‘New’ Images of
Gettysburg, Second Inaugural, Identified in Library Collections
Nearly 200 years after his birth, Abraham Lincoln remains a hot topic for historians, schoolchildren and Civil War buffs alike. With only about 130 photographs of the 16th president known to exist, the discovery of previously unknown Lincoln photos is cause for celebration. Such was the case with the recent discovery at the Library of Congress of “new” images of Lincoln at Gettysburg and at his second inauguration.
Lincoln at Gettysburg
In November, amateur historian and Civil War enthusiast John Richter found several interesting images among the treasure trove of photographs digitized and accessible on the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. He identified them as images of Lincoln at Gettysburg for the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery on Nov. 19, 1863. The stereographs (a photographic technique popular during the Civil War, which required a special viewer to appear in 3-D) show a figure on horseback believed to be a white-gloved Lincoln in his trademark stovepipe hat, participating in a military procession. They are believed to have been taken by Alexander Gardner (1821-1882).
“This find doubles the number of apparent images of Lincoln at his greatest moment,” said Bob Zeller, president of the Center for Civil War Photography, who is convinced of the photographs’ authenticity.
The images can be viewed by searching “Lincoln at Gettysburg” on the Library’s Prints and Photographs Catalog and selecting the images of the dedication ceremony at Soldiers’ National Ceremony. Direct links to the images can be found at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpb.00652 and http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.17806.
In January, details of Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration come into clearer focus with the discovery at the Library of Congress of three glass negatives that show the large crowd gathered at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., for the president’s address on March 4, 1865.
These negatives had been labeled long ago as being either the Grand Review of the Armies or the inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant. Carol Johnson, a curator of photography at the Library of Congress, spotted the misidentification while checking old logbooks and finding the annotation “Lincoln?” in the margin. Only two other photos of Lincoln’s second inauguration were previously known, but a careful visual comparison confirmed that these three negatives portray the same event.
“These negatives add to our knowledge of this special event,” said Johnson. “They show what that wet Saturday looked like with the massing of the crowd. They also convey the excitement of the people.”
Johnson was prompted to examine the negatives after an online researcher in Colorado alerted her to the fact that these visually similar photos had radically different identifications in the Library’s online Civil War photographic negative collection. But instead of choosing between Grant and the Grand Armies Review, she opened a new door to the past by looking closely at the images and recognizing Lincoln’s second inauguration. The Library’s Prints and Photographs Division has updated the catalog records with the correct bibliographic information.
Below are links to the photographs:
- Soldiers and crowd
- Soldiers lining up
- Soldiers lined up
- People arriving (previously known image used for comparison)
The Library’s Manuscript Division holds the papers of 23 U.S. presidents, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Comprising 20,000 items, the Abraham Lincoln Papers are accessible online.
Drawn from the Lincoln papers, the Library’s American Memory online presentation “I Do Solemnly Swear” offers a special look at presidential inaugurations, including Lincoln’s first and second inaugural addresses. Lincoln’s second inaugural address, coming just a few weeks before the end of the Civil War, contained such stirring phrases as: “… With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds …”
Lincoln’s immortalization in song is the subject of another online Library presentation titled “We’ll Sing to Abe Our Song!”: Sheet Music about Lincoln, Emancipation, and the Civil War”. Drawn from the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana in the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division, the presentation includes more than 200 sheet-music compositions that represent Lincoln and the war as reflected in popular music. The collection spans the years from Lincoln’s presidential campaign in 1859 through the centenary of Lincoln’s birth in 1909.
This music was compiled by Alfred Whital Stern (1881-1960), who is considered the greatest private collector of materials relating to the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. Stern presented his collection to the Library in 1953 and it continues to grow through an endowment established by his family. Today, the Alfred Whital Stern Collection comprises more than 11,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts, prints and posters as well as a variety of ephemera.