October 27, 2008: Barry Cauchon

Which of these pictures do you believe is the last one ever taken of Abraham Lincoln while he was alive?


Recently I’ve received quite a number of inquiries from students wanting to know the true answer to that question. The volume of inquiries makes me believe that a wonderful teacher somewhere has given an assignment to his/her class on this subject. If so, it’s a good exercise because there is so much conflicting information on this topic that I wanted to be sure myself before commenting.

So the first thing I did when faced with this ‘puzzle’ was to investigate the subject from all angles. First I took what I knew about the subject and mixed that with what I could find in books, on the Internet, from the personal opinions from peers and finally, comments from the experts.

I try very hard to only publish information that is verifiably true in an attempt to keep the historical record straight. With the advent of the Internet and self-publishing, it is astonishing to see how much information is posted as fact, when in fact, it is incorrect. The Internet has become a huge game of ‘BROKEN TELEPHONE LINE’ on which factual information quickly becomes outdated, twisted, misquoted, misunderstood and worst of all, reported as the God’s honest truth.

Case in point is the question the students have asked. During Mr. Lincoln’s political career, he participated in many photo sessions as well as sittings for life paintings and even two life masks. The three photos presented at the start of this article are the ones most claimed by sources to be the last photo taken of the President. A quick search on Google helps to prove this point. I found these claims on websites, in books and even in auctions for pictures being sold on ebay. There can only be ‘one last photo’ of Mr. Lincoln taken while he was alive. I say ‘alive’ because there is one authenticated photo in existence of the slain President in his coffin in NYC but that is a different story entirely.

To start with, let me clarify why there is so much confusion over this issue. Basically, the pictures above were taken at two different photo sessions in 1865. One was an impromptu session with photographer Henry F. Warren on the south balcony of the White House on March 6, 1865, just two days after Lincoln’s 2nd inauguration. In that session, Mr. Warren took three pictures of the President.

The other was a formal portrait sitting with photographer Alexander Gardner. At that session, Gardner took a total of five photographs. The date of this session is where the confusion exists. Originally, most Lincoln scholars accepted a date of Monday, April 10, 1865 as the day the sitting took place. Several books published in the 1960s by well-respected Lincoln authors agreed with this date. April 10 meant that these photos were taken just days before Lincoln’s assassination on Friday, April 14. 

But a few years ago, new evidence was found by Mr. Harold Holzer, an eminent Lincoln scholar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The evidence indicated that the date of April 10 was not correct and was more likely Sunday, February 05, 1865 instead. This being the case, the Warren photo suddenly became the last known one of Lincoln alive and to this day, it is still considered so.

I have corresponded with Mr. Holzer on numerous occasions and so I wrote to him to ask about this information. He wrote me a nice email in response and included some specifics about the circumstances surrounding his discovery.

Happy to respond. Meserve, Lorant, and Ostendorf all long accepted the date of April 10 for the final Gardner studio poses. Then, years ago, I was researching Lincoln paintings from life and came across the diary of Matthew Wilson, who based his portrait in part on photos he commissioned–at Gardner’s. His canvas bore an unmistakable resemblance to one of the photos in that long-accepted “last” sitting–and according to the artist’s diary, the sitting took place on Feb. 5. Ostendorf and others quickly accepted–maybe appropriated is a better word–the story and adopted the new date. So that’s how Warren became the last photos. Since they were taken outdoors, however, some point out that Gardner’s remain the final studio poses. Hope this helps — Harold”
Before continuing, I want to thank Mr. Holzer for his generousity in sending me this information. I know he has just released a new book and has begun an extensive schedule of touring dates and speaking engagements. Please see the end of this article for more on Mr. Holzer’s book and his personal appearance schedule.

Below is a description of the two photo sessions from an article written by James J. Nance for the February 2008 issue of Kentucky Monthly Magazine entitled “Lincoln’s Last Portrait”. Nance credits references from the book “Lincoln in Photographs” by Lloyd Ostendorf and Charles Hamilton, and describes both the Warren and Gardner sessions.


UPDATE: March 10, 2009: The Henry F. Warren section of this article, which was based on the Ostendorf and Hamilton photographs may not be 100% correct. I have inserted notes in red where differences of opinions between Lincoln experts vary. Also, a new Warren photo has just become public which may show the President in front of the White House. Although this article does not cover that photograph, I have included it, and a close up, to help put it in context with the rest of the article.


Since the Warren photo is considered the last known one of Lincoln alive, I’ll cover that one first. Then I’ll cover the Gardner session which took place about one month earlier. As well, I have included the information on the Mathew Wilson painting that helped to verify the real date of the Gardner sessions.

