• Meserve Ford's Theater Photos, Including One Of Laura Keene, Who Cradled Lincoln's Head After Shooting

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    Two photographs related to Ford's Theater, site of the assassination of 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), printed ca. 1910. From the personal collection of world-renowned Lincoln collector FREDICK H. MESERVE (1865-1962). Both photos are housed in a stock paper holder, inscribed in Meserve's hand at left as: "The Theatre draped / after Lincoln's Death" and at right as: "Laura Keene." Both sepia-colored photographs are hand-stamped on the verso "Collection / Of / Americana / Frederick H. Meserve / 265 Edgecombe Avenue / New York City.”

    The actual size of the photos is 2 1/8 x 3 ¼ each. The slotted and annotated photo holder measures 10.875" x 4.375" completely unfolded.

    While not known for certain, it is suspected that Meserve printed these photographs from original Brady negatives. However, the sharpness and level of detail found in the photographs may indicate that is the case.

    The lot is comprised of:

    1. "The Theatre draped / after Lincoln's Death"

    The first photo depicts Ford's Theater (or "Ford's New Theater" as it was called after its 1863 reopening) hung with black mourning bunting after the assassination. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton seized control of the theater on April 15th so the site could be investigated, and soldiers guarded the theater like an active crime scene. The Library of Congress does not explicitly attribute a creator to this photo, but it is well-documented that Mathew Brady and his team took photographs in and outside the theater between April - July 1865 to document the assassination.

    2. "Laura Keene"

    The second photo is a full-length standing portrait of Laura Keene (1826-1873), the British actress and independent theater manager. On April 14, 1865, Keene reprised her celebrated role as Florence Trenchard, the daughter of an American heir to a British estate, in Tom Taylor's comedic play "Our American Cousin."

    After Booth's exit, Keene rushed to the presidential box and cradled Lincoln's head in her lap; Keene's blood-spattered dress cuffs are in the collection of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The Library of Congress attributes this photo to the Brady-Handy photograph collection.

    Expected wear to the glossy photo surface, else near fine and quite crisp and sharp.


    A spectacular addition to any Lincoln collection.


    FREDERICK H. MESERVE was a preeminent collector of Lincoln and Civil War-era photography, ephemera, maps, and books. He began collecting Lincolniana in 1897, with the intention of illustrating his father's Civil War diary. In the early 1900s, Meserve acquired 10,000 original Brady negatives including seven Lincoln portraits. Meserve continued collecting Lincoln likenesses, as well as photos of Lincoln's contemporaries, over the next sixty years. He eventually amassed a collection of 200,000 pieces including some previously "lost" or unknown images of Lincoln. Meserve's collection was so esteemed for its completeness that he essentially became the custodian of "Lincoln's image." Meserve was approached by medal and currency engravers, as well as by the sculptors of Lincoln's Memorial Monument, for direct access to his presidential photographs. In 2015, the Meserve-Kunhardt Collection was acquired by the Yale Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (New Haven, Connecticut.) 

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