February 27

This Day in History

Presidential

Feb 27, 1860:

Mathew Brady photographs presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln

On this day in 1860, President Abraham Lincoln poses for the first of several portraits by noted Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady. Days later, the photograph is published on the cover of Harper's Bazaar with the caption, Hon. Abram [sic] Lincoln, of Illinois, Republican Candidate for President.

A relatively new art form, the photograph (or daguerreotype) showed an unusually beardless Lincoln just moments before he delivered an address at Cooper Union that day. The address, in which he articulated his reasons for opposing slavery in the new territories, received wild applause and garnered strong support for his candidacy among New Yorkers.

Lincoln was re-introduced to Brady a year after his election. The president shook Brady's hand and said Mr. Brady and the Cooper Institute made me president. Brady went on to photograph Lincoln several more times before Lincoln's death in 1865. Brady also snapped photos of first lady Mary Todd Lincoln and two of Lincoln's sons.

Brady's works also include shots of President Zachary Taylor at his inauguration in 1849, President Millard Fillmore in 1850 and Confederate President Jefferson Davis in 1861. After Brady's wife approached Mrs. Grant on behalf of her husband, General Ulysses S. Grant agreed to let Brady tag along with the Union Army during the Civil War. Many of his resulting works now reside in the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery.

Lincoln was not the first presidential candidate, or president, to be photographed--that honor went to John Quincy Adams in 1843.

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