Abraham Lincoln, 1864

Anthony Berger at the Mathew Brady Studio
Modern albumen print from 1864 wet-plate collodion negative

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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The penny image


This is one of a series of profile portraits taken by Anthony Berger during the trying winter of 1864. (The image was used for the new penny coin design in 1909.) The Union victory at Gettysburg had not been followed up, and the high-flown ideals of the Gettysburg Address seemed unattainable, especially with the armies bogged down in stalemate.


Lincoln faced attacks from both radicals and conservatives on the issue of civil rights for freedmen and the terms to be imposed on the defeated Confederacy. Politically, he faced a serious challenge to his renomination, as anti-Lincoln Republicans considered the presidential candidacy of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. The Chase boomlet quickly collapsed because of Chase’s political ineptitude, but Lincoln was not reassured. In March he divulged, “I claim not to have controlled events but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”

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