Classic Tales of Old Dorp: President’s re-election pin displayed here

Back in 1968, a unique exhibit on permanent display at the Schenectady County Historical Society was

The Daily Gazette is reprinting excerpts of the late Larry Hart’s long-running column, “Tales of Old Dorp.” Today’s piece, not an official part of the Old Dorp collection, gives readers Hart’s take on an Abraham Lincoln antique campaign pin. This excerpt originally was published Feb. 9, 1968.

A unique exhibit on permanent display at the Schenectady County Historical Society is a postage stamp-sized campaign badge used in the fall of 1864, when Abraham Lincoln successfully sought re-election to the presidency.

The tiny portrait of Lincoln is framed with fancy gold metal edging. A straight pin is soldered to the tin backing, designed so that supporters of Lincoln could wear the campaign badge on their lapels.

As a matter of coincidence, it might be pointed out that the picture of Lincoln used for the badge, then one used later for the five-dollar bill and the profile view now being printed on four-cent stamps were all photographed by Matthew B. Brady at the same sitting.

This was perhaps the most elaborate sitting Lincoln granted to Brady. On Feb. 9, 1864, the president took his son Tad with him to Brady’s photographic parlor on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh Street. It was also on this occasion that the famous Civil War photographer made the picture of the two of them together, Lincoln seated with a huge book in his lap, Tad standing beside him.

Working well together

Brady had come to know Lincoln so well by this time that he had arranged well in advance how he would pose the president, and Lincoln willingly followed the photographer’s instructions.

Perhaps the best-known likeness of the Great Emancipator is that engraved on the five-dollar note. It is called the “Brady Lincoln.”

However, when it came time to choose the most suitable portrait for campaign purposes in August of 1864, this was passed up for the less stern photograph made on the same day six months earlier. All of Brady’s seated poses on this day were waist-high, but of course only head sizes were used on the badge, note and stamp.

The portrait used for Lincoln’s first campaign in 1860 had not been as widely accepted as was the one four years later.

Called the “tousled hair” photograph, the picture was made by Alexander Hesler, well-known Chicago photographer, on ambrotype Feb. 28, 1857. Lincoln was then 48 years old and had been photographed only once previously. Despite the rumpled hair (even though Hesler had retouched the plate to make the subject’s appearance more presentable), Lincoln liked the picture. It was publicized during 1858 in behalf of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and then was reproduced on the 1860 campaign badges.

Categories: Life and Arts

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