“The final Lincoln photographs were taken during his inauguration in early March 1865.  In addition to a number of photographs of candid crowd scenes containing the president taken on March 4th, there were three notable photographs taken by Henry F. Warren on March 6th on the balcony of the White House. President Lincoln granted Mr. Warren’s request for a brief  impromptu photo session on the White House balcony. Lincoln carried a chair out himself.  Perhaps Lincoln believed that some photographic record of his inaugural was in order and Mr. Warren was at the right place at the right time.  The first photo was a standing shot, which is noted in Warren’s papers, although the negative and print have never been seen. The remaining two were quick photographs of the chest and head of a seated Lincoln.  Both of these photographs, O-112 and O-113, the last taken of Lincoln when alive, show him looking haunted and even more emaciated and haggard than during his last portrait O-116 from the session a month before on February 5th. Much of his visible exhaustion was surely due to the hectic activities surrounding his inaugural.  However his more advanced weight loss and deteriorating physical condition is evident. The war was still not over and the final details must have weighed heavily on Lincoln. Although these two Warren photos were posed, they could hardly be called a formal portrait. They are fascinating because of their spontaneity and how well they reveal the tension of the moment. They are also very sad images and are not the way most people wish to remember Abraham Lincoln”. 
UPDATE: March 10, 2009: The debate about the Warren photo session concerns how many photos were actually taken that day. The story above claims three. Other’s claim two or even one (the one shown above). I have only ever seen just the one original myself. However there is a ‘second’ one, which is a retouched version of same photograph. If both of these photos are from the same original, then the story about two or three photos taken that day may be incorrect. As is often the case in history, conflicting information can often make it difficult to verify the ‘real story’. Regardless of the version you choose to believe, the Warren photo shown above is still considered the last known photo of Lincoln taken while he was alive.
The new photograph made public this week by the current owner Keya Morgan was taken by Henry Warren on March 6, 1865 (the same day as the Lincoln photo above). It is a shot of the White House but when zoomed in on, a tall man with beard appears. When measured in scale against the height of known structures in the picture, the figure is about 6′-4″, the same height as Lincoln. Experts are excited over the find but ‘cautiously optomistic’ about it actually being Lincoln in the photo. If this photo does contain an image of Abraham Lincoln, and it was taken AFTER the photo above, then this would become the LAST KNOWN PHOTO OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN ALIVE.


Recently discovered and published Warren photo taken on March 6, 1865. The image shows the White House. However when closely inspected, an image of a tall bearded man can be seen. Experts are 'cautiously optomistic' about the possibility that this is Abraham Lincoln.

Recently discovered Warren photo taken on March 6, 1865. The image shows the White House. However when closely inspected, an image of a tall bearded man can be seen to the left of the white gate pedestals. Experts are 'cautiously optomistic' about the possibility that this is Abraham Lincoln. Reed Saxon/AP

The photograph was in a family photo album belonging to Ulysses S. Grant VI, the great-great grandson of President Grant. On the back of the photo is Henry F. Warren’s seal and a government tax stamp. A written inscription reads “Lincoln in front of the White House”.




The close up reveals a tall bearded man purported to be Abraham Lincoln. Experts are 'cautiously optomistic' about its validity. If this is Abraham Lincoln, it could be the last image taken of him while alive. Courtesy of Associated Press.


(continuation of article from October 27, 2008)

I received an email from another Lincoln expert, Professor Ronald Rietveld, Emeritus Professor of History at California State University in Fullerton, California. Professor Rietveld is well known in Lincoln circles as the person who, at age 14, discovered the only known photograph of Abraham Lincoln in death. With regards to the Warren photo, I was surprised to learn that Professor Rietveld owns an original copy. Here is his response to my inquiry about the Warren and Gardner photos.

“Hi Barry:

Your impression that the last known photograph of Lincoln in life was taken by Henry F. Warren on Monday, March 6, 1865–is correct! Indeed, it was taken late afternoon on the south balcony of the White House. And I possess an original copy of that photo which was given to me by Bert Sheldon, a secret service agent at the Franklin D. Roosevelt White House. I think I was about 17 when he gave it to me in Washington, D.C. The other two photos which you attached were taken at Alexander Gardner’s Gallery in Washington, DC on Sunday, February 5, 1865. The last formal pose which Gardner took was a close up. However, the glass plate cracked, and after a single print was made, the glass negative broke completely and Gardner threw the broken pieces away. I do not know when they began giving the date of April 10, 1865 for Gardner’s photos. But the Kunhardts in Twenty Days [1965] missdate the photograph on pages 10-11 of their book. However, the very last photograph taken of the president, as I think you are aware, is the single print of the dead president lying in state in New York City Hall, April 24, 1865, which I discovered in the Nicolay-Hay Papers at the Illinois State Historical Library, Springfield, Illinois on July 20, 1952 at 14.

