February 21, 1997 Portraits of Presidents and First Ladies Now Available from American Memory On-Line Collections

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217

Portraits of all U.S. presidents and most of the first ladies are available from the Library's American Memory on- line collections at http://www.loc.gov/.

The materials are from the Library's incomparable collection of visual materials in the Prints and Photographs Division. The selected images include at least one likeness of the 41 men who have been president and most of the first ladies.

Prints and Photographs Division staff selected this set of 156 portraits from items in the division's file of "popular-demand images." In addition to posing for formal portraits, several of the 41 presidents also appear in military settings or informal surroundings. Popular subjects such as images of inaugurations and the White House are included, as are such favorites as Abraham Lincoln with Sojourner Truth, Calvin Coolidge at a baseball game, Warren Harding with his dog and Dwight Eisenhower with U.S. paratroopers in England.

The first ladies' portraits depict 36 wives of 35 presidents (Woodrow Wilson had two wives while in office). The women's portraits often focus on their faces and are details from larger prints and photographs. All 20th century wives are included but some early-19th century first ladies are not represented because few of their portraits exist. The division does not have an original print or photographs of Abigail Powers Fillmore, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, Julia Gardiner Tyler or Letitia Christian Tyler. No authentic portrait is known of Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor. James Buchanan never married.

The electronic images show both the patriotic and commercial roles of presidential portraiture through a broad range of styles and creators. Formal studio prints and news agency photographs predominate. The artists and publishers include 19th century masters of portraiture, among them engraver John Sartain and photographer Mathew Brady; the well-known lithography firm of N. Currier; official White House staff photographers; and 20th century news-gathering organizations such as the National Photo Co., Harris & Ewing and Underwood & Underwood.

The Web page also offers links to a time line of the presidents and first ladies, related holdings, selected bibliography and information on ordering photographic reproductions and copyright and other restrictions.

American Memory is an initiative of the National Digital Library Program at the Library of Congress. Its aim is to bring direct and unrestricted access to unique historical collections that document the creativity and ingenuity of America. Through this initiative, the most interesting and important original items of American history and culture are being brought into schools, libraries and homes everywhere. The program, which began in 1994, is being funded by public and private funds.

Already on-line are sound recordings from World War I, political speeches, short films from Thomas Edison's studio, documents from the civil rights movement, daguerreotype portraits, selected notebooks of Walt Whitman and documents from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention.


PR 97-029
ISSN 0731-3527