. In September 1864, Gibson had the opportunity to return the favor in a reversal of roles. Berger must have found the position into which he was placed in the fall of 1864 untenable. Was Berger then demoted to a level under Gibson in D.C., reassigned back to New York, fired, or simply packed his bags and quit? If he parted ways with Brady in September of 1864, where did he go and what did he do between then and May of 1865?


By Craig Heberton, July 15, 2014 (To be continued)


Photographer Anthony Berger in Gettysburg on July 15, 1863

14 Jul

Anthony Berger, David Woodbury and possibly at least one other Mathew Brady assistant photographed several of the best known scenes of the Civil War on the battlefields of Gettysburg 151 years ago. To see some of those images and to read about Anthony Berger’s role in creating them, go to:


by Craig Heberton, July 14, 2014

Part III of “Chewing on A. Berger” — The Brady Boys in Hanover Junction, PA

17 May

Mathew B. Brady, Anthony Berger, David B. Woodbury, and at least one additional Brady assistant joined together in Gettysburg days after the cessation of hostilities in July of 1863. For perhaps a full week they focused their attention upon photographing the suddenly famous terrain. The public’s appetite to see what the field of battle looked like was whetted. Gettysburg’s fame had been earned as soon as the readers of the northern press digested lengthy and spell-binding accounts of the three days of fighting which culminated in a stunning defeat for Lee’s Army of Virginia. During their several days in Gettysburg, Brady’s men managed to expose 36 known photographic plates, mainly in stereoscopic format — an average of only about 6 a day. Likely a few months later in a tiny hamlet about 25 miles east of Gettysburg, some photographers took 6 outdoor scenes late in the afternoon of a single day, nearly all of which were shot in stereo. Although the location photographed was described by some unknown scribe as a “point of note during the invasion of Lee in 1863” (see below), those six hastily composed photos depict neither a battlefield, the home or birthplace of a famous person, the site of any important or infamous event, nor a place known to most Americans either then or now. Any evidence of damage wrought by Confederate cavalrymen was long gone by the time those photos were taken. Questions about why so many of those images were exposed, by whom they were taken, and what they depict have lingered and been debated for decades. Nearly a century after their creation, even the state in which the photographs were recorded remained a complete mystery to most of the National Archives curators.

William A. Frassanito writes in Early Photography at Gettysburg (1995), at p. 416, that Josephine Cobb, the former Director of the Still Picture Branch of the National Archives, shared with him several of her notes about her review of the contents of a private collection of papers written by David B. Woodbury covering some of the time period Woodbury worked for Mathew Brady. According to Mr. Frassanito, Cobb’s “notes indicate that Woodbury’s papers for July 1863 are missing, and made no specific reference to Woodbury having attended the November 1863 dedication ceremonies.” Two years later, Mr. Frassanito reiterated that “neither Brady, nor any cameramen affiliated with Brady’s firm, are known to have covered the November 1863 dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg.”[1] Because the Woodbury papers remain in private hands and unavailable for research, photo-historians reached a dead end in their quest to determine if Brady or any of his assistants witnessed and attempted to photograph Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

But as revealed in “The Brady Bunch: The Case of the Missing Gettysburg Photos,” it is now known that within the David B. Woodbury private collection there is a letter from Woodbury which he penned from Washington, D.C. to his sister Eliza, dated November 23, 1863, which states in part:

I went to Gettysburg on the 19th with Mr. Burger [sic] the superintendent of the Gallery here. We made some pictures of the crowd and Procession … We found no trouble in getting both food and lodging.”

Although the owner of that letter has confirmed to me that it does not disclose much more detail about what David B. Woodbury and Anthony Berger (then the superintendent of Brady’s Washington gallery) did in Gettysburg, this correspondence establishes that Brady sent the same two ace photographers who were with him in Gettysburg in July of 1863 back to that town about 4 1/2 months later to cover the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s presence there. No one, as of yet, definitively has identified any November 19, 1863 photos taken by Berger and Woodbury in Gettysburg, but those men may well have taken photographs en route to or returning from the Gettysburg cemetery dedication event.

Mr. Frassanito has described a series of at least six negatives taken at Hanover Junction, PA, located about 25 miles east of Gettysburg, which are credited in “the earliest surviving identifications” to “Brady & Co.” See examples of two of the negative jackets from the collection of the National Archives, below:

Jacket 33496v Fold3 shows jacket   jacket B-83

The oldest surviving captions from this particular series misidentified them as views of Hanover Junction, Virginia from 1864 or 1865. It is now well-established that they depict Hanover Junction, PA rather than VA. This conclusion is readily apparent when the images are compared to the surviving railroad depot in Hanover Junction, PA and what is left there of the extant tracks and rail beds. See, e.g., an article and corresponding “then and now photos” published in the Gettysburg Daily on December 3, 2008 at Also, railcars of the North Central Railway (marked “NCRW”), which passed through Hanover Junction, PA, can be seen sitting at rest on an adjacent railroad siding in some of the photos.  See “Crowds Await Transfer to Gettysburg for Dedication of the National Cemetery in Nov. 1863″ (March 7, 2012), at, by Scott L. Mingus, Sr.

According to an article in the May 2, 1953 Gettysburg Compiler, entitled “More Brady Pix Discovered,” two grand nieces of Mathew Brady “discovered  in Brady’s old studio” a book published two years before Brady’s death containing three of the Hanover Junction photos. That piece — The Memorial War Book (1894) by George F. Williams — is illustrated with dozens and dozens of photos attributed to the teams of Brady and Alexander Gardner and was the first published photo-engraved book of Civil War photography. The three Hanover Junction photos appear at p. 395 of that 1894 book, and are correctly represented under the master caption “Scenes of Hanover Junction, Pa.” Even more remarkably, they are placed in a grouping with images and text relating to the Battle of Gettysburg campaign. On June 27, 1863, Confederate forces raided Hanover Junction, cut the telegraph wires, tore up some railroad track, and burned the covered railroad bridge which spanned the adjacent Codorus Creek. They met with token resistance. By some unknown means that book’s author correctly determined where those photos were taken and used them to illustrate events in 1863 (see example, below). As revealed above, the National Archives notated in March of 1937 on the plate jacket of one of the Hanover Junction photos that the Virginia location was incorrect. But not until Josephine Cobb began the process of figuring out the correct location in about 1950 did the National Archives eventually change its descriptions for all of the views in its collection. See “Claim Photo in Times Was Abe Lincoln,” The Gettysburg Times, October 11, 1952.

The Memorial War Book_395c

Mr. Frassanito writes that “all of the available evidence, including the barren foliage, does tend to support [a] November 1863 dating” of the Hanover Junction views.[2] The manner of dress worn by the people posing in the images indicates that they were journeying to or from a formal event and points to a late fall dating. Several soldiers, young and old, can be seen with canes (in one case, a military man uses two of them like crutches), suggesting that they had sustained leg wounds and no longer were in active duty (see detail below from a gelatin silver print on a card mount, courtesy of the Library of Congress, which references the year 1863 in the item’s title). Blogger Andy Hall concurs with this assessment:

33496u people

Might they have been wounded veterans of the Battle of Gettysburg traveling to or returning from the site of that bloody engagement, explaining why they (excluding the two men preening in the left foreground) and four bonnet-wearing women were the centerpiece of this particular view? Some or all of these apparently wounded men may have been convalescing nearby at the York General Hospital, located to the north near the North Central Railway station in York, PA, and found themselves stranded in Hanover Junction with passengers from Washington who had reached that place by passing through Baltimore at the southern end of the North Central Line. In summary, the Hanover Junction photos may reveal passengers who had come on two different trains from opposite directions and been deposited at the same station awaiting transport to Gettysburg. See also detail, below, from a different Hanover Junction view in which several soldiers (marked #s 4, 5, 6, 8 & 11) pose in a forward position for the camera with two young boys:


E. & H.T. Anthony & Co. contemporaneously published at least four of the stereo views taken at Hanover Junction in its The War for the Union series of stereocards, noting on each card’s backside that the negatives were by “Brady & Co., Washington” (See “The War for the Union, War Views” #s 2330, 2331, 2332, and 2333).  Anthony & Co. also printed and sold other Civil War photographers’ works. If an Anthony & Co. stereo card identified Brady as the supplier of the negative, it can be said with a very high degree of probability that the photo was taken by a Brady photographer. For example, the front and back images of original Anthony “War Views” cards #2332, #2333, and #2330, taken at Hanover Junction, appear below, courtesy of John Richter. As can be seen, it appears that E. & H.T. Anthony & Co. was the first to mistakenly print the erroneous location for this series of photographs, leading the National Archives to later extrapolate that known troops movements near Hanover Junction, VA placed the photos in the 1864-1865 time  period. Perhaps someone associated with the Anthony firm misread a poorly formed capital “P” as a capital “V” on a handwritten note from Brady’s D.C. gallery, thereby transforming “PA” into “VA.” Perhaps, too, that note accompanied duplicate slides of the four views to the Anthony’s place of business in New York City where they were printed and distributed as The War for the Union stereocards.

Hanover Junction02Frontm2 Hanover Junction02Backm2

Hanover Junction 2333 Front2 Hanover Junction 2333 Backm

Hanover Junction 2330 frontm Hanover Junction 2330 BackT

The Library of Congress attributes the Hanover Junction views to “Mathew B. Brady or assistant.” In summary, this information, Mr. Frassanito’s analysis, and the more recently gleaned evidence that Brady sent Berger and Woodbury to Gettysburg in November 1863, constitute substantial support for crediting the Hanover Junction series of photographs to Messrs. Berger and Woodbury.

Why might two Brady men have exposed photographic plates at, of all places, Hanover Junction? In short, all train passengers traveling from Washington, D.C. to Gettysburg, and vice versa, had to go through Hanover Junction, PA. It was there that two railroads met — the North Central Line and the Hanover Branch Line, the latter of which ran westward to and ultimately terminated in Gettysburg on the Gettysburg Railroad Line. It can be presumed that both Berger and Woodbury were transported to Gettysburg from D.C. by railcar in November of 1863, twice placing them in Hanover Junction. Because Woodbury’s letter to his sister specifies that he and Berger had no trouble finding lodging in Gettysburg, it is very likely that they arrived in Gettysburg no later than on November 17, 1863 — before the most substantial crowds descended upon the town in droves. This is a reasonable supposition in light of the several accounts detailing significant train delays and a huge volume of Gettysburg-bound passenger traffic on November 18 and 19, as well as the problems those late arriving out-of-town guests had in securing lodging. A reporter for the New-York World didn’t mince any words:

The railroad facilities were very bad, especially between Hanover Junction and Gettysburg. I am informed that the best was done that was possible, but that may or may not mean anything. The passengers were compelled to crowd into dirty freight and cattle cars, and in that manner to ride a distance of some thirty miles, to their individual and universal discomfort.”

