On August 9, 1863, the day before Alexander Gardner opened his new studio at 7th and D streets in Washington, President Abraham Lincoln came in to pose. The President used pictures from the session in his campaign for re-election the next year.
In 1870, Gardner sold the 20 x 17 inch wet plate negative to his former assistant, Moses P. Rice. The plate had commercial value since photographers made prints of celebrities to sell directly to the public before halftone reproduction was perfected for the printing press in the 1890s.
Rice’s granddaughter sold the negative to the National Portrait Gallery in 1983. In 1992, Ann Shumard, the Gallery’s curator of photographs put it on a light box with the emulsion side up to avoid any damage to the image. Viewed this way, the picture is reversed.
John Loengard, Celebrating the Negative is available to museums as a touring exhibition from Curatorial Assistance.
Celebrating the Negative
by John Loengard
Release in 1994
Published by Arcade Publishing