I hope this is of some help. — Ron Rietveld”.



“On a cold bleak Sunday morning on February 5th, 1865 Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by his young son Tad, paid a short visit to the Washington DC photography studio of Alexander Gardner. The Gardner photograph session on February 5th took slightly over an hour from the president’s demanding schedule and consisted of five poses. The first showed a serious looking Tad leaning on a table, beside his amused seated father. All the other poses showed Lincoln sitting in a comfortable Queen Anne style padded chair with minor variations. Of the seated poses, the first had Lincoln with his hands on his legs, the second with his hands grasping the chair arms, and the third with his hands together in his lap holding a pencil and his reading glasses. The third pose, known today to Lincoln scholars as O-116, is the most revered of all Lincoln photos… “  

February 5, 1865 - Alexander Gardner photo of Tad and Abraham Lincoln (exposure #1)

February 5, 1865 - Alexander Gardner photo of Abraham Lincoln (exposure #3)

February 5, 1865 - Alexander Gardner photo of Abraham Lincoln (exposure #3) #O-116

In an article written by Linda Merrill called Abraham Lincoln, February 5, 1865 on http://picturingamerica.neh.gov a great description of the Gardner/Lincoln session is presented.

“Gardner’s surprisingly candid photographs have proven more enduring, even though they were not originally intended to stand alone as works of art. This half-length portrait of Lincoln (above) is one of the finest from that February studio session. The president sits comfortably in a sturdy chair, his left elbow resting on its arm, his right on his own slightly elevated knee. There is nothing in this photograph to indicate Lincoln’s exalted position: we might just as well be looking at a humble country doctor. His clothing appears plain (though not unfashionable) and his loosely knotted bowtie has been left slightly askew. By this point in his public life, the president had sat for dozens of photographs, and he would have been mindful of the need to hold perfectly still during the several minutes it took to make an exposure. In this print, Lincoln’s eyes look steadily toward the camera but his hands fiddle impatiently with his eyeglasses and pencil as if to remind the photographer that he had more important things to do. What draws and holds our attention is Lincoln’s expression, which the poet Walt Whitman described as “a deep latent sadness.” At the time this picture was taken, Lincoln had weathered the worst of the war and almost succeeded in his fight to preserve the Union, yet he was painfully aware how much that cause had cost the nation. Lincoln appears much older than his fifty-five years, and Gardner did nothing to flatter the president’s haggard, careworn features. The photographer may even have exaggerated them, for the turn of Lincoln’s head leaves one side of his face slightly in shadow, making his right eye and cheek appear hollow and cadaverous.

Before this session ended, Gardner asked the president for one last pose. He moved his camera closer and took a photograph of Lincoln’s head, shoulders, and chest.  Mysteriously the glass plate negative cracked. Gardner carefully took it to his dark room and was able to make one print, with an ominous crack across Lincoln’s face, before it broke completely and was discarded. This print, known as O-118, still exists to this day. Over the years many people have associated this crack with a symbolic foretelling of the assassin’s bullet that awaited Lincoln 10 weeks later”.

February 5, 1865 – Alexander Gardner photo of Abraham Lincoln (exposure #5) #O-118. This would have been the last known photo of Lincoln had Matthew Henry Wilson’s diary not confirmed that the Gardner photo session took place in February rather than on April 10 as had been previously believed.


The final painting of Lincoln from life was produced by American portraitist Matthew Henry Wilson. Lincoln, accompanied by his son Tad and the artist, visited Gardner’s studio on February 5, 1865. Wilson had been commissioned by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles for a sum of $85.00 to paint the president’s portrait. Lincoln would later like the result and joke “that it was horridly like the original.”

But at the time of the session, Lincoln could spare so little time to pose, so the artist needed recent photographs to work from. The pictures served their purpose, but the resulting painting—a traditional, formal, bust-length portrait in an oval format—is not particularly distinguished and hardly remembered today.