Another correspondent wrote that in Gettysburg on the night of the 18th, “hundreds slept upon the floors of the [churches,] inns and private residences, and hundreds more took a rigid repose in the [train] cars or carriages...” With only four ordinary-sized hotels and all Gettysburg-area residences overflowing, “there were many people walking the streets, unable to get any accommodations for the night.”[3]

Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s former law partner from Illinois, the President’s de facto body guard, and the U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia, was selected to serve as the Marshal-in-Chief for the November 19 dedication ceremonies in Gettysburg. To this end, on November 17, he made the journey from Washington to Gettysburg along with a number of judges, politicians, journalists, dignitaries, and friends, several of whom were to serve as Lamon’s aides at the National Cemetery dedication ceremonies on the 19th. The Ward Hill Lamon Papers at the Huntington Library reveal that twelve men who agreed to serve as aides signed a petition “signifying their intention of accompanying Marshal Lamon to Gettysburg tomorrow — leaving this city at the hour unnamed (undated).” Among the men accompanying Ward H. Lamon were Robert Lamon (his brother), Benjamin B. French, Judge Joseph Casey, John W. Forney, Solomon N. Pettis, John Van Riswick, Noah Brooks, and Simon P. Hanscom. One of the several journalists who accompanied Lamon on the 17th (perhaps John W. Forney) wrote the following account, published on November 18 in the Philadelphia Press and the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle:

[Mr.] Lamon and a number of his aids … left Washington this morning, at a quarter past eleven o’clock, for Gettysburg, in special cars, kindly provided  by W.P. Smith, of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. They arrived in Baltimore at one o’clock, and repaired to the Eutaw House, where a sumptuous dinner was partaken of, by the courtesy of Mr. Smith. At three P.M. the party left for Hanover Junction, in a special car furnished by the officers of the North Central Railroad. Here we are detained, no car being ready to convey the party to Gettysburg.”

Given Mathew Brady’s high profile, it is possible that Lamon invited the head of Brady’s D.C. photography studio, Anthony Berger,  and his colleague, Mr. Woodbury, to ride with him to Gettysburg — for free, no less. If Messrs. Berger and Woodbury did find themselves stuck with Lamon in Hanover Junction in the mid-to-late afternoon of the 17th with a lot of time to kill waiting for a connecting train to Gettysburg, it would explain why they had the opportunity to unload their photographic equipment and expose several plates in Hanover Junction. But it still doesn’t fully explain what motivated them to unpack and deploy their precious photographic cargo, let alone to expose six outdoor plates at a location where neither a major battle nor even a significant military skirmish between opposing forces had been fought. See, for example, detail from one of the photos (below) showing what John Richter has identified as the photographers’ portable darkroom positioned along a fence line adjoining one of the tracks.

01530udetail 01531adarkroom

The author of “Crowds Await Transfer to Gettysburg for Dedication of the National Cemetery in Nov. 1863,” noted above, estimates that a Hanover Junction photo reproduced below was taken at approximately 4:00 p.m. on November 18, 1863. If the time of day is correct, it would fit into the timetable for when the Lamon contingent was stranded in Hanover Junction waiting for a connecting train to appear on the 17th. As noted in the October 11, 1952 edition of The Gettysburg Times, “shadows indicate the time of day would be shortly before [a November] sunset.”

In one of the Hanover Junction photos, two men stand prominently atop a parked train car hitched directly behind a locomotive (see a print on a card mount in the Library of Congress collection, below; this print was cropped down from the more expansive National Archives B-83 negative). They are the most discernible people in the print and possibly the chief targets of the cameramen. Perhaps the men standing atop the train are Ward H. Lamon and his brother Robert, who performed the duties of a marshal’s aide for his older brother at the Gettysburg dedication ceremonies? Robert, who also served as a Deputy U.S. Marshal under Ward H. Lamon in Washington, was then 28 years old; his older brother was 35.


See detail, below left, of the two men as well as detail, below right, featuring them prominently within a different Hanover Junction view taken looking towards the eastern-facing side of the depot.

possible Lamons-3a50436u 01530uLamon

Compare these men with an undated studio photograph of Ward Hill Lamon (courtesy of the Library of Congress, below left) credited to Mathew Brady and a carte de visite of Robert Lamon from about 1864:

 02903u_head crop Robert Lamon crop

Is it possible that they are the same men? Might this explain why Berger and Woodbury exposed several of their precious glass plate negative slides even before they arrived in Gettysburg? The Lamon brothers’ entries in the Washington, D.C. City Directory for 1864, below, reveal that Robert then boarded with his older brother’s family:

1864 Washington DC Directory-194

The goateed man with the bowler hat also appears in a stereo view scene depicting a railroad bridge over Codorus Creek (see below, in close-up detail, courtesy of the Library of Congress). The approximate center point of that North Central Line bridge, where the man sat, is no more than about 250 feet from the eastern side of the Hanover Junction railroad station. The camera was set up about 400 to 500 feet from the station house next to the Hanover Branch Line tracks and faced the Codorus Creek bridge looking in an east by northeasterly direction. The sunlight cast on the man illustrates that the plate was exposed late in the afternoon when the sun was low in the southwestern sky. I estimate the distance from the camera to the man on the bridge at about 325 to 375 feet. Was Ward H. Lamon the sort of man who might have walked out onto a train bridge, sat on the end of a railroad tie in the middle of the bridge, and there dangled his feet in order to pose for a stereo photograph? Would Anthony Berger or David Woodbury have asked W.H. and Robert Lamon to do such a thing, let alone climb atop a railroad car, or might Ward H. Lamon — Lincoln’s self-proclaimed bodyguard and the U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia — have directed the camera operators to photograph him and his brother in several poses demonstrating their virility?


Three other males joined the goateed man on the bridge. Only one of them also sat on the end of a railroad tie, but that man chose a somewhat safer spot where his feet firmly rested upon a large, squared log directly above one of the bridge’s massive stone foundations in the middle of the creek. He is the same fellow seen standing with the goateed man in the two other Hanover Junction views previously discussed and who may be Robert Lamon (see a comparison, below).

Robert Lamon compare

Is the goateed man Ward Hill Lamon, who was captured in this and two other pictures by the photographers as a form of payback for providing free transportation to Gettysburg, or is he simply a historically irrelevant figure with a goatee who prominently inserted himself (along with a younger man) into three generic Berger & Woodbury views which were taken only with the object of photographing buildings, structures, and equipment rather than specific people or groups of significant people in various scenes?


Because the only other people photographed on the bridge are a boy shielding his eyes from the sun with his right hand (see above) — standing between the men who may be the brothers Lamon — and one of the interloping men preening before the camera in the view showing military men and several women on the station house platform (see a side-by-side comparison, below), it appears that the goateed man and his side-kick again were the primary human subject matter posed within a Hanover Junction photographic view taken by the Berger-Woodbury team.

preening man compare

In his book The Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery (1993), Professor Frank L. Klement describes Ward H. Lamon as “stout, most handsome, and possessed of a swashbuckling air.” Despite an apparent penchant for casually striking swashbuckling poses and the strong resemblance of his side-kick to Robert Lamon, is the goateed fellow burly enough to be Ward H. Lamon? Would Lamon have been inclined to cut his hair that short before he served as the Chief Marshal at the Gettysburg Soldier’s Cemetery dedication event? Was Lamon clean-shaven or sporting a goatee in November 1863? Part of the difficulty in making any conclusive identification of the possible Lamon figure is that there are not, to my knowledge, any dated photos of him from 1863, let alone in the fall of 1863, to use as a basis of comparison. A hatless man with a goatee seated next to Lincoln on the Gettysburg speakers’ platform visible in the so-called David Bachrach photo taken on November 19, 1863 might be W.H. Lamon, but it is more likely that he is one of Lincoln’s personal assistants — John Nicolay — given where he is seated. Whether or not Ward H. Lamon is in the Hanover Junction views, however, is a mere sidelight to a bigger question. Again, quoting Professor Klement, he writes: “on the next day, November 18, most of Lamon’s friends and aides toured various parts of the vast battlefield [in Gettysburg].” If Messrs. Berger & Woodbury accompanied Lamon to Gettysburg on the 17th, they probably revisited portions of the Gettysburg battlefield on the 18th, perhaps even famous locations they had missed in July such as Meade’s headquarters at the Lydia Leister house or Devil’s Den. It is exciting to speculate that these men took more Gettysburg battlefield views which have yet to be discovered.

Whereas searching for the tandem of Ward Hill and Robert Lamon was not the impetus behind this review of the Hanover Junction photos, other researchers have engaged in the search for Gettysburg dedication ceremony luminaries in the Hanover Junction images for more than a half century. For a number of years particularly Thomas Norrell, a collector of old locomotive photos, and Russell Bowman, President of the Lincoln Society of Hanover Junction, argued that President Lincoln is visible in at least one of the Hanover Junction views. Their position first was made public prior to Josephine Cobb’s November 1952 disclosure of Lincoln’s visage in a Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery dedication photograph. Until then, it was “pretty well agreed [by and among Lincoln scholars] that the Great Emancipator was never photographed either at or on his way to Gettysburg, Pa.” The Gettysburg Times, October 11, 1952. The advocates of Lincoln’s presence in at least one of the Hanover Junction photos — the one depicting two men standing atop a parked train car, seen above — assert that a whiskered figure in a stovepipe hat standing largely unattended on the platform near the locomotive is President Lincoln. That same man also appears in a second stereo view clutching, again, an umbrella with a black gloved hand. He is posed in the second photo near several large trunks (see detail below, Library of Congress).

alleged lincoln00 01532anotlincoln

When originally disclosed to the media, the top photo, above, created a “buzz” as it was held out as the possible first photographic discovery of Lincoln’s image in connection with his visit to Gettysburg. After the Western Maryland Railway Company released the photo in early October 1952 “calling attention to the ‘tall man’ in the stove pipe hat … experts and amateurs alike jumped into the controversy. Art editors sent the photo throughout the country. Life Magazine pondered the problem and set the prints before its readers.”[4] One of the arguments asserted in support of the “Lincoln was photographed at Hanover Junction” theory is “the fact that the picture was made at all by the famed Brady … indicate[s] an event of some importance in Hanover Junction.” This argument actually supports dating the photographs to November 1863 in that other than traveling to and from Gettysburg, there is no other explanation for two Brady photographers being in and taking pictures at Hanover Junction. And the only two times Brady photographers are documented to have been in Gettysburg during the Civil War are in July and November 1863. When they were there in July, moreover, the Codorus Creek railway bridge was burned down and the military controlled and used the the rail service to transport supplies and the wounded between Gettysburg and, for example, the York General Hospital, to the exclusion of civilians. The passengers visible in the Hanover Junction views are a mix of soldiers and mostly civilians and the context of those photos coupled with the amount of time over which they must have been shot strongly suggest that the passengers were waiting for a Hanover Branch Line train to arrive which could ultimately get them to Gettysburg via a connection in the town of Hanover to the west.

