The Washington Post reports that photos of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession may have been discovered by Maryland retiree Paul Taylor. The series of photographs, captured in four stages, are of Grace Episcopal Church on Broadway in New York City and were likely taken on April 24 or 25 in 1865.
The images are hard to make out, but a black blur appears to be passing by. Most likely, according to some experts, this is the horse-drawn hearse holding Lincoln’s body. The crowd appears to be solemn as many have removed their hats. Particularly unusual is the incredible number of people gathered in front of the church and the hustle and bustle of the scene. It is apparent that some out-of-the-ordinary event is taking place.
Taylor said of the pictures, “I saw this black streak. When I looked at it closer, I saw what it was. It was a funeral vehicle… I knew it was Lincoln. It had to be. It couldn’t be anybody else.”
A number of experts also believe it is likely that the set of pictures is of Lincoln. When New York photograph expert Richard Sloan was asked about whether or not this was Lincoln he said, “There’s no doubt about it.”
There are a number of theories about who took the picture, but the most popular one is that Matthew Brady, a famous Civil War photographer, took it from his studio which was across the street from the church. This would be fitting since Brady had taken many iconic photos of the 16th president in his lifetime, and Lincoln had even famously quipped that “Brady and the Cooper Institute made me president.”
However, experts concede this narrative is only informed speculation as the photos passed into the hands of the government in the 1870s and had few ways of identifying them. This set of photos was simply described as “scene in front of church.” National Archives expert Nick Natanson said, “It still strikes me as odd that . . . there wouldn’t have been some mention or some hint [in the caption] of the monumental nature of the event.”
Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession was one of the largest and most attended in American history. His body was taken on a nearly two-week 1,600-mile trek from Washington D.C. to the place where he launched his political career in Springfield, Illinois.
Photo Credit: National Archives