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Is this a portrait of young Abraham Lincoln?
February 12, 2007 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Is this a portrait of young Abraham Lincoln?
posted by edverb (67 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
It sure looks like him. But-- and I ask this with absolutely no snark, and yes, I do think this is a worthwhile MetaFilter post-- is this really of any more than passing interest to anyone besides obsessive Lincoln fans and scholars? I mean, it's not as though there's any doubt as to whether Abraham Lincoln really existed, and there are plenty of portraits, both photographic and painted, that show us what he looked like. We know he was an ugly man; does it really add anything to have confirmation that he was an ugly teenager as well? In short, why does this particular picture deserve a reaction beyond, "The earliest known portrait of Abraham Lincoln? That's kinda neat."?
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:46 AM on February 12, 2007


Did anyone read the legalese at the bottom of the page? How can you "own" the copyright on a 150 year old image? That image lapsed into public domain over a century ago.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:48 AM on February 12, 2007


Where's his mole?
posted by Dave Faris at 9:49 AM on February 12, 2007


Nose seems off.
posted by Peter H at 9:50 AM on February 12, 2007


Interesting link. I won't comment on whether it is true or not, but the research is impressive (esp. the information about the kick to the head by a horse). Thanks for posting it.
posted by anastasiav at 9:51 AM on February 12, 2007


he looks pretty repulsed.
posted by wumpus at 9:54 AM on February 12, 2007


Faint of Butt, who do you suppose is interested in doggie dildos or porny plushies? Even if the paying audience for a subject would be small it still might deserve a place on Metafilter.
posted by davy at 9:55 AM on February 12, 2007


Google image search comes up with this more plausible portrait of a younger Abe Lincoln.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:55 AM on February 12, 2007


eyes are spot on, particularly the droopy left eyelid.
posted by pmbuko at 9:55 AM on February 12, 2007


this is the "Lincoln" photograph that's been around for a while, right? I remember that they asked some forensics expert and they debunked it, due to some computerised analysis of the cranium, or stuff like that. they even asked David Herbert Donald if I remember correctly.
posted by matteo at 9:57 AM on February 12, 2007


I am going to say no, mostly because that dude doesn't look like he would have the stones to challenge someone to a duel involving broadswords in a pit.
posted by ND¢ at 9:58 AM on February 12, 2007


Faint of Butt, I'm a not-American and I find this quite fascinating. Lincoln has such a well known face that invites interest off the bat, but this story is filled out with the beginnings of photography, the forensic esoterica of facial reconstruction evidence from experts, together with the past and future medical histories of Lincoln. In short, it's a non-earth shattering piece of sleuth ephemera about which anyone of us can build a strong opinion. I thought personally that the ear pinnas were different.
posted by peacay at 10:00 AM on February 12, 2007


FoB, as human animals, I think we respond to faces in a far more visceral and immediate way than to almost anything else we could know about another person. The reason anything has historical artifactual value (beyond its research value), is because of the ineffable sense that it draws us closer to the past. Lincoln seems to have had perhaps the richest and most complicated inner life of any President, and scholars and armchair historians alike have long been fascinated by him. A new portrait of him, especially one so young, would be incredibly compelling to those who share that fascination.

That having been said, I'm extremely skeptical that it's Lincoln, just because the odds against it are so great, and the desire to see what we want to see is so powerful.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:01 AM on February 12, 2007


I don't really think this photo's resemblence makes any kind of case for its authenticity. People age in so many different ways-- it's incredibly possible that the kid in the photo wound up looking nothing like Lincoln whatsoever. Especially when you consider the differences in lifestyle back then and how they contributed to aging.
posted by hermitosis at 10:02 AM on February 12, 2007


The Lincoln duel thing is quite possibly the best thing I've ever learned from the internet.

On a slightly(very) off topic note, does anyone here know anything about the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds? There's a statue in the lobby that I've been told is of Abraham Lincoln, but I find it kind of implausible. The statute is of a young, bare chested man, so it seemed like an odd choice for Lincoln.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:02 AM on February 12, 2007


No.
posted by newmoistness at 10:03 AM on February 12, 2007


FoB - take it MetaTalk.

No - I don't believe this was Lincoln. Lincoln had wild hair, and was notoriously ugly. His proportions made it difficult for him to correctly fit any clothes. And yeah, where's the mole.

