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Earliest Known Photograph of Lincoln, c. 1846

Abraham Lincoln. Earliest Known Portrait
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_3627
Document Description
The earliest known photograph of Abraham Lincoln, taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd probably in Springfield, Illinois, circa 1846.
How does President Lincoln look in this picture?
What do you think President Lincoln was like?
Why is President Lincoln known as Honest Abe?
What characteristics did he have that made him a leader?
How do you think he felt in this picture?
Do you think that he knew what he was doing was monumental?
Historical Challenges
This photograph of Abraham Lincoln was taken around 1846. What was Abraham Lincoln's life like in 1846?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: About how old was Abraham Lincoln when this photograph was taken?
Science: This photograph was made as a daguerreotype, which used a process of photography introduced in 1839. Instead of film, what material is used to make a daguerreotype? How long might a person have to sit still when posing for a daguerreotype?
English Language Arts: Pretend you are the photographer who took this photograph of Abraham Lincoln and that you are writing in your diary the day you took the photograph. Write your impressions of Abraham Lincoln. You may want to include what you thought of his appearance, what you talked about when you took his photograph, and what you think he might do with his life in the future.
Stone, Tanya Lee. Abraham Lincoln. DK Publishing, December 2004. ISBN: 0756608341
Turner, Ann. Abe Lincoln Remembers. HarperCollins Children's Books, January 2003. ISBN: 0060511079
Freedman, Russel. Lincoln: A Photobiography. Houghton Mifflin Company, August 1989. ISBN: 0395518482

About this Activity


Lesson Topic:


Historical Context
The United States needed a strong and dedicated man to lead it through such a devastating and desolate time as the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln proved that he had the strength and valor to preserve the Union. A few lines from his famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, capture his dedication to freedom:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that 'all men are created equal.' Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation may live."

President Lincoln was harshly criticized by some and seen as a savior by others. The dichotomy of the nation seemed to be aptly symbolized in his life.  On April 9, 1865, the Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. The war was over. In President Lincoln’s last speech, he encouraged the states of the Confederacy to quickly rejoin the Union and to begin the new era of American freedom. Unfortunately, President Lincoln never saw the results of his efforts and passion to preserve the Union and to end slavery in America. John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln on April 14, 1865. He was only fifty-six years old.

Essential Question
How do individuals influence national and global event?
Check for Understanding
Describe the individual in the photograph and evaluate the impact of Lincoln on the start and outcome of the Civil War.