Secretary of the Interior Caleb B. Smith


Caleb B. Smith (1808‒64) was President Abraham Lincoln’s first secretary of the interior. He was born in Boston but at a young age moved with his parents to Cincinnati. After studying law in Ohio, as a young man he left the state for Indiana, where he was admitted to the bar, practiced law, and became active in politics. He was elected to five terms in the Indiana House of Representatives (1833‒42), followed by four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1843‒49). A member of the Whig and later the Republican Party, Smith played a major role in securing the support of the Indiana delegation for Lincoln at the 1860 Republican convention in Chicago and helped to win the state for Lincoln in the November general election. Smith’s appointment to the cabinet reflected the role that Indiana and he personally had played in electing Lincoln. Smith headed the Department of Interior until December 1862, when he resigned and was appointed by Lincoln to a federal judgeship. 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: January 8, 2018