At the time this picture was published in 1896, it was thought to be the earliest portrait of Abraham Lincoln. The photo of the man who would become President is thought to have been taken in 1848, when Lincoln was 39 years old. Since then, however, another photograph from an several years earlier — a daguerreotype thought to be of Mr Lincoln — was purchased at a New York art gallery.

The earliest portrait of Abraham Lincoln

From a daguerreotype in the possession of the Hon. Robert T Lincoln, taken before Lincoln was forty, and first published in the McClure’s “Life of Lincoln.”

Of the sixty or more portraits of Lincoln which will be published in this series of articles, thirty, at least, will be absolutely new to our readers; and of these thirty none is more important than this early portrait.

It is generally believed that Lincoln was not over thirty-five years old when this daguerreotype was taken, and it is certainly true that it is the face of Lincoln as a young man. “About thirty would be the general verdict,” says Mr Murat Halstead in an editorial in the Brooklyn Standard-Union, “if it were not that the daguerreotype was unknown when Lincoln was of that age. It does not seem, however, that he could have been more than thirty-five, and for that age the youthfulness of the portrait is wonderful. This is a new Lincoln, and far more attractive, in a sense, than anything the public has possessed. This is the portrait of a remarkably handsome man… The head is magnificent, the eyes deep and generous, the mouth sensitive, the whole expression something delicate, tender, pathetic, poetic.

“This was the young man with whom the phantoms of romance dallied, the young man who recited poems and was fanciful and speculative, and in love and despair, but upon whose brow there already gleamed the illumination of intellect, the inspiration of patriotism. There were vast possibilities in this young man’s face. He could have gone anywhere and done anything. He might have been a military chieftain, a novelist, a poet, a philosopher, ah! a hero, a martyr — and, yes, this young man might have been — he even was Abraham Lincoln! This was he with the world before him. It is good fortune to have the magical revelation of the youth of the man the world venerates. This look into his eyes, into his soul — not before he knew sorrow, but long before the world knew him — and to feel that it is worthy to be what it is, and that we are better acquainted with him and love him the more, is something beyond price.”

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