LINCOLN, Abraham. Oval portrait photograph INSCRIBED AND SIGNED, showing a bearded Lincoln. Taken by an unidentified photographer between March 1 and 30 June 1861. Probably inscribed and presented by Lincoln to Mrs. Speed on Thanksgiving Day, 28 November 1861.
Salt print photograph, an oval. Photograph: 11½ x 9½ in. With mount: 16 3/16 x 13¼ in. BOLDLY INSCRIBED IN INK in lower portion of mount: MARGIN: "To my good friend, Mrs. Fanny Speed A. Lincoln." In its ORIGINAL AMERICAN MOLDED PLASTER GILT FRAME. Very slight fading to inscription and signature, some careful touching-up by the photographer of shadow on left forehead and cheek, the frame with one small loss and several minor scratches. Hamilton & Ostendorf, Lincoln in Photographs, O-55 and p.102 (illustrated); Mellon, The Face of Lincoln, 92.
THE EARLIEST PRESIDENTIAL PORTRAIT OF LINCOLN, INSCRIBED TO FANNY SPEED, THE WIFE OF HIS MOST INTIMATE FRIEND, JOSHUA SPEED
A fine portrait, evidently the first photographic image of the new president, whose warm inscription uniquely documents one of the longest and most important friendships in Lincoln's life. The unusual large-format portrait was boldly inscribed by Lincoln to the wife of his oldest friend, probably when Joshua (1814-1882) and Fanny Speed dined with the Lincolns at the White House on Thanksgiving Day, 28 November 1861. Remarkably, it is to not to this day known where or by whom this evocative portrait was taken; the few known examples carry imprints of several different photographers: C.D Fredericks & Co. of New York; W.L. Germon and James E. McLees, both of Philadelphia. It qualifies as one of the finest of all portraits of Lincoln, and this example, with its association, has been termed "the most valuable Lincoln photo in existence" (Ostendorf & Hamilton, p.102). It shows Lincoln from the waist up, formally attired, looking steadily and unflinchingly to the left. Accordingly to evidence gathered by Hamilton and Ostendorf, the image could not date later than July 1861, and had to have been taken after February 24.
Fanny Henning Speed (1820-1902), born in Jefferson County, Kentucky, married Joshua Fry Speed in 1842. Joshua, from a prominent Louisville family, moved to the growing city of Springfield to work as a partner in a general store. Not long afterwards, in April 1837, the young Abraham Lincoln--who had just been granted his attorney's license and hired as a junior partner by John T. Stuart--moved from New Salem to Springfield, recently denominated the state capital. When he arrived, Lincoln had no lodgings and little money. Speed generously offered to share with Lincoln his large double bed and the room above his store. Lincoln and Speed shared those lodgings for four eventful years and became intimate friends. Speed moved back to Kentucky just before Lincoln broke off his engagement to Mary Todd and fell into a deep depression. The letters between Lincoln and Speed at this critical time "provide probably the most intimate glimpses into Lincoln's personality in all of Lincoln's vast...correspondence" (Mark Neely).
Lincoln visited Joshua in Louisville and made the acquaintance of his mother, Mrs. Lucy G. Speed, who presented Lincoln--still wrestling with his ambivalent feelings towards Mary Todd, and marriage--with a Bible. Years later, Lincoln presented an inscribed copy of this same oval photograph to the aged Lucy Speed (sold Sotheby's, 1 November 1993, $160,000). The courtship of Joshua and Fanny culminated in their marriage in February 1842. In a letter some months later, Lincoln grilled his friend about his marital situation: "Are you now, in feeling as well as judgement, glad you are married as you are?" (Collected Works, 1:303). Many biographers credit Joshua's confidential advice and encouragement with the eventual reconciliation and engagement of Lincoln and Mary Todd. They were finally married in November 1842. Speed farmed near Louisville for a time, and later joined a prosperous real-estate partnership. In the next decades, the two friends corresponded less frequently and differed sharply on the issue of slavery; Speed, from a slave-holding family, opposed secession and remained an active supporter of the Union, even after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. James Speed (1812-1887), Joshua's brother, was chosen by Lincoln to replace Attorney General Joseph Holt in 1864.
This is one of only two examples of this striking large-format portrait of Lincoln in the early months of his presidency, inscribed by the 16th President.
Fanny Henning Speed - Professor Richard T. Stevenson, son of Daniel Stevenson, Fanny's pastor at Trinity Church, Louisville, 1860s, gift of the preceding. (Stevenson's wife was a daughter of Julia H. Tevis, Fanny's teacher at Science Hill Academy, Shelbyville, Kentucky, and a very close friend). - The present owner, by descent.