After Lincoln’s assassination, a Boston publishing firm exploited the nation’s grief by producing prints of the portrait Matthew Wilson had based on Gardner’s photographs. Gardner’s own publisher countered a few days later by offering photographs from the February studio session. They were advertised as the products of “Mr. Lincoln’s last sitting.” That unsupported (and until recently, unquestioned) claim gave rise to the tradition that Gardner’s portraits had been taken just four days before Lincoln’s death, investing them with a special aura of martyrdom. We now know that these were not in fact the last portraits of Abraham Lincoln. Even though Gardner’s picture does not belong to the president’s final days, it records his weary and worried countenance during the last long weeks of the war, when the surrender at Appomattox was still some months away. 
I want to thank James J. Nance for the wonderful article posted here. Mr. Nance is also a talented artist and has produced a digital colorized version of O-116 which he sells online. I loved it so much, I bought one myself.
To view the piece, please see Mr. Nance’s website at:
If you want to read about Harold Holzer’s new book “Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861” and review his very active speaking schedule, please link to:


For Professor Ronald Rietveld’s website, please link to:







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) 




Tall man by gate pedestal thought to be Abraham Lincoln. If true, this could be the last known photograph of Lincoln taken while alive.


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  1. […] PICTURE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN ALIVE? Posted in October 27th, 2008 by admin in Uncategorized WHAT IS THE LAST KNOWN PICTURE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN ALIVE? Basically, the pictures above were taken at two different photo sessions in 1865. One was an […]

  2. Well, Hi admin and people. Nice forum indeed. How’s life? ;)

  3. The Waltham Historical Society has in its collection two prints made of the image and a carte de visites created by HF Warren (the Waltham, Mass. photographer). The cartes de visites was originally meant to hold an image of U.S. Grant, but Grant’s name is scratched out and the image is that of Abraham Lincoln in the pose shown above credited to HF Warren. As time permits, I will send a copy for comparison and comment.
    Wayne McCarthy, Co-President, Waltham Historical Society, Inc.

    • Hi Wayne: I love receiving comments like this. This is terrific. I thank you very much for the information. I’d love to see the image and hear more about its background. Please feel free to send me more info on the image. It’s a fascinating topic and I’d love to explore it further. If you’d like, please send the information to my email address at outreach@awesometalks.com and we can talk further.

  4. I am trying to find some help with a photograph I have…lincoln with sideburns??

    Robert Campbell rare-photos@hotmail.com

    • Hi Robert. What kind of help do you require? Please let me know and I’ll do what I can to assist.

  5. Can you advise me where I can purchase a 4×6 or 5×7 copy of the Alexzander Gardner photo of Tad and Lincoln Fewbruary 5 1865 exposeure #1

    Thanks, P. McNulty

    Please do not publish or sell my email address

    • Hi Paul: Thanks for your question. If you have the ability to print this out for yourself you can find the image using this link at the Library of Congress.
      If you cannot print it yourself, save the file and bring it to your local photo development or camera store. They can make a print of it for you.



  6. I need advice. I strongly believe I have found a poem written by Abraham Lincoln in 1842.I am a Civil War enthusiast and antique hunter.Where can I go to have this authenticated? Thanks,Tom

    • Hi Tom: I will email you about this. I am not an Abraham Lincoln expert in the area you are looking at but let’s see what we can do.

  7. I have a photo of Abraham Lincoln that was found in my mom’s delapidated garage. It had a plaster frame (now ruined) with lincoln sittign a chair with a curtain behind him. His hair is not mused, as you see in many of his photos. His body is facing slightly to the right and he is staring right into the camera. I have seen other photos with the same bow tie and chain on his vest, but nothing like the one I have.
    Could you give me some information about who might have taken this photo, and what year it might have been?
    Thank you,
    If you give me an email, I will take a picture of the photo. I do not want to scan it because I am afraid of what the light might do to it.

    • Hi Pat: Thank you for your comment. I’ll be happy to take a look at the image and direct you to the history of that photo. If you are able to send a photo of the photo that would be the best way for me to help identify it for you. I’ll write you from my email so you can contact me directly.

  8. hi,my name is jerome and im a dedicated musician.Im also a dedicated abe follower.I have a quite large tattoo collection.I started thinking about it and with the more recent innovations in tattooing ive decided that im going to get,the great imancipator tattooed on the inside of my left bicep.Ive been looking and most of the pics i find of abe,hes well sad or very serious looking,i know thats due to the fact that they didnt have digital cameras in 1865.SO if ANYONE has any unusual or happier looking pics of him email me them please! thanks peace&much love j

  9. Hi I’m 15 years old and I love presidential history espcially Lincoln thank you for this new information i have learned today.

    • Hi Chris: Thank you for your wonderful compliment. It’s great to see students getting excited about history. Presidential history is also one of my favorite subjects.
      What part of the country do you live in and what Presidents do you like to learn about? Abraham Lincoln has so much great information on him, it will take you awhile to learn a lot of it. But he was a fascinating man living in an amazing time in the United States. Let me know if you want to learn more and I can direct you to some other great websites and books on the subject.

  10. Wasn’t there a photograph of Lincoln in his casket that was from the early 30’s that was published in either Look orLife magazine at the time of the Kennedy assasination?