Another alternative image (this one a photograph of him later)

http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jala/21.1/images/guelzo_fig01b.jpg
posted by xammerboy at 10:08 AM on February 12, 2007


Lincoln rocks. I saw his complete works in a bookstore in Charleston, SC (irony!) and bought it on the spot. I don't think the picture is him, simply because he looks too well-kept for his early years.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:13 AM on February 12, 2007


Xammerboy, Faint of Butt's post is perfectly on topic for the blue. He's not asking "Why did you post this?" (in fact he says that explicitly), he's asking "Why is this important?". And I agree that it's worth asking that question, because that's what I do at work all day. (When I'm not on Metafilter.)
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:14 AM on February 12, 2007


Other than that, Faint of Butt, how did you enjoy the play?
posted by gimonca at 10:23 AM on February 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


The two pics shown seem close, but if you click through the other "only other known picture" link you can see the chin is way off. You just can't see it under the beard.
posted by DU at 10:25 AM on February 12, 2007


Nose in younger man is narrower and has a dorsal hump that the older Lincoln portrait lacks. Although noses grow as we age, the bump would not disappear (if anything, it would become more pronounced). My money is on 'No.'
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 10:27 AM on February 12, 2007


Not enough Marfans. Another fun fact: Barbary pirates buried gold in Lincoln's head.
posted by Falconetti at 10:31 AM on February 12, 2007


Where's his mole?

From the Authentication section of the site:

"A faint circular shadow appears at the lower portion of the middle third of the right nasolabial crease, which is the precise location of Lincoln's characteristic nevus (prominent right mole) seen in later Lincoln images. There is also a highlight, or faint shadow, more to the middle and below the nevus shadow, at the vermilion border (the line demarcating the red and white portions of the lip) that probably is another mole, corresponding to a similar skin lesion in several Lincoln photographs."

Also they say that much of the differences could be due to the fact that in his 30's he started to lose lots of weight, and with various illnesses and the enourmous stress he was under his appearance was said to have changed dramatically.
posted by chococat at 10:33 AM on February 12, 2007


The ears are very different in ways that I don't think can be explained by any aging process.
posted by newmoistness at 10:45 AM on February 12, 2007


Did anyone read the legalese at the bottom of the page? How can you "own" the copyright on a 150 year old image? That image lapsed into public domain over a century ago.

No, he can't copyright it, and that's not a copyright notice. It specifically says he "waives all copyright restrictions." But he does own it, and has given Getty Images distribution rights. So if you want a high res scan of it, for commercial purposes, you'll have to pay for the privilege. That's reasonable. Most museums do the same thing by charging a photography fee if you want to take a picture of something for commercial use. Kaplan has a pretty brought list of free uses, including, it would seem, use of the photo in biographies, etc. But if you want to come out with a "young Lincoln" bobblehead, it'll cost you.
posted by beagle at 10:48 AM on February 12, 2007


"broad list" that is, not "brought list" . Geez.
posted by beagle at 10:49 AM on February 12, 2007


Nose seems off.

Don't our nose and ears continue to grow throughout our lives?
posted by LooseFilter at 10:50 AM on February 12, 2007


Sorry, but the MyHeritage face recognition software (which correctly identified Lincoln) reveals that it is actually none other than Travis Barker from blink-182! (. . . or possibly Emilio Estevez)
posted by dgaicun at 10:56 AM on February 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's him. It just dosn't look like him. This other early image of Lincoln (with no beard) looks very diffrent from the other photo. The nose seems biger, the face seems much more 'puffy', etc.

Just dosn't look like the same guy to me. Just someone similar looking in a similar pose.
posted by delmoi at 10:56 AM on February 12, 2007


I'd read elsewhere that there is no known definitive death mask of Lincoln either, but in a display case in the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum Memorial, Pittsburgh, Penna., there's something the curator thinks is one.
posted by pax digita at 10:56 AM on February 12, 2007


The ears are also very diffrent.
posted by delmoi at 10:57 AM on February 12, 2007


Well, I think this post is cool if only because I love it that people still retain such interest in Abraham Lincoln. Especially with the government we have now, it's heartening to remember that kind of intelligence & strong leadership has existed in our history. Lincoln represents everything we want America to be, he was one of the bestest Deciders ever.

And I, too, heart the duel story.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:04 AM on February 12, 2007


this is the "Lincoln" photograph that's been around for a while, right?

