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Where’s Lincoln?

May 2024
1min read

The editors reply: Several readers have joined Mr. Hoopes in pointing out that this was not a morning scene. Jerrold Neidig, the owner of the stereograph, acknowledges this but posits that Lincoln might well have made an unscheduled stop in front of the State House on his way from the station to his hotel after arriving in Philadelphia the afternoon before.

We had Jane Mork Gibson, a Pennsylvania-based historian and researcher, look into the matter further. She writes: “For Lincoln to have made that detour, one would have to assume that there was no crowd on Walnut Street so that it would have been easy for Lincoln and his whole group of carriages to move three city blocks to Independence Square, enter the enclosed space, alight from the carriages, and assemble in a controlled mass. Then the presidential party would have had to reboard the carriages and return down Walnut Street or Sansom Street to Ninth Street without anyone noticing. Four competitive newspapers—the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily Evening Bulletin, Public Ledger and Transcript, and Sunday Dispatch —contain contemporary accounts of Lincoln’s arrival in Philadelphia on February 21. These are quite complete, and there is no mention of an unplanned or surreptitious visit to the State House.”

Gibson did at least discover who had taken the picture. “The photograph is one of the ‘Landscape Studies’ made by John Moran. There is a copy of this set of stereographic images at the Library Company of Philadelphia. The copy, dated ‘c. 1863,’ has a label on the back reading, ‘State House, No. 199, Landscape Studies, photographed by J. Moran, Philadelphia. Views in Philadelphia, Public Buildings, Streets, Interiors, &c.’

“Moran was an early Philadelphia photographer who specialized in landscapes. He was interested in photography as an art form and later became a landscape painter.”

What does the picture show? “Independence Square was one of the places in Philadelphia where groups would meet for a special event or assemble for a parade. On May 26, 1860, for instance, there was a rally there to ratify the nominations of Republican candidates; on December 18, 1860, a gathering on behalf of the Union; on January 26, 1861, a mass meeting of local workingmen; and so forth.” But whatever may have drawn the crowd shown in Moran’s view, to the question that headed our story, “Is Lincoln Here?,” we must, alas, answer, “No.”

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