Despite initial skepticism over — and even out-right rejection of — the claim that Lincoln was photographed at Hanover Junction expressed by notables such as Ms. Cobb, numerous Lincoln scholars, and photo-historians, The Gettysburg Times on June 17, 1953 described the photo in question as “the famed Hanover Junction picture, which many claim depicts Lincoln enroute to Gettysburg.” Nearly twenty-five years later, a March 1, 1988 Gettysburg Times headline proclaimed “Historians Still Debate if Photo is of Lincoln.”

Without now parsing through the several contextual arguments running counter to the “its Lincoln at Hanover Junction” theory, I’ll simply note that today’s high resolution digital scans reveal that the man does not look at all like Lincoln. Moreover, if Ward H. Lamon and his brother Robert are visible in several of the Hanover Junction views, then the whiskered man cannot be Lincoln simply because Lamon traveled to Gettysburg the day before Abraham Lincoln left Washington (Lamon’ role as Lincoln’s body guard and escort was filled by Provost Marshal General James B. Fry during Lincoln’s visit to Gettysburg). Which leads us back to some remaining questions — are these views merely generic scenes of the Hanover Junction railway station and surroundings taken in November 1863 which just happened to be populated with a number of stranded passengers or did the photographers compose these images purposefully and place a specific person or persons of notoriety in one or more of their stereoscopic scenes? Also, assuming that the images, in fact, were exposed around the time of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, did Anthony Berger and David Woodbury take them on the way to or back from Gettysburg? If Berger and Woodbury took these views in connection with their now documented trip to Gettysburg, what happened to the views they took in Gettysburg of “the crowd and Procession?” How is it that four of their Hanover Junction views were published by E. H. & T. Anthony & Co. but none of their Gettysburg dedication event views are known to collectors and historians? Ah, the secrets that have yet to be revealed …

By Craig Heberton, May 4, 2014 (to be continued)



[1] William A. Frassanito, The Gettysburg Then & Now Companion (1997), at p. 58

[2] Ibid.

[3] Timothy H. Smith, “Twenty-Five Hours at Gettysburg,” Blue & Gray Magazine, at p. 14 (Fall 2008), quoting “Dedication of National Cemetery,” Gettysburg Star and Banner, November 26, 1863 and Daniel A. Skelly, “A Boy’s Experiences During the Battle of Gettysburg” (1932) at p. 26.

[4] The Gettysburg Times, January 1, 1954.

The First Photo Op: Anthony Berger’s White House Photos of Lincoln

14 Apr

April 26, 1864, Washington, D.C. – A century and a half ago, for the first and only time, Abraham Lincoln was photographed inside the White House, thereby inaugurating, in the words of Harold Holzer, a now “routine White House occurrence — the photo opportunity.”  Francis B. Carpenter, a portrait painter, arranged for and oversaw that session in what is presently called the Lincoln Bedroom. That day he jotted in his diary: “Today Mr. [Anthony] Berger from [Mathew] Brady’s came up and took several pictures for me of Mr. Lincoln in the Cabinet room. Succeeded very well.” Carpenter then enjoyed unfettered access to the Lincolns in the White House and desired more photos of the President to use as studies for his painting that now hangs in the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol – The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before the Cabinet (A.H. Ritchie engraving of the painting, Library of Congress, below):

3a05802v LCcrop

To that end, Lincoln posed exactly where the event which Carpenter wished to paint had occurred — by the table in his office/Cabinet Room at which he eventually presented a reworked Proclamation to his Cabinet members on September 22, 1862 before signing it. The proclamation specified that it would take effect on January 1, 1863 in any states still part of the Confederacy. Although Lincoln didn’t remember exactly when he first read the Proclamation to his cabinet – July 22, perhaps? – Carpenter chose to memorialize that event. Nevertheless, his final work product on a canvas measuring 9 feet by 14.5 feet at least represented the creative process resulting in the final document. To view images of the privately owned Lincoln White House photos (or for which rights of any use come with a fee), see:; Harold Holzer’s “Abraham Lincoln’s White House,” White House History No. 25 (2009) at;  Betty C. Monkman’s “Images of the Executive Mansion, 1861-1865,” in Seale, William, The White House: Actors and Observers (2002 ), at p. 68

The photographer who captured these historic views of Abraham Lincoln at the White House was German-born Anthony Berger, then the 32 year-old superintendent of Mathew Brady’s Washington, D.C. gallery. He took the pictures with a four-lens camera he had carted to the Cabinet Room from Brady’s Washington gallery, along with other delicate and cumbersome equipment and chemicals. Lincoln had been photographed twice before by Anthony Berger at Brady’s 352 Pennsylvania Ave. Photographic Gallery of Art, resulting in the creation of several of our most beloved and widely known images of President Lincoln (see examples, below, courtesy of the Library of Congress & the National Archives). As noted by George Sullivan, “thanks to these images  … the face of Lincoln is better known to Americans today than it was in his lifetime.”  Picturing Lincoln: Famous Photographs that Popularized the President (2000), at p. 82. Lincoln’s eldest son, Robert, described the Anthony Berger studio portrait which was later used for the engraving on the U.S. five dollar bill (middle, below) as “the most satisfactory likeness of [my father].”

3a10739r-O-88-by Berger on Tuesday, February 9, 1864  3a07486r-O-92-Portrait used for the engraved bust of Lincoln that appeared on the United States five dollar bill for many years from 1914 to 2007 Landscape

Insufficient sunlight in the White House’s Cabinet Room made photographing Lincoln a significant technical challenge. But Berger overcame this obstacle, somehow making do with the paltry natural lighting from the outer windows. Although the conditions prohibited making photos on par with studio creations, the three Berger photos of Lincoln met, if not exceeded, Carpenter’s expectations. Berger accomplished this despite an unanticipated hiccup. It occurred when the President’s youngest son, Tad, locked Anthony Berger and his assistant out of a closet they were using as a darkroom in the midst of the photographic shoot — and then fled with the key. Abraham Lincoln arose from his chair, left the room to find his son and the key, and later returned to unlock the door. The resulting hoopla probably resulted in the smudging of Lincoln’s face in the only White House photo showing him standing. We know about this — and other events and discussions at the White House — thanks to Francis B. Carpenter’s gem of a book, Six Months at the White House With Abraham Lincoln (1866).

It is altogether fitting and proper that an engraving of Francis B. Carpenter’s The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation found its way onto the original cover of Doris Goodwin Kearns’ book A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, from which was adapted the screenplay for  Steven Spielberg’s 2012 movie Lincoln. Just as that movie serves as a modern-day recreation of Lincoln’s push for the 13th Amendment, Anthony Berger’s White House photos of Lincoln represent our only photographic recreation of the birth of the Emancipation Proclamation, which Harold Holzer describes as “the most history-altering document ever promulgated in [the White House]” and Carpenter, the painter, called “an act unparalleled for moral grandeur in the history of mankind.”

Here’s a salute to the 150th anniversary of the first Presidential photo-op, brought to us courtesy of Anthony Berger, Francis B. Carpenter, Abraham Lincoln and son Tad, and the Emancipation Proclamation (Carpenter, below, in a Brady daguerreotype, from the Library of Congress; along with the first page of the Emancipation Proclamation, from the National Archives).

3c10148vc    514_pg01by Craig Heberton, April 26, 2014

(released a few days early due to travel plans)

Men in (High) Hats: the Tyson Brothers of Gettysburg

23 Jan

This is an update to a prior post: “Finding Photographers and Their Equipment in Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery Photos”

Within a photographic print attributed by William A. Frassanito to Peter S. Weaver taken on November 19, 1863 from the 2nd floor window of the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse are two men facing in a direction away from the camera and hauling what appears to be a long ladder probably for use as a photographic platform (see detail below from file 32845u.tif, courtesy of the Library of Congress).


Might these be the late arriving Tyson Brothers on their way to a position for photograph taking on or very near the border between the grounds of the Gettysburg Soldiers’ National Cemetery and the private Evergreen Cemetery? These Tyson Brothers candidates are highlighted within a circle in the image above; a red arrow indicates the direction in which they appear to be proceeding.


The lead figure (#1, above), wearing a dark coat and a tall stovepipe hat, appears to have crested over a small rise — mimicking a topographical feature existing today near the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse — because the lower half of his horse is obscured. The trailing figure (#2, above) also wears a tall formal topper but is bedecked in a very light-colored coat. He appears to be managing a tall ladder over his right shoulder (perhaps he drew the shorter straw?). It isn’t clear if he is walking or also riding a horse. At some distance in front of him is the partially blocked image of a man or boy (#3) who appears to be considerably shorter than #1 either because he is on foot and/or not nearly as tall as #1. The male designated #3 is cradling a square or rectangular object in his right arm against his side. That object may be a case containing glass plate slides or photographic chemicals. The rider designated #1 appears to be turned in his saddle facing in the direction of and looking down towards #3.

We get enough of a view of individual #1 to see that he has long dark hair tumbling out beneath the back of is hat and a dark sideburn running into a beard, features bearing a considerable resemblance to the same seen in a photograph of Charles J. Tyson at page 29 of William A. Frassanito’s seminal book, Early Photography in Gettysburg (1995). Mr. Frassanito dates that photograph to 1860. Isaac G. Tyson, who looked much like his brother, is pictured sporting a goatee in a c. 1863 photo both at page 29 of Mr. Frassanito’s aforementioned book as well as at: The more diminutive fellow, #3, may well be the Tyson Brothers’ assistant, William H. Tipton, who was then just 13 years-old and in later years took over the Tysons’ photography business in Gettysburg.