I believe there was another one a few years back, far more fetched than this one. Quick google doesn't turn it up, alas.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:04 AM on February 12, 2007


The eyes have it.
posted by Darth Fedor at 11:20 AM on February 12, 2007


I say no, because the photo in question looks like the snotty rich boyfriend that would expect some 1840 version of Molly Ringwald to go to the prom with him without his even asking, while the real Lincoln is the 1840 hipster loner with the crazy clothes and hair who secretly lusts after 1840 Molly, but is too shy/cool to do anything about it, and the boorish behavior of Mr. Snotty eventually pushes Lincoln into her arms.

I don't know why the historians don't see this.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:30 AM on February 12, 2007 [4 favorites]


I just checked his myspace and sure enough that picture is there. Right next to the picture of him and a horse drawn buggy with a big spoiler and under lighting.
posted by srboisvert at 11:37 AM on February 12, 2007


at the vermilion border (the line demarcating the red and white portions of the lip)

I learned something today.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:53 AM on February 12, 2007


Not gay enough.
posted by 2sheets at 11:54 AM on February 12, 2007


These three Lincoln photos [1][2][3] taken in succession, remind me of Bond Connery, Zardoz Connery and Finding Forrester Connery.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 11:55 AM on February 12, 2007


It's not him. Lincoln's mouth is downturned at the ends. This guy's are more upturned. I don't think this changes with years.
posted by wsg at 11:58 AM on February 12, 2007


Well, I think this post is cool if only because I love it that people still retain such interest in Abraham Lincoln. Especially with the government we have now, it's heartening to remember that kind of intelligence & strong leadership has existed in our history. Lincoln represents everything we want America to be, he was one of the bestest Deciders ever.

Yeah I am looking forward to when Bush gets up to heaven and he saunters over to the part of heaven where all the former U.S. presidents hang out and he is all like "Hey what's up guys?" and Lincoln springs out of his handcarved pine chaise lounge and lets out a wookiesque scream and rips Bush's arms right off of his body and throws him down to hell. That will be some presidential shit right there.
posted by ND¢ at 12:10 PM on February 12, 2007 [6 favorites]


Looks like Kramer to me.
posted by DakotaPaul at 12:19 PM on February 12, 2007


sigh... i don't know.. why don't we ask him?
posted by tehloki at 12:20 PM on February 12, 2007


Then again, maybe he'll challenge Bush to a duel!

AWESOMEST. DUEL. EVER.

: Giggles while trying to picture W picking up a broadsword, let alone pronouncing the word. :
posted by miss lynnster at 12:29 PM on February 12, 2007


Hell, he'd probably cut his thumb, miss l.
posted by pax digita at 12:33 PM on February 12, 2007


No, it's not.
posted by tadellin at 12:42 PM on February 12, 2007


No, it's not Abraham Lincoln? Or no it's not THE AWESOMEST. DUEL. EVER...?
I just wanted to say that again. Can you tell?
posted by miss lynnster at 12:48 PM on February 12, 2007


A cross-reference of Abraham Lincoln and Zardoz. This is why I love mefi.
posted by Pliskie at 12:52 PM on February 12, 2007


Thanks for throwing in that link ND¢, I hadn't seen that before and found it to be probably one of the most interesting stories I've ever found through Metafilter.
posted by rfbjames at 1:03 PM on February 12, 2007


Well, I think this post is cool if only because I love it that people still retain such interest in Abraham Lincoln. Especially with the government we have now, it's heartening to remember that kind of intelligence & strong leadership has existed in our history.

George Bush and Abraham Lincoln: The only presidents to suspend habias corpus. Of course, The U.S. faced much greater challanges at the time...
posted by delmoi at 1:04 PM on February 12, 2007


Aside from the authenticity of the photo, the linked articles by Kempf on Lincoln's personality and its relation to his physical problems were pretty amazing. Especially when tired, he saw double. After winning the Republican nomination, an exhausted Lincoln saw two of himself in a mirror. He resolved to test whether this happened in a different mirror, in which case he would assume some natural cause, or not, in which case he would accept a supernatural explanation. There are other pictures of Lincoln and one of a lifemask that may be seen at the link as well.
posted by CCBC at 1:33 PM on February 12, 2007


All white people look the same to me.
posted by wigu at 2:17 PM on February 12, 2007


