Sunday, August 2, 2015

Wait, that's not Lincoln, this is, in Gettysburg photo?

New historical debate has become quite magnified.

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A photograph from Gettysburg taken Nov. 19, 1863, the day of Lincoln´s famous address, shows two grainy figures of bearded men in stovepipe hats, one of which might be the 16th president. (Large image from Library of Congress.)
A photograph from Gettysburg taken Nov. 19, 1863, the day of Lincoln's famous address, shows two grainy figures of bearded men in stovepipe hats, one of which might be the 16th president. (Large image from Library of Congress.)

A North Carolina assistant professor of new media may have knocked Lincoln off his horse.

Six years ago, scholars and history buffs were excited when the supposedly “unmistakable profile” of the 16th president was noticed by Civil War devotee John Richter in a photographic image from the day of the Gettysburg Address, whose 150th anniversary will be celebrated Nov. 19.  At the back of the crowd was a bearded man in a stovepipe hat riding and apparently saluting.

Now another candidate has been nominated.

The real deal may be a man near the speaker’s platform, according to UNC Asheville's Christopher Oakley, who obtained and scrutinized a high-resolution copy of an original negative from the Library of Congress.

The case is laid is out by articles and graphics published today at Smithsonian.com and USAToday.com.

Oakley contends that the horseman’s hair is too long, he seems to be wearing epaulets, and his hat has no mourning band, while the standing bearded man in the stovepipe is next to Secretary of State William Seward and other dignitaries.

The issue is getting lots of attention because only one other photograph accepted as showing Lincoln at Gettysburg is known to exist.

Ultimately, though, the photograph – actually half of a stereogram or pair of photographs taken to simulate a 3-D effect – is probably too grainy, blurry and marred to remove all doubts.

“We may never know if Oakley’s Honest Abe is Honest-to-Goodness Abe,” the Smithsonian concludes.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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