University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Faces of Abraham Lincoln: The Meserve Lincoln Photographs, 1845-1865

Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg, in his introduction to The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1944) quotes Civil War era journalist David Ross Locke’s impressions on meeting Lincoln: “I never saw a more thoughtful face. I never saw a more dignified face. I never saw so sad a face.” This collection of images—reproductions of prints made from original daguerrotypes, ambrotypes, and negatives—captures 108 different visages of the 16th president of the United States. The earliest image in this collection dates from 1848, when Lincoln was an Illinois congressman, and the last image to five days before he was assassinated on April 15, 1865.

This collection of photographs, pasted into a black photo album that is held by the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, was acquired by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library as part of the Carl Sandburg Collection. The photographs were collected in the preparation of The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln by Frederick Hill Meserve and Carl Sandburg. Frederick Hill Meserve was an important collector of Lincoln photographs. Sandburg asserts in his introduction to their collaborative work that “it is quite probable that certain Lincoln photographs would not have come to light but for Meserve.”

The Library wishes to acknowledge the Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation, which gave us permission to digitize the photographs and to reproduce the text of the image captions supplied by Frederick Hill Meserve in The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln.