Where’s Lincoln? Spotted at the Gettysburg Address

Portrait by Anthony Berger/Wikimedia Commons.

Professor Christopher Oakley says he has spotted President Abraham Lincoln in a 150-year-old photograph of the crowd at the Gettysburg Address, a discovery that could be one of the most significant in recreating the scene that November day. Not all history buffs agree with Oakley, though.

The interactive version of what Oakley spotted in some ways looks like an ink smudge among a sea of black and gray shading. Smithsonian Magazine reported on Oakley’s discovery.

He zoomed in and spotted, in a gray blur, the distinctive hawk-like profile of William H. Steward, Lincoln’s secretary of state. Oakley superimposed a well-known portrait of Seward over the face and toggled it up and down for comparison. “Everything lined up beautifully,” he recalls. “I knew from the one irrefutable photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg that Seward sat near him on the platform.” He figured the president must be in the vicinity.

Photo by Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress.

Oakley downloaded the right side of a follow-up shot Gardner snapped from the same elevated spot, but the image was partly obscured by varnish flaking off the back of the 4- by 10-inch glass-plate negative. “Still, Seward hadn’t budged,” he says. “Though his head was turned slightly away from camera, he was in perfect profile.” To Seward’s left was the vague outline of a bearded figure in a stovepipe hat. Oakley leaned into the flat-screen monitor and murmured, “No way!” Zooming in tight, real tight, he stared, compared and sprang abruptly from his chair. After quickstepping around his studio in disbelief, he exulted, “That’s him!”