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Lumley Sketch and Brady Photograph
Arthur Lumley Sketch and Mathew Brady Photograph
Courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

Date Changes for Lincoln Photographs

In 1861 a 24-year-old Irish immigrant sketched President Abraham Lincoln while he sat in Mathew Brady's photography studio. Eighty years later the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield, Illinois, acquired the sketch, a profile rendered in pencil by Arthur Lumley. Until recently, apparently no one made the important connection between the date of the sketch and that of the photographs. The date, however, has significance for collectors, appraisers, historians and editors of Lincoln materials.

Lumley, an artist for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, signed the front of his sketch with the notation, "Brady's May 16/61." On the reverse side he wrote: "This sketch of Lincoln was made from life, while he was waiting to have a photograph taken in Brady's Gallery Pennsylvania Ave. Washington DC 1861. Arthur Lumley." By dating his sketch, Lumley left an important clue for identifying the photographs taken on the same day.

Eventually that clue was uncovered by Dr. Thomas Schwartz, Illinois state historian. He checked the standard Lincoln photographic references, none of which listed any photos taken on May 16. But he did notice a "striking similarity" to Brady photographs which lacked a specific date and traditionally have been categorized as "circa 1862." By comparing the appearance and pose of Lincoln in Lumley's sketch with these photos, he confirmed that May 16, 1861, should be considered as the true date.

Because this discovery has direct implications for those who deal with Lincoln photographs, Dr. Schwartz wrote an illustrated article about his findings entitled "A Mystery Solved: Arthur Lumley's Sketch of Abraham Lincoln." It was published in the Autumn 2003 edition of the Journal of Illinois History (pages 215-22). If you need a copy, click here to order it while supplies last.

A summary of the article appears in For the People, the newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Association. To read the pdf file, click here and select "Winter 2003." Scroll through the document to find the article on page 8.

Related Links
Abraham Lincoln Association
Journal of Illinois History
Lincoln Photos from the Library of Congress
Lincoln Photos and Prints from Picture History

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