Mr. Lincoln Sits for His Portrait: The Story of a Photograph That Became an American Icon
Author: Leonard S. Marcus
A unique middle-grade biography of America’s sixteenth president, through the lens of one famous photograph.
On February 9, 1864, Abraham Lincoln made the mile-long walk from the Executive Mansion to photographer Mathew Brady’s Washington, DC, studio, to be joined there later by his ten-year-old son, Tad. With a fractious reelection campaign looming that year, America's first media-savvy president was intent on securing another portrait that cast him in a favorable light, as he prepared to make the case for himself to a nation weary of war. In the studio it proved to be a red-letter day. In addition to the image that later found its way onto the penny—and a pair of photos adapted for the old and new five-dollar bills—the Brady studio’s chief photographer, Anthony Berger, produced a dual portrait of Lincoln and Tad. The pose, featuring Lincoln reading to his son, was a last-minute improvisation, but the image that came of it was—and remains—incomparably tender and enduringly powerful. Immediately after the president's murder, it became a mass-produced icon—a cherished portrait of a nation’s fallen hero, a disarmingly intimate record of a careworn father’s feeling for his child, a timeless comment on books as a binding force between generations. Illustrated with archival photos and related material, here is a fascinating depiction of a peerless leader, and a memorable account of the making of an image the world has come to prize.