Skip to main content

Pauline Cushman

Mathew Brady Studio, active 1844 - 1894
Pauline Cushman, 10 Jun 1833 - 2 Dec 1893
Modern albumen print from wet plate collodion negative
Mat: 35.6 x 27.9cm (14 x 11")
Image: 8.9 x 5.9cm (3 1/2 x 2 5/16")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number
Exhibition Label
Pauline Cushman 1833-1893
Born New Orleans, Louisiana
A brief but harrowing career as a Union spy transformed minor actress Pauline Cushman into a major celebrity. While appearing in a play in Union-occupied Louisville, Kentucky, in 1863, Cushman gained entrée to Confederate circles by publicly feigning southern sympathies. Hailed as the darling of the rebel troops, Cushman gathered intelligence for the North until her duplicity was discovered. Arrested, tried, and condemned to hang, she was rescued by Union forces before the sentence could be carried out. In recognition of her service to the nation, Cushman received a commendation from President Lincoln and was awarded the honorary rank of major. In June 1864 P. T. Barnum advertised that "MISS MAJOR PAULINE CUSHMAN! THE FAMOUS UNION SPY AND SCOUT" would recount her "EXTRAORDINARY EXPLOITS and ADVENTURES" during a series of appearances at his American Museum. Barnum also advised patrons that "elegant" carte-de-visite portraits of Cushman would be offered for sale.
Mathew Brady Studio (active 1844-94)
Modern albumen silver print from 1864 wet-collodion negative
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection