Just 22 years after the birth of photography, enterprising photographers rushed to Civil War battlefields and produced America's first documentary images of war. Working with cumbersome wet plates, they produced grim, shocking pictures that the New York Times described as revealing "the terrible reality and earnestness of war." The American people were both drawn to the images for their apparent realism and repulsed by the horrors they depicted. Seeing Civil War photographs was so much like visiting the battlefield, wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes, "that all the emotions excited by the stained and sordid scene... came back to us, and we buried them in the recesses of our cabinet as we would have buried the mutilated remains of the dead they too vividly represented."
Thousands of Civil War images, original 19th-century photographs from such renowned photographers as Timothy O'Sullivan and Alexander Gardner, lay perfectly preserved in the attic of the Medford Historical Society in Medford, Massachusetts until 1990. This gallery presents a small sample of this pristine collection.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of America's least understood presidents. Part of the award-winning Presidents collection.
The Last Stand, the final act of General George Custer's larger-than-life career, played out on a grand stage with a spellbound public engrossed in the drama. Part of the Wild West collection.
Before he became the first U.S. president, service to the colonies would profoundly change George Washington.
A great playwright's turbulent story, from childhood through the years of his Nobel Prize-winning career to his lonely, painful death.
The founding father laid the groundwork for the nation's modern economy, including the banking system and Wall Street.
Harry Truman was responsible for finding America's place at the start of the Cold War. Part of the award-winning Presidents collection.
Forever enshrined in myth by an assassin's bullet, Kennedy's presidency long defied objective appraisal. Part of the award-winning Presidents collection.
How five abolitionist allies turned a despised fringe movement against chattel slavery into a force that literally changed the nation.