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Presidents Day Celebration

There is a good deal of confusion about Presidents Day. Some see it as a celebration of the lives of two of our greatest presidents, while others see it as a commercial holiday, a break in the winter season and the occasion for a salea-bration. We think it is an interesting occasion because it features a president for whom we have no photographs, though no dearth of images, and the first president to recognize the publicity value of the photograph, sitting for over 100 portraits and being photographed in many different contexts including, most prominently, at the war front. (The first president actually photographed was John Quincey Adams, but it was many years after he was in office.  The first president actually photographed while in office was James K. Polk.) The question is, what’s the difference?

Gilbert Stuart, 1795


Harper’s Weekly, Feb. 22, 1732


Emanuel Leutze, 1851


Currier and Ives, 1860


Nicholas H. Shephard, Daguerotype, 1846


Mathew Brady, Lincoln at Cooper Union, 1860


Alexander Gardner, Lincoln with General McClellan at Antietam, October 3, 1862


Alexander Gardner, Silver Gelatin Print, February 1865


Alexander Gardner, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, 1865

Images Courtesy of Library of Congress, Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd., Abraham Lincoln Art Gallery


Presidents Day Celebration


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