The fact that there are two men wearing high hats proceeding together with photographic equipment further suggests that they are the Tyson Brothers. It reasons that local photographers would be far more likely to dress in formal attire — especially stovepipe hats — then out-of-town photographers who had to lug their gear and chemicals by rail or horse and wagon to Gettysburg. This would explain why of all of the candidates for photographers visible within this view, they are the only ones wearing tall, formal top hats. The other visible photographers wore far more comfortable and practical headgear. It also is no coincidence that the Gettysburg dedication scene sketch drawn by Frank Leslie’s artist Joseph Becker probably depicts the Tyson Brothers in tall hats (see the discussion of this topic in my book —  Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg: A Review of Alexander Gardner’s Stereoscopic Photos:

 If these are the Tyson Brothers, it appears that they are on their way to a spot where a ladder already has been deployed (boxed in yellow, below). Perhaps their objective was to set up two ladders side-by-side to create a photographic platform. It is not clear why the backside of the deployed ladder appears to be backed by a dark triangular-shaped piece of cloth with a straight-lined bottom horizontal to or laying on the ground. Although the purpose of this feature is not fully understood — perhaps it had to do with a portable darkroom setup — it does support the conclusion that what we see are not stacked arms, but, rather, a tall folding step ladder observed from a side angle.


On the apparent ladder already in place, boxed in yellow, stands a man (marked #4) a rung or two off the ground. He is facing in a direction more-or-less opposite to the speakers’ platform with his right arm extended gripping the leg of the ladder or something reflective on the ladder. He might be assisted by a man marked as #5 facing the camera and another possibly standing on the opposite side on an even higher rung facing roughly towards the speakers’ platform, marked #6. However, it is just as likely that #6 is a man standing in the background, in which case only one or possibly two men had gone out in advance of the Tyson Brothers candidates to begin the process of erecting their photographic platform outside of the crowd gathered on the dedication grounds.

The third Alexander Gardner stereo view may well show the Tysons in their tall dark toppers — one in a light-colored coat, the other in a dark one — standing side-by-side on their two ladders hovering above the crowd (circled in red, see below):

Hauling Ladder Photographers2

If so, we can deduce that the photo taken possibly by Peter S. Weaver and his father from the 2nd floor window of the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse was created well before the third and final Alexander Gardner stereo view was exposed. The location of those two men in Gardner’s third view comports with the positioning of the already deployed ladder boxed in yellow, above, giving further weight to the conclusion that they are the same men seen in the photo attributed by Bill Frassanito to Peter S. Weaver. Neither of those men are visible in that location in Gardner’s first two stereo views, illustrating the considerable time gap between Gardner’s second and third views.

I tip my hat to Charles J. and Isaac G. Tyson for the three surviving procession photos they took in Gettysburg on November 19 (see detail from one of them, below, courtesy of the Library of Congress).


But I must remove my hat to scratch my head in puzzlement over what happened to any photographic exposures they made from their elevated platform at the cemetery — were any of them ever printed? Hopefully what became of those cemetery views will be “uncovered” some day soon. Should they be discovered, those images could represent the Tyson Brothers “crowning” photographic achievement.

All of the text and marked images contained in this blog are copyrighted; all images are derived from the photographic collection of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

— Craig Heberton IV, January 23, 2014

Addressing What Lincoln is Doing While Seated on the Platform at Gettysburg

20 Dec

Martin P. Johnson, in his wonderful book Writing the Gettysburg Address (2013), describes that: “Lincoln’s journey to Gettysburg is encoded in the manuscripts and words of his speech and reflected in the texts of his revisions.” To Professor Johnson’s assessment I would append the following: “Lincoln’s journey to Gettysburg also is encoded within and revealed by the handful of photographs documenting his visit which survive to this very day.”

In 1952 Josephine Cobb discovered the image of Abraham Lincoln seated on the speakers’ platform at Gettysburg within a photograph taken on November 19, 1863. That photo is attributed to David Bachrach by William A. Frassanito (the “Bachrach photo”). For some time I have pondered whether Lincoln is holding an object in his right hand on the platform in the Bachrach photo — explaining why he is seen earnestly peering downwards in the direction of that object which is partially obscured by spectators’ hats in the foreground (see the object boxed in yellow, below).

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What can be seen of the object suggests that it moved during the exposure as some blurring is noticeable above it (see below).

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Could it be that Lincoln was captured reviewing his written speech  — which several observers claim he removed from his coat pocket and glanced at during one point late in Everett’s oration? The object looks like it was folded — possibly even tri-folded. Might the object be a dark leather breast billfold or tri-fold inside of which rested the paper on which his address was written? Or, rather than a long secretary’s breast coat wallet, is it the very paper on which the address was notated? The likelihood that the object is the paper on which the Gettysburg Address was written is diminished by the fact that (1) it is very dark and rigid looking and (2) both the so-called Nicolay copy — thought by most scholars to constitute the oration copy held by Lincoln on the speakers’ platform — and the Hay copy exhibit horizontal and not vertical folds on both of their two pages.

An eyewitness to the event, Professor Henry E. Jacobs, then a student at Gettysburg’s Lutheran Seminary, recollected that:

“As Mr. Everett was closing his oration, Mr. Lincoln, I thought, was showing some of that nervousness, which, according to Cicero, characterizes all successful oratory. His mind evidently was not on what Mr. Everett was saying, but on his own speech. He drew from his pocket a metallic case and adjusted a pair of steel glasses near the top of his nose. Then, reaching into the side pocket of his coat, he produced a crumpled sheet of paper, which he first carefully smoothed and then read for a few minutes. By this time Mr. Everett had reached his final periods.”

Is Lincoln wearing oh-so-hard-to-see steel framed glasses in the Bachrach photo? Pay careful attention to the left side of his face and the temple arm of his reading glasses which appears to be running from his left ear to his left eye as well as the hint of reflective material above each of his eyes. A portion of the glasses’ end piece on the right side of his face also may visible framed by his dark hair (see detail below which has been darkened to better reveal Lincoln’s spectacles).

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I also have wondered for what reason Bachrach chose to time this photograph in order to illustrate Lincoln looking downward rather than facing out at the crowd or even towards the keynote speaker — Edward Everett — who then was standing to his left?

If you believe that Bachrach only desired a generic shot of the speakers’ platform, then the timing of this photograph didn’t matter in that the behavior and appearance of Lincoln and others on the rostrum would have been immaterial. But if Bachrach was trying to capture a photograph with a compelling view of Lincoln, then I have to believe that he chose this particular moment because Lincoln could be seen holding the actual “reading copy” of his Gettysburg Address for what may have been a final inspection some time prior to his oration. Many years after 1863, Bachrach wrote that “the negatives,  8 x 10, [taken at Gettysburg] were of no real interest, I then thought, and … [they were  left] for the woodcut artist.” Because he had produced a very fine generic crowd scene at the Gettysburg dedication ceremony, Bachrach’s dismissive contemporaneous assessment of that scene tells us that he had wanted something more than an image of a throng of spectators gathered around a raised platform. Rather, his account demonstrates that he must have hoped to capture a distinctive image of Lincoln and possibly other dignitaries on the elevated platform, such as Everett, but deemed his effort a failure. Therefore, it is not a reach in logic to conclude that, notwithstanding his distance from the rostrum, Bachrach intentionally timed his view with the purpose in mind of creating a glass plate image of Lincoln holding and reviewing his written dedicatory address while Everett still was standing and orating his lengthy keynote speech. Unfortunately, the image of Everett’s highly blurred face which Bachrach captured proved even less satisfactory than Lincoln’s (see below).


What do you think? What do you see in these images? Is Lincoln holding something and eyeballing it through his reading glasses or is this apparent object merely a portion of the lapel of his frock coat?

The arguments against the dark object constituting part of his overcoat include that: it is much larger and darker than any other portion of his coat (including the visible coat lapels); the same rectangular area of darkness cannot be seen on the opposite side of his coat lapel; a coat lapel would exhibit softer, more rounded lines as opposed to the parallelogram-like lines and angles framing the object; only the dark object — and no other portion of Lincoln’s frock coat — moved during the several second exposure time of the photograph; and a portion of the object appears to obscure some of Lincoln’s tie. Also, the fact that the left portion (from the viewer’s perspective) of the dark object fronts a lighter-colored top hat probably resulted from the hat being held by the man seated nearest to Lincoln’s right — his personal secretary John Nicolay. This means that the dark object was held away from Lincoln’s torso at a sufficient distance to create such an effect. If the left portion of the dark object fronting the lighter-colored hat was part of Lincoln’s coat lapel, it would not be framed by someone’s hat in the background. Instead, it would be framed by the rest of Lincoln’s frock coat.

We are reminded by these image details that historical evidence can be buried deep within old photographs. Clearly, Bachrach, like fellow photographer Alexander Gardner, did more than try to obtain generic crowd shots at the Gettysburg dedication ceremony. A careful study of the surviving photographs — combined with a critical review of the written record — can reveal to us the intentions of the photographers who were present in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. For example, the man crouched down and peering over Lincoln’s right shoulder in the Bachrach photo is Wayne MacVeagh, then a District Attorney for Chester County, PA and a Republican party power broker in Pennsylvania (see him boxed in red in cropped detail, below).


The fact that he squatted down next to President Lincoln, looked directly at Bachrach’s camera, and posed for the camera reveals that he could see that Bachrach was taking a photograph at that moment. Other men circled in yellow (two of whom are Judge Olin — 2nd from right — and Lt. Cochrane, far right) in the image, above, likewise looked directly at Bachrach’s camera and possibly were tipped off to do so by McVeagh’s behavior. MacVeagh clearly wanted to be memorialized with his face situated near Lincoln’s face and he posed himself in such a way to demonstrate that he understood that Bachrach intended to make Lincoln the centerpiece of his photographic effort (see expanded detail, below). Lt. Henry C. Cochrane, a Marine Band escort, wrote to his father on November 21, 1863 that: “At the cemetery I was again favored, with a seat on the stand, and was totally enveloped by civil and military dignitaries…. Some photographic views were taken of Nicolay, Lincoln & Everett, and I believe my countenance appears in the background, if so, I must surely get one as a ‘souvenir.'”


In an interview with the Daily Louisville Commercial published on November 12, 1879, Lincoln’s Attorney General and friend James Speed, relayed how Lincoln explained that:

“He took what he had written [in Washington] with him to Gettysburg, then he was put in an upper room in a house [the David Wills’ house where he spent the night of November 18th], and he asked to be left alone for a time. He then prepared a speech, but concluded it so shortly before it was to be delivered he had not time to memorize it.”

