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The Earliest Photograph of Abraham Lincoln
Nicholas H. Shepherd was one of the earliest photographers in Springfield. Shepherd was a daguerreian, and he called his studio a Daguerreotype Miniature Gallery. Shepherd most likely took the above daguerreotype of Abraham Lincoln in 1846 or 1847 after Abraham had been elected to the House of Representatives. Lincoln was 37 or 38 at the time of this sitting. This information is based on the recollections of Gibson W. Harris, a law student in Lincoln's office from 1845 to 1847. (Gibson William Harris, "My Recollections of Abraham Lincoln," Women's Home Companion, XXX, November 1903, pp. 9-11). Harris and Shepherd were friends, and they shared a room in a boardinghouse. Harris recognized these daguerreotypes as the work of his friend, and said that Lincoln sat for Shepherd one or more times. Lincoln photograph expert Lloyd Ostendorf believed Shepherd made the daguerreotypes between June and December of 1846. The photograph was first published in McClure's Magazine in December 1895 after Robert T. Lincoln had revealed its existence to writer Ida Tarbell when she interviewed him in Chicago early in 1895. Robert said that this photograph (and the companion one of his mother) hung on the wall of his home from the time he could first remember as a child growing up. Mary Lincoln Isham, Robert T. Lincoln's daughter, presented the original daguerreotype of Lincoln to the Library of Congress in October 1937.

A companion photograph of Mary Todd Lincoln (below right) was also made at this sitting in Shepherd's studio. After Abraham's election to the presidency in 1860, Mary began preparing for the move to Washington by removing objects dear to her from the walls of the Springfield home. These items would either be stored or taken to the White House. Among the items she removed were these two early photographs taken by Shepherd. Mariah Vance, Mary's housekeeper, was in the room when Mary removed these two photographs. Mariah reported that Mary said, "These are my two most precious pictures, taken when we were young and so desperately in love. They will grace the walls of the White House. They belong there to the last."

Among the Abraham Lincoln books that include his photographs are: Lincoln's Photographs: A Complete Album by Lloyd Ostendorf, The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln by Frederick Hill Meserve and Carl Sandburg, Lincoln: A Picture Story of His Life by Stefan Lorant, and The Face of Lincoln compiled and edited by James Mellon. Additionally, there is The Lincoln Family Album by Mark E. Neely, Jr. and Harold Holzer. Also recommended are Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography by Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Philip B. Kunhardt III, and Peter W. Kunhardt, and Lincoln: A Pictorial History by Dr. Edward Steers, Jr.

The definitive source of Mary Todd Lincoln's photographs is The Photographs of Mary Todd Lincoln by Lloyd Ostendorf. Extensive use of the late Mr. Ostendorf's research was used in the preparation of this page.

The quote from Mariah Vance came from p. 276 of Lincoln's Unknown Private Life: An Oral History by his Black Housekeeper Mariah Vance 1850-60 edited by Lloyd Ostendorf and Walter Oleksy. It is noted that it was Robert T. Lincoln's reminiscence (Robert used the word "guess" in an 1896 letter to the editors of McClure's Magazine) that these early photographs were made in 1847-1849 in Washington (or possibly St. Louis) during the time of his father's term in the House of Representatives, but Harris' recollections are generally accepted by historians and Lincoln photograph experts and collectors including Frederick Hill Meserve, Stefan Lorant, and Lloyd Ostendorf.

Shepherd first advertised his service in Springfield in the Sangamo Journal on October 30, 1845, and often thereafter. His first gallery was located over the grocery store on Adams Street owned by J. Delany. He later moved and set up his gallery above the drugstore of J. Brookie at the northwest corner of the public square in Springfield. Harris, who twice escorted Mary Todd Lincoln to balls when Abraham was unable to attend, recalled that Shepherd remained in Springfield until 1848 at which time he departed for California.

One reason Robert T. Lincoln expressed doubt that these early photographs were made in Springfield was that Springfield was a small town at the time, and he doubted any photographers were located there in the 1840's. Robert was incorrect, however. There were several daguerreians already operating in Springfield in 1846.

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