Lincoln and His Family, Engraving
Samuel B. Waugh, artist | William Sartain, engraver
Philadelphia: Bradley & Company, 1866
17.5" x 24.75" (image) 22" x 27.75" (full sheet)
History: Photography became popular during the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was the first President to appear in a large number of photographs. Photographs were still expensive so American publishers printed engravings of Abraham Lincoln. The historian Harold Holzer wrote,
They provided a national audience with colorful, romantic, inexpensive - and sometimes exaggerated and fanciful - pictures of the man who confessed once that realistic portraiture was “exactly what I would to avoid.” (1)
Abraham Lincoln’s family suffered tragedy during his presidency. Mary Todd Lincoln, accustomed to luxury, was viewed in Washington, D.C. as extravagant. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated, and Americans were eager for images of him and his family. This popular engraving sold for $7.25 in 1866 or about $90 in 2007.
1. Read the article, ‘Hellcat or Helpmate’: The Mary Todd Lincoln Saga, Newsweek, September 26, 2007.
2. Examine the painting. Remember the questions of a journalist: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
A) What patriotic symbols are found in the painting?
B) Who are the individuals in the image? What is their relationship to each other?
C) What does the engraving convey about life in the White House?
D) If you were the artist, how would you portray the President’s family?
3. Compose a 300 word essay to answer the questions.
(1) Harold Holzer, How the Printmakers Saw Lincoln: Not-So-Honest Portraits of “Honest Abe”, Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 19979, pp. 143-170.