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THE LAST PHOTOGRAPH OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN LIFE

For many years after Abraham Lincoln's assassination a series of photographs taken by Alexander Gardner were considered the last ones. These photographs were allegedly taken on Monday, April 10, 1865. 

However, this information is incorrect. (The Library of Congress photograph to the right is the "traditional" last Lincoln pose for Gardner. For James Nance's beautiful color print of Gardner's photograph please CLICK HERE.) According to Lincoln's secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay, the actual last photographs were taken on the White House's south portico by photographer Henry F. Warren of Waltham, Massachusetts. This information is stated in their Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln which was published in 1894.

Also, Matthew Wilson's diary states that the Gardner photographs were actually made on Sunday, February 5, 1865. Wilson was a portrait painter who had accompanied Lincoln to Gardner's studio so Lincoln could provide a model for a portrait Wilson painted afterwards. Historian Harold Holzer has also verified the February 5th date as being the correct one.

The picture at the top of the page is one of those made by Warren on the White House's south portico during the late afternoon of Monday, March 6, 1865. Warren took three pictures: one of Lincoln standing and two sitting. The seated poses were made on a chair which Lincoln himself carried out and placed on the portico. One of those is pictured at the top. The standing pose is lost. The original negatives from all three poses are lost. Lincoln's ruffled hair is at least partially due to the wind on the portico. The Warren photograph is from the Lloyd Ostendorf collection.

I would like to thank Stephen Shafer who suggested the idea for this page. Mr. Shafer wrote me in September 1997 and alerted me to the error in so many Lincoln books, especially the earlier ones. Thank you!

Sources: Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose by Charles Hamilton and Lloyd Ostendorf and A. Lincoln: His Last 24 Hours by W. Emerson Reck.

On March 10, 2009, collector Keya Morgan announced the discovery of another "last" photo that arguably shows Lincoln in front of the White House.
 
 

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