HAROLD HOLZER COMMENTS ON ‘LINCOLN IN DEATH’ PHOTOS

August 21, 2008 – Barry Cauchon:

Hi all: My blog has had a flurry of activity recently concerning several articles that I had posted on questionable Lincoln Photos in Death.

I was honored to be contacted by Mr. Harold Holzer, the Senior Vice President, External Affairs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Mr. Holzer is an historian and author, considered to be one of the leading Lincoln scholars in the world and he graciously offered to comment on the photos I have been debating here.

 1. THE BACHELDER PHOTO:

Unauthenticated photo of Lincoln after death, April 16,1865
Unauthenticated photo of Lincoln after death, reported to be taken in the White House on April 16,1865 by  John B. Bachelder.

The full article was posted on July 24, 2008 under the title “Lincoln Photos – Real, Fake or ‘Who Knows’!”https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2008/07/24/lincoln-photos-real-fake-or-who-knows/

For those of you who are not familiar with this disputed photo, the controversial image was apparently taken by John B. Bachelder at the White House on April 16, 1865, the day after Lincoln died. Bachelder, who would become well known for his photographic and research documentation of Gettysburg in later years, never publicly commented about this photo. And there there is no evidence that this photo was actually taken by Mr. Bachelder. But some believe this to be real and others do not. 
John B. Bachelder and wife 1890

John B. Bachelder and wife 1890

RESOLVE: Mr. Harold Holzer indicated that this image appeared in Charles Hamilton and Lloyd Ostendorf’s book “Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose”, 1st edition, released in 1963. A reprint came out in the late 1980s. The image turns out to not be a photograph at all but rather an engraving, which was to be used as a model for a later print. As well, the beard in the ‘engraving’ is too full as Lincoln wore a shorter beard during that spring. This is indicated in the last known existing photo of Abraham Lincoln taken prior to his assassination. It was taken by photographer Henry F. Warren on the south balcony of the White House on March 6, 1865. As you can see, Lincoln sports more of a goatee rather than a full beard.

Last known photo of Lincoln taken March 6, 1865 by Henry Warren

Last known photo of Abraham Lincoln taken by Henry Warren on March 6, 1865

CONCLUSION:The Bachelder engraving (even if based on a real photo) does not support the existing photographic evidence and therefore cannot be considered as a genuine Lincoln photograph.

2. MR. P’s PHOTOGRAPH
This is the first time we are publishing this photograph here. We were going to wait until September 3, 2008 however the review by Mr. Holzer allows us to post it now.
Metal plate photo in hinged frame

Mr. P's photo in hinged frame

Close up of the picture

Close up of the face

Close up of beard

Close up of beard

Close up of hands

Close up of hands

RESOLVE: Mr. Holzer reviewed these images on Tuesday, August 19 and expressed the following observations:
  • The beard is too full (as previously mentioned above)

  • “Why would Secretary of War Stanton have allowed a photographer to make this intrusive shot when he confiscated the picture of Lincoln all dressed up and lying in state in NY City hall?”

  • The arms and chest are too narrow. When the doctors removed Lincoln’s shirt after he was shot, they notice his chest and arms were very muscular. He was ‘ripped’. The body in these photos is not.

  • Is this a Daguerreotype? “Unlikely, as it would be just way out of fashion by 1865 and too hard to take in a room with no lighting.”

All of these were valid points, but the best was still to come!

  • The photo is not a new image. Mr. Holzer pointed out that he had seen it before in Charles Hamilton and Lloyd Ostendorf’s 1963 book, “Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose”, 1st edition, on page 294. Mr. Holzer stated, “It seems to me they are one and the same shot with the alleged deathbed photo Lloyd Ostendorf and Charles Hamilton published as a spurious image in their 1963 “Lincoln in Photographs,” p 294.  I don’t disagree with their conclusions—the beard is simply wrong.  Lincoln may have had a sort of full beard for his February 1865 life mask, but as the March inaugural photos and the Henry Warren photos show the next day (not to mention the known photo of Lincoln in his coffin), his beard had been considerably trimmed down by the spring of that year”.  

  • END

After conversing with Mr. Holzer on several points for clarification, I was able to find the same photo (although reversed) in another book call “Twenty Days” by Dorthy Meserve Kunhardt & Philip Kunhardt, Jr., Harper & Rowe Publishers, NY, 1965 (see photo and link below). It looks like the exact same photo!

Identical photo (in reverse) from book "Twenty Days" by Dorthy Meserve Kunhardt and Philip Kunhardt, Jr.

Identical photo (in reverse) from book "Twenty Days" by Dorthy Meserve Kunhardt

CONCLUSION: The image is unlikely that of Mr. Lincoln based on the information presented here. But it does raise several questions about who it really is and the origin of the image itself.

QUESTIONS: Some of the questions raised are as follows:

  • Assuming that Mr. P. has an original Daguerreotype or tintype of this image, how did it end up in several books in the 1960s? Mr. P. found the photograph in a desk that his grandmother left to him when she died. This was about 25 years ago. The printed images have been in the public eye for at least 45 years!
  • Does Mr. P. have the original or is it a copy?
  • Was there more than one image made of the body at the time the photograph was shot?
  • Who is the man? Could it be one of Mr. P’s relatives? Mr. Holzer believes that the photo could be from the 1840s or 50s.
  • Where did Charles Hamilton and Lloyd Ostendorf get the original photo for their book?
  • What is the history of the picture?

FOLLOW UP: Mr. P is not disappointed that his photo was not Mr. Lincoln. He is actually thrilled that he owns a genuine ‘fake’ now. And it has given him a new area of research to investigate. History can be exciting, even if it isn’t on the ‘main stage’. Keep hunting Mr. P!

THANK YOU: Finally, I want to personally thank Mr. Harold Holzer for his time and efforts in helping me assist Mr. P  in this project. As well, I’d like to also thank Kevin O. Johnson, Ph.D in Dallas, Christy and Tins (pardijoe) for offering their comments, direction and assistance in solving the puzzle as well. Many many many thanks to all of you.

Best

Barry

outreach@awesometalks.com

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If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln, you should read these interviews by two Lincoln experts:

 

“An Awesometalk With” Harold Holzer, Lincoln Scholar

(posted on November 10, 2008) 

 

  “An Awesometalk With” Dr. Thomas Schwartz, Illinois State Historian 

(posted on December 08, 2008) 

 

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I wish I could have actually helped but I’m new at this. It looks like you’ve gotten this wrapped up. Thanks from me as well to Mr. Harold Holzer. It was nice of him to take the time to address this.

    I personally was a little surprised at how similar the man in Mr. P’s photo actually looks like Lincoln. I was thinking it wouldn’t even be close and that this would be a REALLY wild goose chase.

    The only thing about Mr. P’s image is when compared to the “Twenty Days” image the hand seems to be more on the side of his body, where in the latter it seems almost across his chest.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for doing this. It was interesting.

  2. this was a nice story i could fill out my paper that i had to write thanks alot

    • Hi Eduardo: Thanks so much for the note. I’m very happy that my article with Mr. Holzer was helpful. I met him recently and he’s a wonderful man willing to share so much information with those of us seeking answers about Lincoln. Recently I wrote a follow up story on that article called “Mr. P’s Photograph is an Original”. Here is the link.

      https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/mr-ps-photograph-is-an-original/

      It has been a great story.
      Are you in high school or college/university and where?
      You should send me a copy of your paper to me. I’d like to read it.
      Have a great day and thanks again.
      Barry


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