    • Hi John: Thanks for writing. There has only been one authenticated photograph of Abraham Lincoln in his casket that is considered genuine. It was taken at NY City Hall by photographer Jerimiah Gurney Jr. on April 24, 1865. The photograph was discovered by one of the people who contributed to this article, Professor Ronald Rietveld. At the age of 14 he discovered it in the Nicholay-Hay papers at the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield, IL. If you would like to see the photo, go to https://awesometalks.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/did-you-know-part-10-abraham-lincoln/. I hope this helps.
      As a side note, there are many other images of people that are claimed to be Lincoln in death. Many are fakes, mistaken identities or do not have enough credible evidence to authenticate them. In any case, only one is accepted as genuine and that is the Gurney Jr. photo.
      Have a great day.

  11. I have a copy of exposure No. 5 (marked Print 100) and signed by Frederick Meserve, 1951. I am trying to find another copy of this print – can anyone advise?

  12. Since you are wondering about the sudden interest in this subject by students, I thought you’d like to know the answer. Their inquisitiveness wasn’t a product of the education system. Rather, it was from a movie called “Final Destination 3” (2006), which, unlike the 2 preceding movies, used photographs to foretell of the approach of death. In one scene, 41 minutes and 35 seconds into the movie, the heroine of the movie produces the last picture of Lincoln (from the cracked negative), and briefly tells the story of the picture of Lincoln. While the “Final Destination” movie series is purely fictional, teen-horror pulp, I’m certain that this mention of Mr. Lincoln is the basis for the inquiries you’ve received.
    As an interesting aside, one of my best friends in the army had a yearly formal military picture taken in October 1985 (old style camera), which came back with his chest blurred. It was bad enough that he required a re-take a few weeks later. A couple of days after the retake, he was killed while riding his motorcycle by an on-coming car (severe chest damage/trauma). Weeks later, when the retake image arrived, it was blurred even more horribly than the picture which had been taken a few weeks earlier. I’ve never heard of any other authenticated photographic forms of precognition besides Tony’s picture, and now the Last Lincoln Photograph, but it does make one wonder.
    Thank you for the article and best wishes to you sir, Jim

  13. I need advice I found in a thift shop art peice of Abraham Lincoln 11 by 14 black and white on canvas that looks a lot different than what we use can someone help me find out about it I know it’s old looking at the canvas thanks I can send a picture

    • Hi Sandra: Thank you for your comment. I get a lot of requests to look at images other memorabilia but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to look at an image on canvas. I can’t promise anything but please feel free to send me the image and I’ll be happy to let you know what I think. Send it to my email at outreach@awesometalks.com.

      • Actually it is not on canvas – it is in a frame – a print – signed by John Meserve.

      • Hi Sandi. I’m very intrigued. When you can, please send me a scan of the image. I’d love to see it.

      • Hello I have a photo of Aberham Lincoln said copywright by M.P . Rice in 1891 It is very old Photo

      • Hi Kathy. Printed photos copy written after 1865 (the year of Lincoln’s death) usually always indicate that the ownership of the printed piece is copy written. But it does not indicate that the person took the photo or that it was an original print. Since Rice’s copy write is from 1891, this tells me it is a print from a copy, and is not an original print. Thanks for your question. Barry

  14. I have a picture of Abraham Lincoln that is very colorful, and says
    “trademark” has his signature and the name of Boltz Clymouth on one of the papers below the drawing. Can anyone tell me if this is an older picture?

    • Hi Cindy: Thanks for writing. Can you describe the picture you are talking about? Is it a drawing or a photograph? If a photograph, there are no known images of Abraham Lincoln taken of him in color. All are black and white. Modern day computer artists have colorized some of these black & white images and now you can find ‘full color’ photos of Lincoln (but all are color manipulated – using the black and white originals to create the new color versions. If you have a drawing, that is a different story. Can you scan the image and send it to me at outreach@awesometalks.com and I can give you a better idea of what you may have. Also, please include the actual size of the piece (width and height) as this may be helpful to me as well.
      Many thanks.

  15. I have the print below (#100) signed by John Meserve. I tried, but never did find out what this was worth, if – and I have not – I decided to sell or donate it.

    February 5, 1865 – Alexander Gardner photo of Abraham Lincoln (exposure #5) #O-118. This would have been the last known photo of Lincoln had Matthew Henry Wilson’s diary not confirmed that the Gardner photo session took place in February rather than on April 10 as had been previously believed.ver did find out what this is worth.