Accounts of several people, including Oho Governor Tod, the Canadian foreign minister  William McDougall, John Nicolay (one of Lincoln’s personal secretaries), Sergeant James Rebert (who guarded Lincoln’s room on the morning of the 19th), and several others support the contention that Lincoln visited a portion of the battlefield very early on the morning of November 19th, was deeply moved by the experience, and then further modified a portion of his Address shortly before he mounted the horse upon which he rode in the procession to the cemetery grounds.

These observations and bits of evidence speak volumes about what the photographer intended and what at least one person on the speakers’ platform understood Bachrach was then seeking to capture when this photograph was exposed. They also corroborate some of the eyewitness accounts and enhance our understanding of what transpired in connection with Lincoln’s “few appropriate remarks.” Maybe by now “seeing” the actual copy of the Gettysburg Address, and Lincoln studying it on the dedication rostrum apparently in an effort to memorize his most recent edits and mentally add the phrase “under God,” we are now another step closer to reaching a consensus over whether the Nicolay copy, folds and all, really is Lincoln’s oration copy. 

Lincoln on platform

— Craig Heberton IV, December 20, 2013

The cropped images in this post are all courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

Heberton’s Lincoln: The Case

21 Nov


To provide the necessary perspective, take a look at what the Library of Congress (LC)  refers to as the stereo view from the left side of the negative for the first-in-time Gardner photo (first sequenced by Craig Heberton). It is marked (below) to illustrate key landmarks as well as, from left to right, the locations of John J. Richter’s Lincoln, Craig Heberton’s Lincoln, and Christopher Oakley’s Lincoln. This illustrates how far Gardner felt compelled to set up his photographic platform or ladder from the hollow square of foot soldiers in order to be able to “see” over those infantrymen, the soldiers and aides on horseback, and the thousands of spectators standing on higher ground.

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The fact that all known photographs depicting the Soldiers’ Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery grounds on November 19, 1863 were taken outside the hollow square of soldiers illustrates two points. First, it would have been difficult for wet-plate photographers to set up their necessary equipment near a portable darkroom inside the hollow square because: (a) the darkroom had to be near the camera to allow for both the preparation and development of glass photographic plates within the darkroom near the time of their use, (b) the darkroom, the wet-plate chemicals, and the photographic platform couldn’t be placed where they would be in danger of being knocked over, trampled upon, or the plates otherwise might be ruined or diminished in quality, (c) to get inside the hollow square, the photographers might have had to march at the tail end of the parade and their equipment would have been transported by horseback in that no wagons can be seen anywhere within the hollow square, and (d) a wet-plate cameramen within the hollow square might have been compelled to place his equipment outside of the packed inner ring of spectators with a potentially worse view of the platform than outside of the hollow square. Second, even assuming that wet-plate photographers could have gained access to the area immediately in front of the speakers’ platform, it has to be asked whether they would have been comfortable placing a portable darkroom near their camera or forced to place it outside the inner ring of spectators at a great distance from and possibly inaccessible to the camera because of the crush of the crowds (described in several accounts)? It seems more likely, as speculated by John J. Richter, that only a dry-plate camera operator could have overcome the many obstacles within the hollow square thanks to the ease-of-use of those plates. In so doing, a dry-plate operator would have sacrificed image quality in exchange for convenience and maneuverability. Dry-plate technology “did not require sensitization and processing of plates while still wet in the field” and “the most important technical contribution by amateurs in [the 1860s] is the effort to develop a dry plate negative process …” John Hannavy, ed., Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Volume I (2007),  at p. 33The diminished quality of early rudimentary dry-plate technology is the reason why it was used almost exclusively in the 1860s by wealthy men of leisure and/or very technically savvy amateurs. For all of these reasons and more, it can be understood why the wet-plate photographers present at the dedication ceremony in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 may have been compelled to shoot all or nearly all of their plates atop some form of a photographic platform from the relative safety of the area outside the hollow square. John Richter’s  thoughtful analysis about these considerations, in collaboration with Mr. Heberton, is very helpful in answering why Lincoln was photographed at such a distance.


It is difficult at first blush to realize the extent to which the cameras of Gardner and Bachrach were positioned in relatively opposing angles to the speakers’ platform on the cemetery grounds. The marked map, below, allows one to acclimate to those differing views.

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Although the first two Gardner stereoviews were exposed as Lincoln was arriving on horseback and taking part in a reception for him directly in front of the platform, several men observable in the later Bachrach photo (taken when Lincoln was seated and Edward Everett was standing and orating) can be seen upon the platform in the Gardner stereoviews. They were among the many already in position on the rostrum BEFORE Lincoln surmounted steps to join them. The positioning of those men allows for a determination of the different camera angles of each of Gardner and Bachrach and visually “explains” why Professor Oakley’s candidate cannot be correct.


The area in which Professor Oakley claims that Secretary of State Seward was seated for ten minutes before his candidate for Lincoln arrived to be seated next to him is so very far away from the correct spot in which both Seward and Lincoln actually were seated. The WRONG location is is just one of several reasons why his thesis is fatally flawed.  


  • His Lincoln commands no attention from anyone in the crowd — Lincoln was described as “the observed of all observers” when he arrived before the speakers’ platform; Oakley’s Lincoln is the most unobserved of the observed. Men seated and standing on the platform ignore him. No one in the crowd standing on the ground near him doffed their hats in a show of respect, as occurred repeatedly wherever Lincoln appeared in Gettysburg. A review of the Gardner photos shows that the visible crowd is collectively focused upon someone else — not only in the first Gardner stereo view but in the second Gardner photo too. That person, who was the “observed of all observers,” is located in an area nowhere near Oakley’s Seward and Lincoln. This alone undercuts his Lincoln identification.
  • No dignitaries are on their feet preparing to greet his Lincoln as he allegedly prepares to surmount steps while stooped over as if he already is seated.
  • His Lincoln is completely unaccompanied and no one can be seen trailing behind him over a distance of at least forty or fifty yards.
  • William A. Frassanito argued against John Richter’s candidate in 2008 by pointing out that he was unaccompanied by cabinet members Seward, Blair, and Usher — the same argument can be applied against Oakley’s Lincoln whom Oakley says trailed his Seward to the cemetery by 10 minutes (nearly the same amount of time as some say it took Lincoln to ride from the town square to the outskirts of the cemetery). Likewise, Secretaries Usher and Blair are nowhere visible near him even though several accounts describe that Lincoln trailed Seward, Usher, and Blair up onto the rostrum.
  • His alleged Secretary of State Seward was seated on the platform 10 minutes (or more) before his Lincoln is said to be seen in the second (but not the first) Gardner photo standing and not yet seated.
  • His alleged Secretary of State Seward is seated at the far right end of the platform, several rows behind other men situated with their backs to him nowhere near the spot where Seward is shown seated in the center of the front row of chairs on the speakers’ platform in the Bachrach photo. Accounts also place Seward where he is shown in the Bachrach photo.
  • His alleged Seward is “guarded” by young boys standing behind him on the platform in both of the first two Gardner stereo views.
  • Men in the crowd are not seen removing their hats in a show of respect for his alleged Lincoln.
  • His Lincoln allegedly was moving throughout the exposure of the second Gardner stereo view as he walked up (or moved to the base of) stairs; if so, Gardner’s camera from a distance of about 90 yards away never would have captured the facial details claimed to match Lincoln’s studio photo taken from a distance of a few feet when Lincoln sat ramrod straight and perfectly still for Gardner’s several second indoor exposure. Oakley’s Lincoln must have been seated, otherwise his face would have been blurred, twinned, or appeared as a ghost image. Plenty of visual evidence of multiple ghost images of people who moved substantial distances throughout the camera’s exposure supports the conclusion that the second Gardner stereo view was exposed for as long as 10 to 12 seconds.
  • Professor Oakley claims that his Lincoln was soon to be seated to the left of his alleged Seward in the second Gardner stereo view.
  • His Lincoln, in truth, is visible in the first Gardner photo seated in the exact location as he is seen in the second photo — to the left of his alleged Seward (see below). His hat is visible in the first stereo angled in the same orientation as seen in the second Gardner stereo. His Lincoln’s face happened to be turned away from the camera in the first stereo view.

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  • His Lincoln is seated on the extreme far right of the platform behind several rows of standing and seated men when all accounts and the Bachrach photo place Lincoln and Seward in the exact center of the front row of seats on the stand — befitting their stature and importance. David Wills, Esq. and Governor Curtin never would have seated the President and Secretary of State anywhere near where Professor Oakley places them.
  • The nose on his Lincoln is “hawk-shaped;” but Lincoln’s substantial nose was not hooked. In the Smithsonian article trumpeting Professor Oakley’s discovery, the one prominent facial feature which Professor Oakley does not list as matching Lincoln’s face is his nose. In a side profile view, one’s nose usually is their most prominent feature. With respect to Lincoln’s substantial nose, that is the case for sure. To my knowledge, not until an interview with the CBS Evening News on November 19, 2013 did Professor Oakley declare his Lincoln’s nose to be a “match” to Lincoln’s. This he did after first showing a highlighted image of his Lincoln’s face — hooked nose and all. He then showed a computer screen view of his Lincoln’s face already overlaid with a transparency of a scaled-down Alexander Gardner studio photo of Lincoln taken on November 8, 1863 and further framed by an outline of Lincoln’s face seen in that studio photo. A favorable response by CBS reporter Chip Reid was captured on air when, in fact, Reid viewed, in essence, nothing more than Lincoln’s studio photo taken on November 8, 1863 placed within Gardner’s second stereo view shot outdoors on November 19, 1863 which was overlaid on top of the Professor’s candidate for Lincoln. See the screen captures from the broadcast, below.
  • The “beard” on his Lincoln’s chin is tucked into his shirt and many shades darker than the rest of his facial hair; Professor Oakley has conveniently carved out from the dark blob at the base of his Lincoln’s chin only a tiny portion of that which he claims matches Lincoln’s beard. In essence, he sees what he wants to see and has made it so.
  • His Lincoln’s “beard” is just as likely a bow tie or the entire dark blob represents a beard far larger than Lincoln’s December 8, 1863 studio photo.
  • Exclusive reliance upon an alleged visual identification of Seward and Lincoln, without a comprehensive comparative review of details within all three Gardner stereo photos (let alone the written historical record) is insufficient proof. Oakley’s Seward cannot be Seward merely because of where he is seated and when he is said to be seated. Likewise, his Lincoln cannot be Lincoln for the same reasons. No measure of photo software enhancement, overlays, rotation of studio photos, and other technological applications can change that.

