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Where’s Lincoln?

June 2024
1min read

HAROLD HOLZKR’S ARTICLE “IS LINCOLN Here?” (February/March 1998) features a photograph that he suggests may represent Abraham Lincoln among an assembly gathered in 1861 to celebrate Washington’s birthday. Lincoln indeed was the guest of honor at the statehouse (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on February 22, and he did attend the ceremonial raising of the national colors that took place that day at six o’clock in the morning. However, another commitment obliged him later that day to address the Pennsylvania legislature at Harrisburg, some seventy-five miles west of Philadelphia. Lincoln’s friend Ward Hill Lamon, a companion on the President-elect’s journey, noted, “Early in the morning of the twenty-second, Mr. Lincoln raised the flag over Independence Hall, and departed for Harrisburg.”

The problem with connecting Lincoln to the stereographic view reproduced in Holzer’s article is evident in the photograph itself. Holzer writes: ”. . . the scene appears bathed in early morning brightness. . . . The flag raising was completed, as Lincoln put it, ‘in the light glowing sun-shine of the morning.’ The newly found photograph fits that chronology.” But it doesn’t. The view of the statehouse was taken looking north toward the south front. The shadows in the photograph plainly show the angle of the sun: They are falling from left to right, or from southwest to northeast, indicating the time of day to be between mid- and late afternoon, depending on the fall or winter month of whatever year the picture was taken. It certainly was not taken at any time in the forenoon. Given Lincoln’s date with the Pennsylvania legislature on the afternoon of the twenty-second, it is inconceivable that he could have remained in Philadelphia beyond late morning. So even if this photograph was taken on February 22, 1861, as Holzer conjectures, at the late hour indicated by shadows, Lincoln was certainly busy in Harrisburg.

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