New York, East
12 May 1999
[LINCOLN, ABRAHAM]. COLE, RODERICK M. Oval salt print from an original daguerreotype of Lincoln, ca. 1858, 7 1/4 x 5 1/4 in., on contemporary mount .
"THE HOMELIEST MAN IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS": A RARE CONTEMPORARY PRINT OF A WIDELY REPRODUCED EARLY IMAGE OF LINCOLN, extensively used during the Presidential campaign of 1860. Surprisingily, "fifty years of research have failed to fix beyond a doubt the date or place where it was taken" (Ostendorf), but generally, Peoria, Illinois seems the most likely venue, and Lincoln is known to have visited the city on a number of occasions in 1858. Peoria possessed an ambrotype gallery, opened in 1856, owned by Henry H. Cole. But it was Cole's bother, Roderick (listed as a daguerrotypist in an 1856 city directory) who may have been the cameraman. He wrote to the Illinois State Historical Society in 1905 stating that a copy of the portrait in their possession was a copy of a daguerreotype he made in his studio during the period of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Cole recounted that "I invited him to my gallery to give me a sitting.... and when I had my plate ready, he said to me, 'I cannot see why all you artists want a likeness of me unless it is because I am the homeliest man in the State of Illinois.' This photo, widely reproduced on campaign ribbons of 1860, was a personal favorite of Lincoln's and he signed a number of copies for admirers. Hamilton and Ostendorf, Lincoln in Photographs, pg. 29. Variant O-14.
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