    • Hi Sandi: Thanks for your comment. I do not engage in estimating the value of photographs or artifacts as it is not my specialty and I would not want to give you false information. I can tell you that the original glass plate of O-118 no longer exists as it cracked prior to processing. Gardner was able to make one single print from the reassembled glass plate but did not keep the broken glass plate. Although there are several Meserves involved in the research of photos of Abraham Lincoln and his time, I am not familiar with John Meserve.
      I would venture to guess that since your print is not the original, and thousands of copies have been made of this image over the last 147 years, it is unlikely that your print will garner much attention from collectors. However, you never know what will appeal to a collector. I wish you well in your search to find an answer to your question.

  16. Oh, thanks Barry – I really wasn’t looking for an appraisal though – in fact, I was offered a considerable sum for it not so long ago, and it was an over the phone’ offer – because I have no intention of parting with it. The only reason I responded is because I got the message (above mine) in my e-mail today.

    Thank you for your reply. Sandi

  17. I’d just like to note for anyone reading that the photo showing the exterior of the White House depicts the North Balcony, not the South Balcony.

    • Hi Ed. Thanks for your comment. You are correct that the image of the White House shows the North face. But the content of the story is correct…however a bit confusing. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. The three images of Lincoln that Warren took of the President was photographed on the South Balcony. The image that shows the North face of the White House is not where the first three images were taken of Lincoln. That image is the ‘new’ photograph that possibly shows Lincoln standing in front of the White House (North side). If this fourth image taken by Warren that day actually shows Lincoln, then this would be the last known photo of Abraham Lincoln while alive. Sorry for the confusion and thank you for bringing it to my attention.

      • Thank you, Barry. It was a really interesting piece, and it’s a great blog that you have. I’ve always been fascinated by Lincoln.

    • As stated in one of Lincoln’s photos (maybe the last one taken of him:
      February 5, 1865 – Alexander Gardner photo of Abraham Lincoln (exposure #5) #O-118. This would have been the last known photo of Lincoln had Matthew Henry Wilson’s diary not confirmed that the Gardner photo session took place in February rather than on April 10 as had been previously believed.
      What does #0-118 mean – the number of original prints? I have one that indicates on the back it is #100. Does this mean there are only 118 in circulation? Thanks – Just curious.

      • Hi Sandi: O-118 is a catalogue number used to identify all the Lincoln photographs known to exist. The creator of this catalogue system was Lloyd Ostendorf was an artist, photographer and gifted Lincolnaia collector. He put together this catalogue with individual numbers associated with each known photo of the President. The O in O-118 stands for Ostendorf. I hope this helps to answer your question.
        Many thanks.

  18. We concentrate on looking at faces.

    In looking at the photo of Lincoln and Tad, I saw something in plain sight. Lincoln’s left foot, over his boot, is wrapped with a large, black cloth, seemingly used to tie that foot down to the other.


    I’ve read conjectures that Lincoln had some sort of illness that caused his extremities (hands and feet) to move involuntarily, in a slight, spasmodic motion., Perhaps Parkinson’s.

    The blurred hands, grasping something (perhaps a pencil), coupled with the bound feet, may have been an attempt on his part to keep himself still for photographic purposes.

    Lyle Wilkerson

    • Hi Lyle: Thanks for your comments. Photographers of the day, including Alexander Gardner, used many methods of keeping their subjects restrained when taking their photographs. Several seconds were needed to ensure a proper exposure and the subjects had to remain perfectly still during that time. Any movement during exposure would be picked up. The image you are referring to was taken on February 5, 1865 at Gardner’s studio in Washington. Tad accompanied the President that day and had one image made with his father. Lincoln held a small pencil and his eyeglasses in most of the photographs taken. Several of them show these blurred and are a result of Lincoln moving before the exposure was completed.

      You noted that the movement might have been due to a spasmodic motion caused by Parkinson’s or other malidy. I do not believe this to be the case. However, in 1964, a “physician published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association which stated that President Abraham Lincoln had Marfan Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder”. Other physicians and geneticists disputed his findings saying the claim was based on circumstantial evidence. Marfan’s patients are unusually tall, with long limbs and thin fingers. More severe issues can affect the heart and lungs. Marfan Syndrome does not have shaking or spasms associated with its symptoms and so it is very unlikely, that even if Lincoln had this affliction, it would have affected him like Parkinson’s Disease. I have never heard any claims that Lincoln suffered from Parkinson’s.

      So I believe that the blurred hands are a result of Lincoln moving prematurely before the exposure had ended, rather than being associated with a medical disorder.


