Abe Lincoln Portrait by J.C. Spooner; 1865

Abe Lincoln Portrait by J.C. Spooner; 1865


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This Lincoln portrait has a mysterious side to it. Literally. The reverse of the albumen print of the president features a painting of an unidentified woman. The portrait of the president was made shortly after his assassination by JC Spooner who worked out of the Boston area. 

The print has been cut down to fit in the oval frame. Originally there would have been a long title and copyright abrituting the portrait to Spooner and a reproduction of Lincoln's signature. All that remains is the name J.C. Spooner and the word "Massachusetts." 

The frame is not original, but is very old based on its construction and use of square nails to secure the print. There are a few chips in the finish but overall, the frame is in good condition. 

Portrait measures 8" x 10" and the frame measures 11.5" x 13.5"

More information on this print below: 

J.C. Spooner was listed in one Boston Guide or Commercial Almanac of the era as “…a photographer and an artist…” working in Roxbury, Mass, during the mid 1860s. Spooner either bought a photographic portrait of Lincoln by Alexander Gardner, then bleached it and redrew over the image, or possibly he bought a carte-de-visite by Gardner and then projected the image to size, and drew over that. (A fellow Boston photographer, Albert Sands Southworth, had pioneered projecting portraits to a new size and recopying them during the daguerreian era; and its possible Spooner was familiar with that process.) Then in order to market and distribute his work, Spooner photographed his drawing and sold photographic copies to whomever wished to purchase the portrait. Spooner then copyrighted the photograph of his drawing in the local Massachusetts court as an original work of art. (The copyright issue was still very new at that time and Spooner probably chose the Massachusetts court for both convenience and for protection against any possible claims of plagiarism that any New York or Washington photographers (Brady or Gardner) would have filed in a different district court.  All of these practices were known and even common during this period — so this would have been considered as a clever act rather than than a criminal one. 

*Source: Vintage Photos Johnson

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