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May 17, 2018

Abraham Lincoln in What Is Considered to Be His Earliest Photograph, ca. Early 1840s

In what experts say could be a major historical discovery, a researcher has concluded that an 1840s picture of a young man is the earliest known photograph of Abraham Lincoln.

(© Albert Kaplan)

The daguerreotype is owned by New York stockbroker Albert Kaplan, who purchased it as “Portrait of a Young Man” from an art gallery in New York in 1977.
“On April 8, 1977 I went to the Witkin Art Gallery on 57th Street in New York. Amongst the objects offered for sale were around 100 cased images kept in a glass showcase. I now know they were daguerreotypes. At the time I had never seen a daguerreotype, nor read or heard the name, and had no knowledge whatsoever of early photography.

“I asked for permission to look them over. One of their staff kindly brought me a chair and unlocked the glass showcase.

“The daguerreotypes were priced according to size. The smallest offered were Sixth plate priced at $25, the Quarter plate were $50, and the Half or Whole plate were $100. I purchased one Sixth plate daguerreotype. The image of the distinguished young man reminded me of Abraham Lincoln”.
Over the years Kaplan researched and assembled materials which cast light on the physical man, Lincoln. Kaplan believed that the best qualified people to analyze the image, and the assembled materials, to consider whether the daguerreotype is of Abraham Lincoln, would be plastic and reconstructive surgeons who work with the human face.

The only other known, and hitherto earliest, daguerreotype of Lincoln, Meserve #1, in the possession of the Library of Congress, was a gift of Robert Todd Lincoln to Frederick Hill Meserve. Meserve reported that “Lincoln believed it was made in Washington in 1848.”

In 1965, the New York Academy of Sciences published “Abraham Lincoln's Philosophy Of Common Sense - An Analytical Biography of a Great Mind”, by Edward J. Kempf, M.D., a neurologist and psychiatrist whose interest in Lincoln began when he first saw the Volk life mask, from which he inferred that Lincoln must have suffered a serious cranial injury in childhood. After investigating further, Dr. Kempf found Lincoln's own account of having been kicked in the forehead by a horse at age 10 years and “thought dead for awhile.” The nature of the cerebral damage, and how it might have influenced the development of Lincoln's personality and mind became a question of absorbing interest to the author. The resulting analytical biography was the product of the author's 12 subsequent years of research.
“Because the trauma-induced deformations of Lincoln's face, distinctly described by Dr. Kempf, are seen unmistakably in the Kaplan daguerreotype, providing in themselves compelling evidence in support of the daguerreotype's authenticity, we reprint the Kempf analysis.”
An earlier Kempf study of Lincoln's cranial injury appeared in the April 1952 American Medical Association (AMA) Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, Volume 67, Number 4, entitled, “Abraham Lincoln's Organic and Emotional Neurosis”.



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