  19. the last picture of Lincoln has a scratch at the top which could never be removed the photo session took place in April 10 1865 and he got shot by john wilkies booth on 14 of April 1865 in the same place

    • Hi Sujati: Thank you for your comment. The date you stated of April 10, 1865 for the last known photo of Lincoln is based on outdated information. This happens a lot in historical research. As better research methods (such as the internet and social media) have developed, more information has beecome available to researchers. A few years ago, the top Lincoln expert in the world, Harold Holzer came across some information about the photograph you noted. Up until that time, the date of April 10 was accepted as correct in the research community and that date was published often (including in several of Harold Holzer’s own books and periodicals). However, when this new information was found, Holzer was able to successfully prove that the date of Sunday, February 05, 1865 was the day that this image (along with five others) was taken. Alexander Gardner was the photographer and he took these series of photos at his studio in Washington where Lincoln and his son Tad visited. It was the last ‘studio photos’ of Lincoln to ever be taken. The last known photos of Lincoln ever prior to his assassination was taken in early March 1865 at the White House just days after his 2nd Inauguration.
      The scratch you noted in the picture is actually a crack in the glass plate that accidently occurred during the developing process at Gardner’s studio. Gardner was able to put the two pieces of the glass back together and make one print from it before he threw away the glass plate. Only one printed image was ever made from it and then copied from the print ever since.
      Happy New Year and have a great day.

      • Hello Barry,

        Not sure if you remember me. We corresponded last year regarding my collection of Lincoln Portraits. Notably, my H.F.Warren original of 3/6/65. Do you have any idea how many prints were produced by Warren or how many still exist today? I know of the two in Springfield and the one at the Nat. Portrait Gallery but I’m new to the scene and would like to reach out to others who have them. I have been to The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield and seen theirs. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. James Corneluis, he is a very nice man and quite generous with his time and intellect. Perhaps we will meet someday soon.

        Jeff Hill

      • Hi Jeff: Henry F. Warren was from Waltham, Massachusetts. I do not know how many prints were made from this original glass plate. I suspect there were many considering the President was assassinated just over a month later. Several photos are credited to Warren as being taken on that day. It was stated by John Nicolay (one of Lincoln’s secretaries) that three photos were taken on the south portico balcony by Warren that day (two sitting and one standing). The standing image has never surfaced and is still missing. A fourth one (not 100% confirmed as showing Lincoln) was taken by Warren at a distance in front of the White House. It was discovered about three years ago and is in the collection of Keya Morgan in California.
        I would suggest you contact the Waltham Historical Society to further investigate your photo. They own a carte-de-vis of Lincoln taken by Warren on March 6. However, the caption on the card is incorrect. It says U.S. Grant. Lt.-Gen., USA. The photo is clearly of the President. They have been very helpful to me in the past so do try them.
        Please let me know how your research goes. I’d like to hear more.

  20. Hi Barry, I have what I believe to be a collodion glass negative of Lincoln. The Library of Congress states that the full frontal image of Lincoln was taken by Alexander Gardner but the negative has the writing “COPYRIGHT BY M.P.RICE 1861” at the bottom left. A copyright symbol is on the right side of the negative. This negative was framed and I have not removed it from the frame. I took a photograph of the framed negative and would like to forward it to you. My research led me to Moses Parker Rice from Nova Scotia who worked for O. Johnson in WDC in 1861 and may have received many collodion glass negatives from A Gardner. I would like to know how I confirm that this is the negative and how to preserve it.
    Thank you,

    • Hi Linda: Thank you for writing. That is an interesting puzzle you’ve begun to dig into. Although I love the Library of Congress, like all of us, they are susceptible to making mistakes and misidentifications. In my research, I have found quite a few over the years. Nonetheless, it may be correct. The images of Lincoln that Gardner is credited with taking (while working for himself) are well documented. However, prior to that while working for Matthew Brady, much of this work ended up under Brady’s name (as was the custom at the time). If the photo was taken in 1861 or earlier, this would have been an image that was taken during his employment with Brady (likely working out of the Washington DC studio). In 1863, Gardner left the employment of Brady and opened his own studio in Washington. I have no background in MP Rice but it looks like you’ve found quite a bit already. O. Johnson is definitely a name worth pursuing. It is said that over 1500 photographers worked during the Civil War. It would be good to find out who O. Johnson was and how he came know MP Rice and Gardner. Brady employed many photographers and sent them out to the battlefields. So they likely had contact with one another during that time.
      Can you tell me if the image you have is a print or the actual glass plate? I ask this because glass plates were one-of-a-kind. If you own a glass plate it is either the original or a copy from an original print made later. The photographers would take an original print, photograph it creating a second glass plate (and copyrighting THAT one). It wasn’t an attempt to fool the public. It was a legitimate approach to protecting the rights of the photographer who took the actual glass plate photo. If you can send me a high rez image of the plate that you have, I’d be happy to look at it. You can send it to outreach@awesometalks.com. If I can offer any help or opinion, I’ll be glad to assist.