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The screen captures (above) from the CBS Evening News interview originally broadcasted on November 19, 2013 are used herein under the fair use doctrine and principles of fair dealing, as they are used for comment, scholarship, and research.


There are numerous accounts that Lincoln wore white gloves over his large hands and a stovepipe hat wrapped with a mourning band in Gettysburg. Detail from the first Gardner photo reveals the heavily shadowed face of a bearded man (see below, boxed in red) with a prominent motion-distorted nose and an equally large right ear beneath a stovepipe hat adorned by a mourning band. The elaborately intricate outer cartilage of his proportionately over-sized right ear can be seen along with a small, rounded jutting chin covered by a dark beard. In this Gardner photo he is the object of the most intense scrutiny of all visible men and women who are standing upon the speakers’ platform and facing Gardner’s camera (“Heberton’s Lincoln”)  despite being turned away from them —  just as President Lincoln would have been. In the words of one journalist, Lincoln was “the observed of all observers” when he appeared before the rostrum.  Many accounts explain that this was so from the moment that Lincoln stepped off his train after arriving in Gettysburg on November 18, 1863 until he departed Gettysburg the following day after giving his “Address,” returning to the town square from the cemetery, dining, shaking hands with thousands of well-wishers at the Wills home, and visiting the town’s Presbyterian church for a final reception with local “hero” John Burns.

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Many studio photographs reveal that Lincoln’s nose and ears were quite large in proportion to the rest of his long face and that his dark beard covered a portion of his prominently rounded and jutting chin, just as can be seen in the first Gardner stereo view.  See, below, a photo of Lincoln from the LC taken during his presidency, illustrating his massively high forehead, lengthy neckline, long and prominent nose, over-sized ears, and rounded, jutting chin.

LC 3c00623v The forward-facing visible grandstand spectators in the scene captured by Gardner were standing on the highest tiers of the speakers’ platform, looking down over others standing beneath them and then ultimately over as many as three rows of chairs on the lowest level of the front of the rostrum set up in a bowed orchestral-like formation. They are seen staring at the singular object of their collective attention fronting the speakers’ platform. It is estimated that they were at a distance of at least 100 yards from Gardner’s camera location (the focal acuity of the dual lenses of Gardner’s camera at this distance was very good so long as objects remained still throughout its four to five second exposure and were not shaded from the sun — note: the second Gardner photo had an exposure time of at least 10-12 seconds). One hatless military man strains to peek at Heberton’s Lincoln by looking over the right shoulder of a taller, mutton-chopped Colonel Henry P. Martin who is standing in front of him also without a topper. Some other men are hatless too. Even the men with their backs to Gardner on horseback — who are situated between Gardner and the rostrum — are all oriented in the direction of Heberton’s Lincoln, appearing equally transfixed.

The only person in the scene not looking at Heberton’s Lincoln is the boy circled in yellow, above. Heberton’s Lincoln gazes down upon upon that boy benevolently with a leftward-tilted, cocked head. The angle at which Heberton’s Lincoln’s hat is oriented results in its motion-obscured brim blocking all of the November sun’s rays from his face. People who knew Lincoln described that he came to favor wearing unusually wide brimmed hats. The boy fronts Heberton’s Lincoln in the manner seen because he is seated in front of Heberton’s Lincoln, presumably on the same saddle of a hidden horse. A large white-gloved left hand from Heberton’s Lincoln — palm side up, with fingers extended — obscures the boy’s mouth and chin from Gardner’s camera. We may see a portion of the boy’s right hand grasping the right side of his face as if he cannot believe what is happening to him and/or looking at something before him in semi-amazement. Possibly standing before the boy at the moment was a portion of a detachment of the Invalid Corps extending an official greeting to their president. These men were wounded at the battle of Gettysburg and deemed unfit to be returned to combat duty but capable of performing other services. They may have been gathered to greet Lincoln near the eagle finial-topped staff (seen within the detail, above, to the far right) stationed to mark the beginning of the corridor of soldiers positioned in front of the rostrum. In the words of one eyewitness — “Easily the feature of the parade was a detachment of forty soldiers who had been injured in the battle and who had been removed to the military hospital at York, thirty miles to the east. They were sent to represent their comrades, every one bearing the marks of the fearful struggle, many of them on crutches. They carried a large white banner draped in mourning which bore this inscription on one side: ‘Army of the Potomac, Gettysburg, July 1, 2, 3, 1863.’ and on  the other side appeared the likeness of a funeral urn and the tribute: ‘Honor to our brave soldiers.'” Why might Lincoln have scooped up a boy appearing to be around the age of 10 and placed him on his saddle in front of the speakers’ platform? The context of what was then happening provides a cogent answer: Lincoln’s 10 year-old son, Tad, was back at the White House fighting a potentially life-threatening case of smallpox. Mary Todd Lincoln had urged her husband not to go to Gettysburg in light of Tad’s serious condition (she also was recovering from being thrown from the Lincoln’s carriage and injuring her head in an accident she believed to have resulted from an act of sabotage). Lincoln received telegrams in Gettysburg from Stanton and his wife before riding in the procession which assured him that Tad was improving rather than taking a turn for the worse. Those messages must have taken some of the huge weight off of his shoulders. Many accounts describe how focused Lincoln was on touching, greeting, kissing, and shaking hands with the children he encountered in Gettysburg.  For example, Rev. D.A. Dickson recounted that — “As the Presidential party in the procession was passing through the Public Square on its way to Baltimore Street, a man standing close to the line held high in his arms his little girl dressed in white. Lincoln reached out his long arms, lifted the child to a place on his horse before him, kissed her, then handed her back to her happy father.” Thus, we have at least one account of Lincoln bringing a child up onto his saddle — in this case, a stand-in for the daughter Lincoln never had. The boy seen on the saddle of Lincoln’s horse in the first Gardner stereo view may have served as a form of temporary surrogate for his beloved Tad. Had Tad not been ill, he might have accompanied his father and mother to Gettysburg and ridden on the saddle of his father’s horse. Several accounts confirm that students who were directed to walk at the back of the procession from the town center were brought forward once they reached the cemetery and passed through the massive crowds with Lincoln’s entourage to the very front of the speakers’ platform. The boy we see in Gardner’s stereo view may have been one of those children — the luckiest of them all.  Below is a photo of Lincoln with Tad from the LC:

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Trailing behind Heberton’s Lincoln, wearing white gauntlets on his hands, is Colonel James Barnet Fry, then the Provost Marshal General (boxed in blue in the first image, above). He is seated atop his horse closer to Gardner’s camera than Heberton’s Lincoln and may have been executing a left-handed salute with a riding crop in his left hand. Fry was Marshal-in-Chief Ward H. Lamon’s boss in Washington, D.C. — in Lamon’s capacity as the U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia — and had been designated by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to serve as Lincoln’s special escort in Gettysburg. Fry later wrote: “I was designated by the Secretary of War as a sort of special escort to accompany the President from Washington to Gettysburg upon the occasion of the first anniversary of the battle at that place. At the appointed time I found the President’s carriage at the door to take him to the station; but he was not ready. When he appeared it was rather late, and I remarked that he had no time to lose in going to the train. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘I feel about that as the convict in one of our Illinois towns felt when he was going to the gallows. As he passed along the road in the custody of the sheriff, the people, eager to see the execution, kept crowding and pushing past him. At last he called out, ‘Boys! you needn’t be in such a hurry to get ahead, for there won’t be any fun till I get there.'” The column in which Lincoln rode in the procession, consisting of Marshal-in-Chief Lamon (Lincoln’s former law partner and confidant), Secretary of State Seward, Secretary of the Interior John P. Usher, and Postmaster-General Montgomery Blair, was immediately trailed by Provost Marshal General Fry’s column. Personally attending to Lincoln’s safety was Fry’s highest duty in Gettysburg. Detail from each of the stereos of the second Gardner stereo view from the LC’s collection, taken an estimated minute after the first view, can be seen below. According to Bob Zeller, no other outdoor Civil War photographs framing the exact same space are known to have been shot with such rapidity. This makes sense given the enormous amount of time required to take a wet-plate glass negative and then develop it on the spot.

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It can be seen that the area occupied by Heberton’s Lincoln in the first Gardner view is still the object of the spectators’ earnest and focused attention in the second Gardner plate. One thing which did change, however, is that all visible men on the rostrum are wearing their hats. The men who were hatless in the first view are now covered. This suggests that men who had uncovered their heads in the first view had done so out of respect for a person they had been viewing or a ceremony involving that person. Many accounts state how men on the speakers’ platform removed or doffed their hats in a showing of respect for Lincoln when he appeared before them.  Colonel Henry P. Martin and the soldier peering over his right shoulder are prime examples. Between the shooting of the first and second Gardner stereos, those two soldiers returned their kepis to their heads after doffing them. The same stovepipe hat adorned by a mourning band in the first Gardner stereo view, is visible in the exact same location in the second stereo view (see the hat under the arrow, below).

17806a 02 the hat

Only this time, the hat is partially fronted by the “ghost image” of a man’s face. The ghost image resulted from the fast movement of the man’s head. It can be shown that the man probably had bowed forward towards Gardner’s camera because the underside of the wide brim of his upward-tilted stovepipe hat clearly can be seen.  The photographic capture of his ghost image resulted in rendering his face and his facial hair an opalescent white. Only his dark, deep-set brows remained true to their actual color. Along with his dark  brows shaped like diacritical circumflex accents, his long nose is very similar to Lincoln’s and he appears to have deeply indented cheek lines as well as a beard covering his rounded chin. See below to view detail within the LC’s second Gardner photo, with a super imposed side-by-side studio image of Lincoln taken by Gardner in Washington, D.C. eleven days before the Gettysburg ceremony. Unlike the studio view, Heberton’s Lincoln’s lips are not pursed. His mouth is open and he appears to be smiling, explaining why his face is a bit longer than the studio image. There are no existing photographs of Lincoln smiling or posing with an opened mouth. This might be the only image we will ever see of him doing either.

17806a-Ghost Lincoln

Thus, it appears that the second view, for which there was a much longer time of exposure than the first view by a factor of 2 or 3 times as deduced by other visual evidence, captured two images of Heberton’s Lincoln: (1) his mourning band adorned hat seen in relatively good clarity and (2) a second and later exposure of his ghost image fronting that hat with the translucent face of Heberton’s Lincoln. The ghost image resulted either because Heberton’s Lincoln bowed his head forward and then raised it back up to reveal his face and hat in an up-turned position or possibly even after he reached down to deposit the boy seen on his saddle in the first view back to the ground. There are several accounts describing how Lincoln was not inclined to gesticulate with his hands, choosing instead to bow to his left or right from atop his horse to acknowledge the crowd’s reaction to him within the procession to the cemetery grounds. One reliable account even describes that Lincoln did not gesticulate with his hands during his now famous consecration oration, rather he bowed from side to side to emphasize various points within his short Gettysburg Address. From the context of what was going on around Heberton’s Lincoln in both the first and second Gardner stereo views which literally were taken “back-to-back” by the standards of 1860’s wet-plate photography, we know precisely where Lincoln was located thanks to the collectively focused gaze of the crowd and the presence of Lincoln’s special escort, Provost Marshal General Fry, a few feet behind him. The fact that the two Near-in-Time Gardner photos were taken in rapid fire succession, followed by a third view much more distant in time, establishes that Gardner was not merely taking generic crowd shots. The visual evidence, although not of the same quality as one might hope to obtain in a studio photograph taken from a distance of a few feet rather than outdoors from 80 to 90 yards with thousands of people present, also is supportive, albeit subject to more than one interpretation. But even what Heberton’s Lincoln wore is extremely supportive. Heberton’s Lincoln is the only Lincoln candidate wearing a mourning bandThis is a critical observation independent of all of the other evidence. He also wore white gloves. Simply because the American intelligence community did not have a photograph of Bin Laden’s face before conducting their raid, the presence and actions of key people around Bin Laden gave them a sufficiently high degree of confidence that he was where they surmised he would be. As it turned out, they were right. The same holds true with respect to the Gardner stereo views. One doesn’t have to look at Heberton’s Lincoln images and declare that they are 100% matches to the studio images of Lincoln to which we all have become accustomed. Taken in combination with a well-reasoned evaluation of the comparative contextual details within each of the three Gardner scenes, Gardner’s true intentions are revealed along with the true location of Abraham Lincoln. Unlike Professor Christopher Oakley, I did not go searching in the hope of finding Lincoln within these photos. Instead, I studied these digital images originally to determine whether John J. Richter’s Lincoln is the “real McCoy” or if William A. Frassanito was correct in maintaining that Gardner only desired generic crowd shots because it was impossible for Lincoln to be anywhere other than seated upon the speakers’ platform completely obscured from Gardner’s camera. Mr. Frassanito, who has admitted in interviews to not being internet savvy, blogged through a friend in 2008 that in light of all of the evidence, “it seems evident to me that the two Gardner stereos were recorded subsequent to the occupation of the speakers’ stand by both Lincoln and the numerous dignitaries who followed him into the National Cemetery” and that Lincoln “would already have been seated on the speakers’ stand, patiently waiting for the ceremonies to begin, i.e., the speeches, etc.” For these and other reasons, he assigned a 20% probability that Mr. Richter and his colleague Bob Zeller had struck real gold rather than fool’s gold. See My book concluded that Mr. Frassanito’s position that Gardner’s photographs were mere “crowd shots” and not intended to capture Lincoln within any of the scenes is erroneous because an enormous amount of visual and documentary evidence says otherwise. Abandoning his prior position that Lincoln could not possibly be arriving at the speakers’ platform when any of the Gardner stereos were taken, Mr. Frassanito stated a new position in the October 2013 Smithsonian Magazine that he is 80% certain that Lincoln is visible in the second Gardner stereo view arriving, according to Professor Oakley, at the speakers’ platform. 80% is a very high number in light of the assignment of a failing 20% probability to the same proposition only 5 years earlier.  Nearly all of the six or seven reasons cited by Mr. Frassanito in 2008 against the proposition that that the Gardner stereo views cannot possibly show Lincoln arriving at the speakers’ platform (including those articulated in a Civil War News interview conducted by Deborah Fitts) have not been affected in any way by the new ultra-high resolution scans obtained by Professor Oakley sometime during the first three months of 2013. That is because those now abandoned arguments merely were based upon a contextual interpretation of the views rather than the physical features of Richter’s Lincoln. His only remaining contention from 2008 against John Richter’s Lincoln candidate which still applies today is that the appearance of Richter’s Lincoln reveals that he “was undoubtedly nothing more than an anonymous, historically insignificant civilian official … that followed the dignitaries into the National Cemetery” and who was “hardly the focus of Gardner’s attention.” One of Mr. Frassanito’s 2008 arguments — that “Lincoln did not ride alone in the procession … [and] it is well documented that Lincoln was accompanied and flanked by several mounted civilians, including the chief marshal and three members of Lincoln’s cabinet (one of whom was six-feet-tall and undoubtedly wearing a hat). The individual identified by John appears to be completely unaccompanied by any mounted escorts [emphasis added]” — undercuts Professor Oakley’s position. Because Professor Oakley maintains that his candidate for Secretary of State Seward was seated in the first Gardner stereo view for ten minutes before Oakley’s Lincoln magically appeared out of nowhere in the second Gardner stereo view, Professor Oakley is left without any rational explanations for why everyone ignored and no one accompanied Oakley’s Lincoln in the second view … if he really is Lincoln. (Except as otherwise noted, all images hereinabove are courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)


It was an honor to attend the 150th Anniversary of the Dedication of Gettysburg’s Soldiers’ National Cemetery on November 19, 2013. My thanks to everyone who made my visit an unforgettable experience. Please note that all of the images below are subject to a copyright in favor of Craig Heberton IV who reserves all rights. — Craig Heberton

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Finding Photographers and Their Equipment in Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery Photos

17 Nov

This is an update to a portion of a chapter within Craig Heberton IV’s ebook Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg: A Review of Alexander Gardner’s Stereoscopic Photos (2012):

Within detail of a photo attributed by William Frassanito possibly to David Bachrach (the “Bachrach photo” — the one in which Lincoln was discovered by Josephine Cobb in 1952 seated on the platform) can be seen what may be the upper portion of a man-made object situated just inside the hollow square of soldiers (see detail, below). Its height and rectangular shape strongly suggest that it was a portable darkroom with an onward facing soldier in front of it — rather than just a moving blur. It is somewhat evocative of a photograph of a portable darkroom positioned near Hanson E. Weaver taken in 1867 by his cousin, Peter S. Weaver, at Culp’s Hill on the Gettysburg battlefield.  John J. Richter agrees that the boxed object is a portable darkroom. He speculates that if it wasn’t associated with Peter S. Weaver it may have belonged to someone like inventor/engineer Coleman Sellers of Philadelphia — a member of the small Amateur Photographic Exchange Club (“APEC”) who could have attempted that day to photograph with a less cumbersome durable dry-plate. I agree and mention that it is equally possible that another member of the APEC from Philadelphia — Samuel Fisher Corlies — could have been within the Gettysburg crowds and even near the front of the platform. Mr. Frassanito has speculated that Mr. Corlies was in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 based upon several stereoscopic views he took of the cemetery and surroundings after October 27, 1863. The probable presence of a darkroom within the hollow square of infantry signals that at least one photographer then was situated with his camera inside that area sealed off by soldiers. How a photographer or photographic team managed to place an upright portable darkroom (possibly on a tripod) within the hollow square is an intriguing question and raises yet another — was the outer perimeter area of the hollow square as close to the speakers’ platform that any darkroom could be safely placed due to the unyielding and forward pushing crowds? Likewise, must not the camera associated with this darkroom have been situated at the very front of the crowd in order to have any view of the platform? Might this possible darkroom have belonged to the photographer or one of the photographers to whom the journalists referred situated directly in front of the platform who failed to capture Lincoln when he rose to deliver his shorter than unanticipated oration?

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In a photographic print attributed by William Frassanito to Peter S. Weaver  (see detail, below) there can be seen a camera operated by a man seated on top of a tall folding step ladder facing towards the grandstand (boxed in red). He either was perched on some sort of a modified seat affixed to the ladder or possibly on what may be planking (the “Ladder Photographer”). I estimate that the Ladder Photographer was located a distance of about 50 – 65 yards from the Weaver photo camera. A person to the right of the Ladder Photographer (boxed in blue) could conceivably be David Bachrach or the photographer from Harper’s whom Bachrach assisted. David Bachrach wrote that he took a photo “of the crowd … while Mr. Everett was speaking.” (David Bachrach, “Over Fifty Years of Photography,” The Photographic Journal of America, Vol. 53 (January 1916), at pp. 19-20.) The person boxed in blue perhaps was standing next to a portable darkroom mounted on a tripod (reminiscent of a photograph attributed to Mathew Brady — taken in Gettysburg in July 1863 at the home of John Burns in which John J. Richter in 2003 discovered Brady posing near a portable darkroom on a tripod). The left side of this cropped Weaver photo image also appears to reveal the backside of two men on horseback hauling a long ladder, boxed in green, probably to be used as a photographic platform (the “Two Ladder Hauling Photographers”). Might these be the late arriving Tyson Brothers on their way to take more photos after having just hauled their photographic equipment and ladder platform up the Baltimore Pike and through the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse following the shooting of their procession photographs near the intersection of Baltimore St. and Steinwehr Avenue? It would have taken the Tyson Brothers a good deal of time after Lincoln passed them by to develop their third photograph  (at least 5 minutes), take down their photographic platform, pack up and secure for transport their chemicals and equipment, and then make their way more than two-tenths of a mile to the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse before entering the grounds. This view also may show a young man on foot accompanying the Two Ladder Hauling Photographers, possibly their then 13 year-old assistant, William H. Tipton who in later years took over the Tysons’ photography business in Gettysburg.

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Detail from the Weaver photo showing the Ladder Photographer and his apparent assistant possibly standing next to a darkroom mounted on a tripod, can be seen below. These people are partially obscured by a multi-branched leafless tree between them and the camera. Based upon their appearances, it is possible that the Harper’s photographer, whom the then 18 year-old David Bachrach assisted at Gettysburg, is the Ladder Photographer seen in the Weaver photo and Bachrach then was charged with manning the darkroom. When these men moved to a location closer to the speakers’ platform, they may have switched their roles so that Bachrach could take a photo “of the crowd … while Mr. Everett was speaking” — which resulted in the famous photo in which Lincoln is visible seated on the speakers’ platform while Everett is standing.

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Just above the “Ladder Photographer in the Weaver photo there may be yet another step ladder in the distance (boxed in yellow, above, and circled in red within detail, below) located near soldiers just beyond an apparent corner of the hollow square. This is generally within the estimated area from which the Bachrach photo was taken (“possible Bachrach camera position”).

