AUGUST 22, 2008: To see the conclusion of this project see the article posted on August 21, 2008 called “Harold Holzer Comments on “Lincoln in Death” Photo.

August 15, 2008: Barry Cauchon.

Hi all: We’ve had a good response from many of you offering your assistance to help prove or disprove the validity of a photograph found about 1 year ago by a Mr. P.  For those of you just reading this posting and not knowing the context of the project, I’ll refer you to the following posting “NEW LINCOLN PHOTO … A VERY SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT”

Today, I’m going to describe the photo, point out the current Pros and Cons that Mr. P and I have identified, and list the different areas of research that we’d like to cover. I’ll then ask you to fan out and gather whatever information you can locate and forward it to under the title of LINCOLN PHOTO RESEARCH. I will review and edit the responses and post them as soon as possible requesting your further comments.


For simplicity sake, I will refer to the man in the picture as Lincoln until we have concluded that it is definitely not him. Please understand that it is not our intention to assume that this is a photo of our late president. All we are proposing is that it ‘could be’, and that is the basis for this investigation.

According to Mr. P., the photographic technique is either a Daguerreotype or a tinplate. It is mounted into a 2 piece hinged folding frame (Victorian design) with an oval cut out exposing the photograph. What looks to be a silver filigree frames out a rectangular border around the oval image area. The opposite interior leaf has an embroidered flower pattern on a red velvet background.

The condition of the photographic surface is not pristine. There is some deterioration on the surface but generally the image is still in good shape.

No markings are found on the frame’s surfaces. As well, the photograph has never been removed from the frame therefore we do not know if there are any markings or notations on the back which could help solve this puzzle. Plans to remove the plate will be made once a qualified and experienced conservator is confirmed to do the work safely. Any markings found could establish the identification and validity of the photograph.

THE IMAGE: The image shows a head and torso shot of a bearded man, lying in a bed from right to left. His head rests on a white pillow with splotches on the left side. He is wearing a long sleeve, large collared white shirt with black top button. His arms and fingers are long and slender. His left hand lays above and slightly on top of the right arm. The right hand is clearly visible. No rings are visible on the fingers. Below the right hand is a patterned comforter or quilt.

The face appears round and has a thick black beard with some gray showing below the chin and along the left jaw line. The upper lip is clean-shaven but shows day old growth. Lincoln’s nose is almost ‘pug’ in appearance although the angle of the photo puts the vantage point below the nose thus creating a foreshortened look. The face has a high forehead with his hair falling back away to the left.

B. PROS AND CONS: Here are some of the pros and cons that Mr. P and I have considered since we began this project together on August 7, 2008.


  1. The image shows a bearded man similar to Abraham Lincoln
  2. The arms and fingers are long and slender indicating that this body could belong to a tall man, such as Abraham Lincoln.
  3. A mole is visible on the right cheek in the location where Lincoln’s mole was located.
  4. The left hand does not have a wedding ring. Lincoln did not wear jewelry.
  5. Lincoln was covered with a patterned quilt or comforter while he laid in the bed at the Peterson House. The pattern of the quilt in the photo could possibly match the real quilt that was on the bed that long night.


  1. The face is round.
  2. The nose is ‘pug’ in appearance.
  3. Lincoln is wearing a shirt where it has been documented that the president was stripped so his body could be inspected by surgeons to look for other wounds.
  4. The pillow has some potential blood stains, but the last known picture from Lincoln’s death bed in the Peterson House clearly shows a blood soaked pillow.
  5. The beard is fuller than most later photos of Lincoln have shown.


  1. The face is round.  Where head wounds are concerned, there is often significant swelling. This may account for the  roundness of the face. If you cover the left side of the face, dividing it into two, the right side of the face looks very much like Abraham Lincoln.
  2. The nose is ‘pug’ in appearance. As mentioned earlier, the angle of the photo has foreshortened the look of the nose. As well, swelling might account for the rounded shape.
  3. Lincoln is wearing a shirt… As part of our research we will be looking into the possibility that Lincoln was redressed prior to moving him from the Peterson Home. He certainly was dressed after his autopsy and made ready for his funeral and numerous viewings.
  4. The pillow has little blood on it.  Again, this make sense if it can be determine exactly when the photo was taken.
  5. The beard is fuller. In photos apparently taken of Lincoln prior to his death, he is shown with shorter facial hair. Historians are not 100% in agreement on what was the final photograph taken of Abraham Lincoln. Howver, in February of 1865, 2 months before the assassination, Lincoln had his second life mask cast by Clark Mills. This mask shows Lincoln with a full beard. Still, this issue, more than any other, causes the most concern at verifying the image as being genuine.


Okay, so here is our challenge. Over the next two weeks, we hope to get your help in tracking down as many facts about the time periods that will be listed below. We believe that the authenticity of this photo will be determined by much of your research.


Based on the timeline that this photograph may have been taken, we believe that it occurred sometime between the moment Lincoln died up until he was dressed after his embalming. These are the three different timelines we want to concentrate on:

  • A: Lincoln’s death at 7:22am on April 15, 1865 at the Peterson House up to the time he was returned to the White House prior to his autopsy at around 9:00am that same morning.
  • B: Lincoln’s autopsy until the time he was passed to the embalmers for preparation for his funeral.
  • C: Lincoln’s embalming to the time he was dressed and prepared for public viewing by the undertakers.

Find whatever information you can and send it, along with references, to  Your subject line should say LINCOLN PHOTO RESEARCH. Please include your name and email address so I can get back to you privately.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Regrettably, vacations come at the most inconvenient times (lol) and I have one scheduled to occur from August 22 to 30. I will be away from all computer access during that period so please do not feel I’m ignoring your wonderful help on this. Be patient and I will return all emails upon my return.

With your help, we know we can determine one way or another, whether this photograph is really Mr. Lincoln or not.

Good hunting.





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)