The Real Last Abraham Lincoln photograph

Lincoln photo by Alexander Gardner, Feb. 5, 1865. Not the last Lincoln photograph

Lincoln photo by Alexander Gardner, Feb. 5, 1865. Not the last Lincoln photograph

 

You’ll read in in books- “the last photograph of Abraham Lincoln” before his assassination. Usually the books will claim that the picture was taken April 10, 1865. It’s an amazing picture. Lincoln looks so care-worn and tired. It’s obvious he had lost a lot of weight. I read somewhere that at the start of the war he weighed about 175 pounds. By the end of the war he was down to 140 pounds.  Unfortunately for the many books that list it as Lincoln’s last photograph, they’re mistaken. The photograph was taken by Alexander Gardner on February 5, 1865- more than two months before his death.

Actually the last photograph of Lincoln is the one of him laying in his coffin. The last photograph of the living Lincoln was taken by H.F. Warren on the balcony of the White House. It was taken March 6, 1865 (see photo below).  How could this happen, you ask? Well, if you mean how could so many get something so wrong- it happens all the time. My guess is that at some point somebody got it wrong and then others followed suit. I really appreciate the work of scholars who labor to “get the facts right.” Most of the time the scholars do get it right- but not always. Also, sometimes new-found knowledge changes what was thought to be true. History is not static. Any study of Lincoln must consider multiple sources-even then there is some risk involved-it’s the “nature of the beast.” At any rate, be careful out there folks. Do your home work. Check the sources. Compare multiple sources.  Below is the actual last photograph of the living Abraham Lincoln:  

The Last Lincoln photograph by H. F. Warren, March 6, 1865

The Last Lincoln photograph by H. F. Warren, March 6, 1865

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5 Responses to “The Real Last Abraham Lincoln photograph”

  1. B. Nash says:

    Yes-that is true. The top picture is so dramatic looking and make for great “press” as Lincoln looks so care-worn. However, the fact remains that it is not his last picture.

  2. K. Nash-Palmer says:

    I’ve actually never seen the “real” last living picture of him before! The top picture I have seen quite a bit.

  3. Nate says:

    Never knew it! Thanks!

  4. B. Nash says:

    Yes- and didn’t Stanton order that all of those negatives be destroyed? What a stroke of luck that one had survived and that it was found!

  5. Dave Wiegers says:

    The story of how the long forgotten photo of Lincoln in his coffin is very interesting. A young man stumbled across it as he was going through some files belonging to one of Lincoln’s secretaries. This young man eventually became a noted Lincoln scholar.

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