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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
Alexander Gardner, 17 Oct 1821 - 10 Dec 1882
Abraham Lincoln, 12 Feb 1809 - 15 Apr 1865
Photographic Negative
Wet collodion negative
Image: 43.5 × 33 cm (17 1/8 × 13")
Plate: 50.7 × 43.2 cm (19 15/16 × 17")
Home Furnishings\Furniture\Seating\Chair
Printed Material\Book
Costume\Dress Accessory\Eyeglasses
Home Furnishings\Furniture\Table
Costume\Dress Accessory\Handkerchief
Personal Attribute\Facial Hair\Beard
Costume\Dress Accessory\Neckwear\Tie\Bowtie
Abraham Lincoln: Male
Abraham Lincoln: Law and Crime\Lawyer
Abraham Lincoln: Military and Intelligence\Soldier
Abraham Lincoln: Politics and Government\President of US
Abraham Lincoln: Society and Social Change\Reformer\Environmentalist
Abraham Lincoln: Business and Finance\Businessperson\Merchant
Abraham Lincoln: Politics and Government\US Congressman\Illinois
Abraham Lincoln: Politics and Government\Government official\Surveyor
Abraham Lincoln: Politics and Government\State Senator\Illinois
Abraham Lincoln: Politics and Government\Government official\Postmaster
Abraham Lincoln: Crafts and Trades\Boat builder
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the James Smithson Society, CBS Television Network, and James Macatee
Restrictions & Rights
Object number
Exhibition Label
This object exemplifies the means by which a photographic image was produced on paper: the glass-plate negative that was the “film” of early photography. Because of their fragility, surviving glass-plate negatives of this size (the so-called “imperial”) are rare: this is one of two of Lincoln that have survived and dates from his August 9, 1863, sitting at Gardner’s Washington studio. The process Gardner used was relatively new to America and consisted of hand-coating a glass plate with collodion—a syrupy mixture of guncotton dissolved in alcohol and ether to which bromide and iodine salts had been added. The difficulty for the photographer was that the glass plate had to be coated with collodion, sensitized in a bath of silver nitrate, and exposed in the camera immediately, while the emulsion was still damp. Gardner was acknowledged as a master in evenly coating the plate, which resulted in prints of exceptional clarity.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Currently not on view