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Somewhat in the foreground of the Weaver photo is a group of what appear to be two civilians gathered next to one of three unmounted horses; three other horses mounted with more youthful looking riders — possibly part of the same group — look on nearby. An unmounted horse to the right with a feedbag hanging from its head and a rolled blanket on the back of its saddle probably belonged to the cavalry soldier standing in front of it. The only man standing next to the three unmounted horses who is facing the camera has a very large, dark beard and sideburns. The other man, with his back to the camera, might be wearing a fringed tartan kilt over his pantaloons. The horse next to these two standing men appears to have an object strapped on top of it which may be a camera or a box containing photographic supplies (see object boxed in red within detail, below). A second box may be strapped on the saddle’s opposite side. If these men also are photographers, then it would appear that no photographers’ wagons were permitted to enter upon the cemetery grounds at least through the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse.

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John J. Richter believes that he has located the Weaver photo camera in a second floor open window of the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse and points to a single lens camera which can be seen peeking out of that window in the Two Near-in-Time Gardner photos (see circled detail from the LC’s 17807u.tif, below). Although Mr. Frassanito has written that “judging from the perspective, [the Weaver photo] was probably not taken from the second-story window of the gatehouse itself,” a comparison of a tall tree and a sign seen near the gatehouse in that Gardner view to the same tree and sign seen in the immediate foreground of the Weaver photo proves that Mr. Richter is correct. The 2nd floor window with a single-lens camera is circled in red in the top image below from detail within one of the Gardner stereoviews. Boxed in blue is a sign leading into the Evergreen Cemetery warning against the discharge of firearms. Boxed in green appears to be the Ladder Photographer peering over the top of his camera.


Detail from the Weaver photo is marked below to show the sign warning against firearms discharge (boxed in blue), the Ladder Photographer (boxed in green) and the tall tree visible in the Gardner stereos near the archway of the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse as well as the leaning tree seen in the Gardner stereos directly in the center of the archway which partially impeded the view of the Ladder Photographer in the Weaver photo.


A modern view taken from ground level underneath the second floor window of the southern tower of the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse at 10:11 am on November 18, 2013, appears below:


Mr. Richter notes that Mr. Frassanito assigns credit to Peter S. Weaver for a photograph of the Soldiers’ Cemetery grounds taken from a window of the William Duttera House at 380 Steinwehr Avenue. The Duttera house was at least six-tenths of a mile from the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse by way of dirt roads clogged at times that day with thousands of spectators. According to Mr. Richter, the logistics of hauling and setting up photographic equipment between such distant points flanking opposite east and west sides of the Soldiers’ Cemetery suggest that it is less probable that Weaver took photographs of the cemetery grounds from both of those locations and more probable that Weaver took the Duttera House photo and someone else who knew the Thorn family residing inside the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse — took the other.  Potential candidates besides Peter Weaver identified by Mr. Richter are the Tyson Brothers. I believe photographers such as Gettysburg studio photographer John S. Speights and his assistant Robert A. Myers, as well as Brady photographers Anthony Berger and David Woodbury, are viable candidates too.

As noted above, the Ladder Photographer visible in the foreground of the Weaver photo appears to be visible in the background of Gardner’s second stereo view peering over the top of his camera — boxed in red below.

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By the time that the third Gardner stereo view was taken, the Ladder Photographer doesn’t appear to be visible any longer. Instead, two other men in top hats — one wearing a dark overcoat and the other covered by a very light colored one — are facing in the direction of Gardner’s camera from a slightly different area to the left and apparently much closer to Gardner. Based upon their outfits, these men may be the late-arriving Two Ladder Hauling Photographers and, therefore, the Tyson Brothers. See the two men facing Gardner’s camera and positioned high above the crowd circled in red within detail from the third Gardner stereo view and the Two Ladder Hauling Photographers circled within detail from the Weaver photo, below.

Hauling Ladder Photographers2

John J. Richter also has located Gardner’s photographic platform in the background of the Weaver photo. With knowledge of the correct location of the Weaver photo camera in the southern second floor window of the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse, it can be shown that a man framed on the horizon standing several feet above the nearest riders on horseback is in the correct location to be Gardner or one of his assistants (see detail marked with a red arrow below to indicate the location of Gardner’s camera platform, top image below). Gardner was situated an estimated 255 to 265 yards away from the window on the 2nd floor of the Evergreen Cemetery gatehouse. That man appears to be standing behind a dark object which may be a camera (see detail marked with a red arrow, bottom image below).

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The visual discovery within the Weaver photo of (1) a man standing atop the Gardner photographic platform above an apparent camera, (2) the Ladder Photographer apparently in the act of sighting or taking a photograph with his assistant standing next to a portable darkroom (possibly David Bachrach), and (3) the Two Ladder Hauling Photographers en route to the location at which they probably are later seen on their own photographic platform in the third Gardner stereo view (possibly the Tyson Brothers), is pretty amazing. The discoveries within the Two Near-in-Time Gardner stereo views of  the location of (4) the camera used to capture the Weaver photo in the 2nd floor window of the Evergreen gatehouse and (5) the Ladder Photographer peering over the top of his camera, are just as intriguing. But when these revelations are combined with the discovery of what appear to be (6) the Two Ladder Hauling Photographers in the third Gardner stereo view — who are not seen in the Two Near-in-Time Gardner stereo views and may well be the later-arriving Tyson Brothers — we can now say that thanks to these SIX clues, it is very likely that the Weaver photo was taken around the same time as the Two Near-in-Time Gardner views.  My best guess is that it may have been taken just before those two Gardner stereos. Also, if the Bachrach photo was taken from atop a distant ladder located at the possible Bachrach camera position, the absence of a photographer on that ladder when the Weaver photo was taken supports the conclusion that the Weaver photo was taken prior to the Bachrach photo — and, therefore, possibly close to the taking of the Two Near-in-Time Gardner views. This very probable hypothetical scenario also is buttressed by the fact that the direction of the shadows cast by spectators in the Weaver photo is similar to the shadow directions seen in the Two Near-in-Time Gardner views. The totality of these observations allows for the consideration of another question —  is Lincoln possibly (barely) visible in detail within the Weaver photo (marked beneath a blue arrow in each of the images, below) caught in the act of arriving in front of the speakers’ platform? And if not Lincoln, could it be either a right-handed saluting General Darius Couch, John Richter’s Lincoln candidate, or someone seated or standing on top of the coach parked on the left side of the speakers’ platform?

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These images inspire one to hope that even more details can be teased out of the dedication photographs and that additional photographs and original negative plates still await discovery.

All of the text and marked images contained in this blog are copyrighted; all images are derived from the photographic collection of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

10/3/13 Press Release: Should Oakley’s Lincoln Sit Down?

3 Oct



Judy Ault

WMI Books




CROZET, VA – In 2010, Craig Heberton and his associate began to review within the Library of Congress’ collection several hi-resolution digital images of three stereographic photographs by Alexander Gardner taken on November 19, 1863 at the Gettysburg Soldier’s Cemetery dedication ceremony – two of which reveal the image of Abraham Lincoln at the scene of the Gettysburg Address – or so Heberton believed and set out to prove. Heberton published his findings in an eBook in 2012: Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg: A Review of Alexander Gardner’s Stereoscopic Photographs. The book (published by WMI Books and available on Amazon) broke new ground in the identification of individuals surrounding Lincoln and the events of that important day at Gettysburg.

On September 24, 2013, the SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE released an article in the October 2013 issue titled: “Will the Real Abraham Lincoln Please Stand Up?”  The article announced a photographic discovery by Lincoln devotee and UNCA Professor, Christopher Oakley, that places Abraham Lincoln in one of the Alexander Gardner photographs. Heberton’s photographic discovery points to a much more likely figure of Lincoln.  Heberton and Oakley make a case for two entirely different figures as the true Lincoln — but who is right and why?

What makes the Heberton Lincoln a more compelling choice? The pictures tell the real story, along with over two years of research to back it up. To make his case, Heberton has created a blog that sheds light on the differences between Oakley’s Lincoln and his own – compelling research data that raises serious doubts about Oakley’s conclusions.  Read the blog (and the book) and view the photographs for yourself.

Here are some highlights:

Why Oakley’s Lincoln is wrong:

Oakley’s Lincoln is completely ignored by the crowd whereas Lincoln was the center of attention on his arrival;

No dignitaries are on their feet to greet Oakley’s Lincoln when he alone begins mounting steps to the platform;

Oakley’s Lincoln is unaccompanied by the three attending members of Lincoln’s Cabinet (Seward, Blair, and Usher); accounts state that Lincoln immediately followed them onto the platform;

Oakley doesn’t place his Lincoln on the platform until ten minutes after Sec. of State Seward is seated;

No men in the crowd removed their hats in a show of respect for Oakley’s Lincoln;

The nose on Oakley’s Lincoln is “hawk-shaped” and does not match Lincoln’s nose;

The alleged beard on the chin of Oakley’s Lincoln is tucked downwards into his shirt and is so much darker than his other facial hair, suggesting it is a large bow tie rather than a beard;

Oakley’s Lincoln is on the far right of the platform buried several rows back; all accounts and photos place Lincoln in the front and center of the speakers stand.

Why Heberton’s Lincoln makes more sense:

His Lincoln is the center of focused attention from nearly all visible platform spectators in two photos while atop his horse directly in front of the speakers’ platform;

Some men on the platform doffed their hats for his Lincoln;

His Lincoln is positioned near a presidential-appearing eagle finial topped staff;

Lincoln wore white gauntlets over his extremely large hands and was preoccupied with the children at Gettysburg, patting their heads & bestowing kisses;

His Lincoln extends a large white gloved hand in front of a boy’s face seated on the front of his saddle;

His Lincoln precedes Lincoln’s special escort sent by Sec. of War Stanton to safeguard the President, consistent with an account that the escort rode behind Lincoln in the procession;

Within the shadows is revealed a distinctive bearded chin and a large ear and long nose, appearing like Lincoln’s;

A line of contrast in darkness on his Lincoln’s hat betrays the presence of a hat band which Lincoln wore in honor of his deceased son Willie; and

Movement by his possible Lincoln throughout the 2nd exposure created a long and narrow opalescent ghost-image face, smiling at the camera, which appears to have a bearded small chin.

To learn more about Heberton’s photographic discovery of Lincoln and the latest in the Lincoln at Gettysburg photographic debate, please join us online at Facebook and Twitter and follow the book’s blog:

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Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg:

A Review of Alexander Gardner’s Stereoscopic Photos:

October 2013 Smithsonian Magazine Article: