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Rare Portraits

May 2024
1min read


Two rather unusual photographs have come into our hands. One is a profile of Ulysses S. Grant taken on June 2, 1875, when he occupied the White House. The photograph, which was called to our attention by Charles H. Branch of Memphis, Tennessee, shows the President without a beard or mustache, though still sporting mutton chops. According to one story, Grant’s wife requested that he shave off his beard and mustache so that his likeness could be cut on a cameo. Another story has it that Grant had divested himself of his ornamentation at the request of the Treasury Department, which wanted to use his picture on paper currency; this currency, however, was never issued. The photograph was taken when Grant was fifty-three years old.

The other photograph is of Dolley Madison, and its rarity lies in the clearness of her visage. The wife of the nation’s fourth President had an unfortunate habit of moving when her picture was taken, and other daguerreotypes of her always show her face blurred. The one reproduced here was brought to our attention by James B. Vickery of Brewer, Maine, who writes that the portrait was turned over to the Maine Historical Society in Portland in 1917 by Miss Mary G. Ray, “a daughter of Mrs. Joshua Wingate, who gave Dolley Madison the shawl she is wearing.”

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