The Library examines this technique investigating the mystery of a purported photograph of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. In the image, what appears to be Grant on horseback in front of his troops at City Point, Va., during the Civil War is actually a combination of three images, with Grant’s head being the only portion of the photograph belonging to him.
Thanks to a question posed by a Library researcher, staff of the Prints and Photographs Division got to the bottom of the situtation using items from their own collections.
The division holds more than 7,000 images related to the Civil War. Included in the collection are works by noted portrait photograph Mathew Brady, who was the uncle of Levin C. Handy, the culprit of the aforementioned Grant “photo.”
The Grant historical record has needed some straightening-out, previously. Earlier this year, another researcher noticed a discrepancy in the Library's online Civil War photographic negative collection. Negatives had been labeled 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, spotted the misidentification while checking old logbooks and finding the annotation “Lincoln?” in the margin. Looking closely at the images she recognized Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration. Only two other photos of Lincoln's second inauguration were previously known, but a careful visual comparison confirmed that these three negatives portrayed the same event. The images are of soldiers and crowd, soldiers lining up and soldiers in formation.