Scholars and enthusiasts alike believe this portrait of Abraham Lincoln, taken on November 8, 1863, eleven days before his famed Gettysburg Address, to be the best photograph of him ever taken. Lincoln’s character was notoriously difficult to capture in pictures, but Alexander Gardner’s close-up portrait, quite innovative in contrast to the typical full-length portrait style, comes closest to preserving the expressive contours of Lincoln’s face and his penetrating gaze.
Lincoln was the first frequently photographed president; he even credited a photograph (taken at Mathew Brady’s New York studio on February 27, 1860) with securing his election to the presidency. Gardner took thirty-seven photographs of Lincoln, more than double the number by any other photographer.
Moses P. Rice, possibly one of Gardner’s former assistants, copyrighted this portrait in the late nineteenth century, along with other photographs by Gardner. For one person to do this with another’s work was not an unusual practice at that time.