Just in time for Abraham Lincoln's
birthday Feb. 12, the Illinois State Historical Society
is offering for sale two Lincoln portrait prints of
unusually high quality and detail.
"They're probably the most detailed photographs of
Abraham Lincoln anybody has ever seen," said Tom Teague,
director of the state historical society. "They're both
real stunners. ... The detail is just amazing."
The two photos - one a profile and the other showing
three-quarters of Lincoln's face - were taken by Chicago
photographer Alexander Hesler on June 3, 1860, for use
in Lincoln's presidential campaign. Hesler made the
original photos on 8-by-10-inch glass plates.
Later, about the time Lincoln was assassinated in
1865, Hesler or an assistant made at least one full-size
glass positive copy of each of the negatives as a
precaution against loss or breakage.
The positives were later purchased by Lincoln
collector King Hostick, who left them to the state
historical society when he died in 1993. At the time,
Illinois state historian Tom Schwartz, then curator of
the Lincoln collection at the ISHS, said the plates were
"very significant items."
The two photos show a "youthful, determined
politician; he's really statesman-like," Schwartz said.
"After he became president, you begin to see the wear of
the office in his face. He became much more haggard."
Teague said the images are perhaps "the most
human-looking" portraits of Lincoln he's seen.
Schwartz said in 1993 that the plates are significant
in part because they "are the sharpest, clearest
surviving images of the two photos." Most existing
pictures are "copies of copies of copies," he said, and
The original glass negatives are owned by the
Smithsonian Institution, but they were broken at some
point and are useless for making quality prints. The
glass positives owned by the State Historical Society
are the only set known to exist.
Teague said the prints, which exhibit great detail in
part because of the large size of the negative, are made
on archival-quality "100-year paper with 100-year ink,"
so they should easily outlast anyone who buys a set. The
positives were scanned into a computer file to make the
prints, he said.
The prints come in a handcrafted frame of native
Illinois walnut, and unframed, matted prints may be
available at a later date.
The cost of the framed prints is $250 each, plus tax
where applicable, plus $45 shipping and handling. Buyers
may purchase both poses, or they may choose to buy a
The prints can be seen at the ISHS offices at 2101/2
S. Sixth St.
Orders can be sent to the Illinois State Historical
Society, 2101/2 S. Sixth St., Springfield, IL 62701.
Checks, money orders and Visa or MasterCard may be used.
When using a credit card, include the card's number and
Doug Pokorski can be reached at 788-1539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.