  21. Hi Barry. I’ve been examining the Henry F. Warren photo on various websites – and am skeptical. The image appears to be a photograph of an artistic rendering, perhaps in pencil. It isn’t a matter of photo retouching, either. The image has none of the qualities of a legit 1865 photo. Naturally, I could be off-base here, but, the Warren photo doesn’t pass through my gateway.

    • That’s an interesting theory. We do have recorded first hand accounts of the photo session on the balcony and the few original photos that remain are Albumin witch is appropriate for the period. I agree the photo seems to have a two dimensional image quality but I’ve studied the original up close and believe to be an original pose for the camera.

  22. I have stumbled upon a negative portrait of Abraham Lincoln would like to know what it’s worth it is very old but in perfect condition you can see his signature on it

    • Hi Barbara: Thank you for your note. I would be happy to review the image for you. If you can send a clear photo or scan of it, I’ll do my best to give you an analysis of it.
      I will say that I am unaware of any known examples of a signed photo of Lincoln. If it is a negative that you found, one likely possibility is that it was a photographic composite of one of Lincoln’s images with a superimposed signature applied. Original Lincoln photos have photographed and copied since the time of his death and continue so to this day.
      But as I always say, you never know what exists out there. Please send the image to my new email at ‘barryssentials@hotmail.com’ and I’ll be pleased to give you my opinion on it.

  23. Hello Barry,I hope that you’re still helping with Lincoln memorabilia,I was just wondering if all Lincoln cracked photo’s by Alexander Gardner are supposed to have number on the back of the photo,The photo i have also came with a ‘about this photograph sheet’ signed by Philip B. Kunhardt Jr. and Hanns G.Kohl Thank you very much if you can help ! Bertha Muniz

    • Hi Harry. Philip B. Kunhardt has published several modern day books on images he and his family collected from the life of Lincoln and the assassination. Can you email me a photo of the specific photo you own as well as a picture of the back of it showing this identification information. I’ll be happy to do what I can to track down where this comes from.
      My email is barryssentials@hotmail.com.

      • Here’s a picture of what i was asking you about ! There’s no writing on the back at all. Please let me know if this is enough. thank You !

      • Hi Harry. Thanks for replying. I did not receive the photo. Did you send it to my email? barryssentials@hotmail.com.

  24. Hello Barry,Did you get the pics i sent this time ??

    • Hi Bertha/Harry. Yes I did. I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. I’ve been tied up with a contract I’m working on and it is taking up a lot of my free (and unfree) time. :)
      The image you sent me is one of a series of six photographs taken of the President by Alexander Gardner on February 06, 1865 at his Washington DC studio located at the corner of 7th & D Street. For many years, it was thought to be the last known studio photo taken of the President before the assassination. Although it later turned out that other photos were discovered taken closer to the date of the assassination, this series was in fact the last ‘studio’ photos taken of Lincoln. During that session, Tadd Lincoln, who had accompanied his father to the studio, had his picture taken with the President. No one is sure in what order these six photos were taken, so we can’t definitively state which of those photos was the ‘last studio shot’ taken of Lincoln prior to the assassination.
      Based on the documentation that you sent me, from Philip Kunhardt, Jr., the original glass plate broke while Gardner was developing the image. Not wanting to lose the image, he put the two pieces together and made one print from it. He then discarded the two broken pieces of the glass plate. Over a thirty-nine year period, that one lone image, made from the original plate, passed from the hands of Gardner to his friend, Truman. A. Bartlett who then gave it to his friend and former student, Frederick Hill Meserve. In 1904, Merserve (Kunhardt’s grandfather) photographed the print on an 8″ x 10″ dry plate glass negative. From what I understand from this document, the glass plate was then passed down through the family and is presently owned by the Kunhardt’s.
      Since your image was made from that glass plate, it would be considered a fourth generation image (1. Original Gardner wet glass plate negative. 2. Gardner lone print. 3. Meserve dry plate glass negative of the printed image. 4. Your photo printed from the Meserve glass plate.
      Since Time-Life was involved in the photo prep and printing of your copy, I imagine it was from a limited (or larger run) of the picture. Any markings or numbers on your print likely came from the copy. What are the numbers you are referring to?

  25. Hello, I ran across your site researching a painted picture of Lincoln on canvas in a old frame. The canvas has a seal that has Soringfield, I can not make out the rest. There is also a tag on the painting that has 1912 R, Bohanne 1912, illnoise watch. Would you have any information? Thank you, nikki

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