President Abraham Lincoln


Abraham Lincoln (1809‒65) was the 16th president of the United States. He was born in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky, and grew up in southwestern Indiana. He had little formal schooling. Largely self-educated, he became a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, and was elected to the Illinois State Assembly in 1836 and in 1846 to a single term in the U.S. Congress. In the 1850s he became a leader in the new Republican Party and a national spokesman against the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which opened up the entire territory of the Louisiana Purchase to slavery. Lincoln’s election to the presidency in 1860 precipitated the secession of the southern states from the Union in early 1861. In the ensuing Civil War, Lincoln defeated the South, saved the Union from dissolution, and ended slavery in the United States. His domestic achievements included the Morrill Act (1862) creating the land-grant colleges and universities; the Homestead Act (1862), which enabled settlers to obtain 160 acres (65 hectares) of farmland by residing on and cultivating it for five years; and the Pacific Railroad Act (1862) authorizing the building of the first transcontinental railroad. Lincoln was assassinated by a Confederate sympathizer on April 14, 1865, five days after the effective end of the Civil War. This photograph, one of several of Lincoln by Matthew Brady, was taken in New York City on Monday morning, February 27, 1860, several hours before Lincoln delivered his famous Cooper Union address. In this speech, Lincoln, drawing upon his own careful analysis, examined the views of the 39 signers of the Constitution and argued that at least 21 of them—a clear majority—believed that Congress should control the expansion of slavery into the territories. Lincoln was later reported to have said that it was the speech and the portrait—the most famous of Lincoln’s beardless poses—that made him president. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Last updated: March 22, 2016