Rare photo of Lincoln with son Tad leads Sept. 12 RR auction

Abraham Lincoln

Matthew Brady photo of Abraham Lincoln and his youngest son, Tad. Auction estimate: $100,000-$150,000. Image courtesy of RR Auction

BOSTON – An extremely rare copy of the iconic photograph of Abraham and Tad Lincoln from February 1864 will be auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction. The online auction concludes on Sept. 12.    

An exceptionally large example, unlike the more common cartes-de-visite (one of which recently fetched over $90,000 at auction), is one of only three known examples of this particular size and pose. Of the other two, one is in an institution, and the other sold for $325,000 in 2002 as part of the Forbes Collection.

The photo was taken on at Matthew Brady’s Washington D.C. gallery— many consider Brady the nation’s first photojournalist, but his eyesight was beginning to fail, so he asked his superintendent, Anthony Berger, to photograph Lincoln.

Berger took at least seven poses of the President, both alone and with ten-year-old Tad. The images taken that day have formed the basis for Lincoln’s image on the penny and both the old and new $5 bills.

In this image, Lincoln holds “a big photograph album which the photographer, posing the father and son, had hit upon as a good device to use in this way to bring the two sitters together.

This image became the most popular of the President and his youngest son, and it was frequently reproduced in various sizes by Brady and copied by unauthorized photographers. In 1865, Berger copyrighted a version he produced in India ink that made at least two changes. He added background and changed the chair to make it appear that the setting was the White House, and he changed the volume to make it look like a Bible printed in double columns. Harper’s Weekly used Anthony’s revised image as the basis for its May 6, 1865 cover to memorialize the assassinated President. The image was also copied by many artists and lithographers, both authorized and unauthorized. In 1984, the United States Postal Service issued this image on a stamp with the ironic caption, “A Nation of Readers,” to promote literacy.  (Estimate: $100,000+)

“It’s an intimate and poignant image of father and son is one of the most popular of President Abraham Lincoln,”  said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction. “This rare, large-format signed copy of a timeless image is simply one of the finest Lincoln photographs we have ever offered.”

Also featured is an incredible archive celebrating Shel Silverstein’s career throughout the 1960s and 1970s, a period during which he was a resident cartoonist for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine, a song writer for Johnny Cash, Helen Reddy, and Dr. Hook, and a beloved writer and illustrator of children’s poetry books. The compendium consists of over 500 pages of manuscript, typed, and printed materials, including published and unpublished sketches, poems, lyrics, sheet music, and ideas, business and fan letters addressed to Silverstein, contracts, royalty statements, and two books and two record albums.

Among noteworthy autographs is a lengthy handwritten J.D. Salinger letter to an ‘old flame,’ a staff writer at The New Yorker. The three-page letter on The Drake, New York letterhead, February 17, 1969. Letter to “Jerce,” Joyce Miller, his ‘old flame,’ confidante, friend, soulmate, and peer.

Additional highlights included from the Royalty section that spans the centuries, offering rarely seen autographs from the likes of Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Mary I, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Frederick the Great, and Princess Diana.

The Fine Autographs and Artifacts online auction from RR Auction will conclude on September 12. Click to view the full catalog on LiveAuctioneers.

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