College unveils rare photo it bought of Lincoln inaugural
BRUNSWICK, Maine — A Maine college unveiled a rare photograph of President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration from 1861.
The Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick acquired the photo at auction in October and unveiled it Thursday.
It’s the first inauguration to be captured by photographers and took place just six weeks before the start of the Civil War.
It mostly shows the backs of spectators, who face the Capitol steps, and a large wooden canopy, under which the proceedings occur. It’s impossible to discern specific figures. Historians have studied the image for decades but can’t identify Lincoln.
The image is believed to have been taken by Alexander Gardner, who was born in Scotland and came to the United States in the 1850s. He was a photographer in Mathew Brady’s Washington studio. Brady is best known for his Civil War photos.
The inauguration photo is one of only three known copies. The others are in the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution.
This March 4, 1861, photo documents the first presidential inauguration captured by a photographer.