That's fascinating - thank you!
FoB: It's Lincoln's birthday today. And the interest of this isn't "earliest picture of Lincoln", it's "how do we figure out whether this is the...". The articles at the linked site are really interesting, with things I didn't know about both Lincoln and how you try to identify a person in a photo. Plus the thrill of, how credible are the people this guy has selectively quoted/hired to attest to the identity?
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:23 PM on February 12, 2007


Bulgaroktonos: here's some Info about Recorder of Deeds building, though it doesn't say who the statue you mention is. They had open houses and guided tours during this month last year; probably they're doing the same this year but I can't find the dates. It sounds like it would be worth the tour - I've never been to the building, but there's a lot of admiring stuff about it and its art online.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:49 PM on February 12, 2007


Found it: Alex Padro wrote the pamphlet they hand out at the RoD building. At the end of his article "Deeds Indeed" in the Washington Post, Feb 20, 2000 (you'll have to scroll down for it), he describes all the art in the historic building. He says there is "a tall plaster statue of a bare-chested Young Abraham Lincoln by James Lee Hansen".
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:05 PM on February 12, 2007


On a slightly(very) off topic note, does anyone here know anything about the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds? There's a statue in the lobby that I've been told is of Abraham Lincoln, but I find it kind of implausible. The statute is of a young, bare chested man, so it seemed like an odd choice for Lincoln.

That's actually pretty common of a certain period of American art--presidents and founding fathers were portrayed in the style of ancient Romans, so you'd get George Washington in a toga with a laurel wreath on his head. Weird, weird stuff. But yeah, I think that's where Homoerotic Lincoln comes from, too.
posted by EarBucket at 3:38 PM on February 12, 2007


You're all nuts. This is obviously what Lincoln looked like as a teenager.
posted by WCityMike at 4:14 PM on February 12, 2007


I used to work in the fine-art photo business, and this dag was a long-running joke. The guy got Christie's to bite on it in 1998; it was put up in an actual auction, with a $200k-$300k estimate. No one touched it. The owner has been flogging it relentlessly ever since, with it being constantly listed on ebay (like right now!). Though he used to list at $20 million. Now the bidding starts at $5 million.

Here's the secret reason it hasn't sold: it's not Abraham Lincoln!

(See also the long-running saga of the guys who are trying to hawk a not-real Honus Wagner. Hope springs eternal.)

As for copyright, I'm no lawyer but I believe that in certain circumstances, copyright begins when a work is published, not when it was created. (I think this applies to pre-1979 works, including photographs. But I could be wrong about the details. I know I had to pay an estate to run an unpublished Lewis Carroll photo, because they claimed copyright, and it was legit.)
posted by dbrown at 5:12 PM on February 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


Holzer came up with one of these previously unknowns back in 1993 or so and wrote it up in the Feb-March 1994 issue of American Heritage (scroll down to yellow for article). Alas, the piece article does not show the picture as the hardcopy does (get thee to a library), but this may be what matteo was thinking of.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:29 PM on February 12, 2007


You want gay Lincoln? Ready for the San Francisco Lincoln?

And here's Toga Lincoln.

As for the bare chest, it's probably a variation of one of many Railsplitter Lincolns.

IndigoJones: I wonder if you're thinking of the Gettysburg daguerreotype, which is almost unquestionably him. [mefi]
posted by dhartung at 8:33 PM on February 12, 2007


Wow. San Francisco Lincoln really was... pretty... ummm... gay.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:47 PM on February 12, 2007


Chin is way off.
posted by pemulis at 9:22 PM on February 12, 2007


About the bare-chested Washington - I'm not sure it's right to say that it was "pretty common" to portray American political figures bare chested. The famous statue of bare-torsoed George Washington by Horatio Greenough was commissioned in 1832 to sit in Congress, but it was controversial when it was delivered and such a continuing joke that they eventually moved it out of Congress.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:41 PM on February 12, 2007


My guess is no, too. The center of the face is too pronounced. Anyway, a worthy post since I like all things Lincoln.
posted by puddinghead at 12:08 AM on February 13, 2007


I enjoy this link, but I go with the Gladwell Blink approach--my gut says no, although my mind would like to be titillated. In addition, I have had interesting experiences at The Cobra Snake wherein I have often found faces of unknown folks who appear very similar to personal acquaintences.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 6:28 AM on February 13, 2007


dhartung- no, definitely not. It was a portrait, three quarters as I recall, a little fuzzy. As I say, it's disappearance from the record suggests it was pretty immediately dismissed.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:57 AM on February 16, 2007


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