Melvin is an avid reader and a retired scientist (chemist) after working for one major pharmaceutical company for 32 years.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, with his fours sons and his wife , Mary Todd, became the first presidential family to be captured in hundreds of photographs taken by two prominent photographers at the time. Photographers Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner took hundreds of photos of Abraham Lincoln and his family during his administration. All these images of the Lincoln family were captured on glass plates using an imaging process called the daguerreotype method. The method was invented in 1836 about 25 years before Lincoln would become president of the United States. At the same time the Civil War would begin and boost the popularity of photography to a new level and historical importance in documenting the war in a new light. Lincoln would later credit this invention as one of the reason he won the election since his photos were used during his campaign.
The Daguerreotype Imaging Method
The daguerreotype method involved creating images on a copper plate coated with silver to create a mirror surface. When reflected light from an image is emitted through the camera lens on the mirror surface, a direct positive of the image is made on the plate when iodine and bromine vapors are exposed to it resulting in the formation of light-sensitive silver iodide and silver bromide crystals. But by the 1860s this imaging method would be replaced by other imaging methods called ambrotype and tintype. The new imaging process used glass and tin plates, respectively, coated with emulsion.
Early photos of the Lincoln Family
During the early days of photography before Lincoln would become president of the United States, many of the early photos of Lincoln and his family were taken by unknown photographers. One photo taken by these photographers would become the first and earliest picture of a child belonging to a president. Edward Baker Lincoln, the second son of Lincoln, image was captured as a daguerreotype in 1849 thirteen years after the daguerreotype photographic method was invented. He was about three years old when the photo to the right was taken.
As the demand for photographs increased, so does the number of people such as Preston Butler, Alexander Hesler, and Samuel G. Alschuler who jumped into the business of taking photos. Alschuler would take the first picture of Lincoln with a beard. These were the lesser known photographers who took some of the earliest photos of the then president-elect Lincoln. Preston took one of the first picture of Lincoln after he won the election in 1860. The picture was taken on August 13, 1860. Samuel would become the first photographer to take a picture of Lincoln with his newly grown beard in Chicago on November 25, 1860. The well known photographers Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner would emerged out of the crowded field of photographers as the main photographers for the Lincoln family since Brady had an established studio at 352 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. not far from the White House where the Lincolns will spend the next four years of their lives. He also had a studio in New York City where his first famous picture of Lincoln was taken nearby at the Cooper Union where Lincoln gave a speech in 1860. Lincoln would later said that the speech and the photograph were the forces that propelled him into the White House. Over the next four years Brady’s popularity would soar as a result of Lincoln becoming president. Obviously, Lincoln would become his most prized client. Also when the Civil War broke out in 1861 Brady would became the first to sponsor a “photo-journalists” team to cover it.
Photos of Lincoln During His Presidency
Brady and Gardner captured many images of the Lincoln family and photos of Lincoln out in the fields during the Civil War. Many of the photos often show him with his sons and his sons posing alone; such as the picture of Thomas Lincoln (Tad) dressed as a Union soldier in a Zouave uniform taken at the beginning of the Civil War in May 1861. The first photo of Lincoln taken near a Civil War battlefield near Harpers Ferry after the Battle of Antietam in 1862. The photo below shows him facing General George B. McClellan. There are a couple of photos of Lincoln with the general during this visit.
By mid 1863 Gardner had opened a new gallery at the corner of 7th and D streets in Washington. Gardner took several pictures of Lincoln in a standing pose to emphasize his height in this studio. Also, two of the most familiar images of Lincoln were taken in February of 1864 here. They are the three-quarters face portrait currently on the five-dollar bill and the profile image on the Lincoln penny.
Lincoln never posed in a photo with his entire family or took one alone with Mary Todd as his wife. Because of this Thomas (Tad) Lincoln is the only member of the family to officially pose with Lincoln at the Brady's and Gardner's studios. Both photos below were taken on February 9, 1864 by Anthony Berger, one of the photographers at the studio. Francis B. Carpenter, an artist who lived at the White House for a brief time, was also present in the studio when these pictures were taken. The famous picture at the very beginning of this article of the entire Lincoln family as they would have appeared in 1861 was painted from this photo by Carpenter after Lincoln's assassination. In the painting is an image of a resurrected William (Willie) Lincoln. Also the photo of Lincoln and Tad below was painted with the pose reversed in the painting of the entire family.
Photos of Lincoln’s Final Days
There were relatively few photos of Lincoln taken in 1865 prior to his assassination by John Wilkes Booth. But many were taken of his funeral procession through the many cities and towns. The photo to the right is the last known one of Lincoln taken in that year.
After his father's assassination Thomas would live the remainder of his life with this mother until he succumbed to tuberculosis on September 15, 1871, at the age of eighteen. Robert Lincoln would become the only son of the Lincolns to live beyond adolescent to the ripe old age of 82 as the wealthy president of the Pullman Car Company. He lived to witness the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on May 30, 1922.
All these photos are the last of the Lincoln's and the one at the bottom is the last photo taken of Lincoln's body during his funeral.
Abraham Lincoln Figurine
Robert would die four years later on July 26, 1926 at the age of 82.
© 2012 Melvin Porter
jessica on February 04, 2020:
JAG on May 17, 2019:
Awesome photos. Very impressed with Robert Todd the elder, getting help up the steps, and lived to dedicate the Lincoln Memorial.
Toni on October 29, 2018:
Are there ANY names of the soldiers anywhere listed where Lincoln is with McClellan at Antietam, Maryland?. Please help.
ANGELA on September 18, 2018:
HE WAS A GREAT MAN INDEED. I'VE REALLY MISSED HIM
Jane on September 27, 2017:
These are excellent photos. Enjoyed them. Thanks!
kiran from india on November 07, 2014:
Happy to see these photos of great president
Melvin Porter (author) from New Jersey, USA on October 14, 2012:
Moneyfairy, thanks for the comment and for stopping by to read my hub.
Money Fairy from New Woodstock on October 14, 2012:
Interesting Hub!!! Thanks!!
Melvin Porter (author) from New Jersey, USA on February 29, 2012:
Credence2, thanks for the comment. Yes, Lincoln does not have any descendants after the death of Robert's children. Robert was the only child of his to live long enough to get marry and have a family.
Credence2 from Florida (Space Coast) on February 29, 2012:
Nice work, Melpor, I found another photo of the inauguration of James Buchanan, March 4, 1857. We share a hobby and an interest. JQ Adams was the first former president photographed. I also found a classic photo of President James Polk, his wife and Dolly Madison taken, 1847-49 time period.
Did you know that Abe Lincoln has no living descendants?
Most interesting, thanks, Cred2
Melvin Porter (author) from New Jersey, USA on February 24, 2012:
Hecate-horus, thanks for your comment. You are right. Lincoln did not smile until the last few pictures taken by Brady and Gardner. During the middle years of the war he did not smile at all in his pictures. The weight of the war was on him.
hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on February 24, 2012:
The pictures of Lincoln really show the depth of his character and more of a hint of the melancholy that he constantly struggled with. How ironic that the last picture ever taken of him alive seemed to show a hint of happiness and a smile. Very interesting hub!