Are These Photographs of Abraham Lincoln?
Facial Features Analysis and Comparison Are The Answer
by Joelle Steele
Everybody recognizes Abraham Lincoln when they see his photo — or do they? There are several photos being circulated throughout the World Wide Web, and the owner of each believes they have a previously unknown photographic portrait of Lincoln. In some cases, they have retained a variety of experts to support their theories, while other experts have refuted those same theories. Could these controversial photos really be those of Abraham Lincoln?
TOP LEFT: Unidentified Man, early 1840s, photographer unknown ("Kaplan" photo).
TOP MIDDLE LEFT: Unidentified Man, 1875-1895, photographer unknown ("Cruz" photo).
TOP MIDDLE RIGHT: Unidentified Man with Two Women, 1850s, photographer unknown ("Trio" photo).
BOTTOM LEFT: Unidentified Man, 1850s, photographer unknown, ("Hay Wadsworth" photo).
BOTTOM RIGHT: Unidentified Man from group photo, 1850-1870, photographer unknown, ("Ellison Collection" photo).
I am a face anthropometrist and I found the photographs above while browsing the Web. The one on the top row far left was identified as a Daguerreotype of a "young Abraham Lincoln" by its owner, a man named Albert Kaplan, who purchased the Daguerreotype in New York in 1977 as a "portrait of a young man." The photo on the top middle left has been identified as a Daguerreotype and was purchased by Ivan Cruz of New Jersey, who believes it is a young Lincoln. Cruz bought the photo in about 2003 as part of an old album that contained pictures of Lincoln and his wife and kids, so it has good provenance. The photo on the top middle right has been identified as an ambrotype of Lincoln with Mary Todd Lincoln (in the middle) and her sister Elizabeth Todd Edwards (on the right). I'll refer to that photo as the "Trio" since I don't know the owner's name and there are three people in it. The photo on the bottom left is a Daguerreotype purchased from the Alice Hay Wadsworth collection by the late antique dealer George Feeley of Caledonia, New York, who sold it to Robert and Joan Hoffman of Pittsford, New York. Alice Hay Wadsworth was the daughter of Lincoln's private secretary, John Milton Hay, so this photo would appear to have good provenance. And the photo on the bottom right is an enlargement of a man in a group photo owned by Greg Ellison and Michele Ellison, a.k.a. the Ellison Collection.
The owners of some of these photos have consulted a variety of experts in an attempt to authenticate their images as those of Lincoln, and most have tried unsuccessfully to sell their photos as images of Lincoln.
Lincoln was unarguably the most photographed man of his time. There are many, many photographs of him, several in which he is clean-shaven (he didn't grow a beard until 1860 at age 51). There are several steps to authenticating his or anyone else's identity in an old photo. Knowing a little of the history of the person in question and the approximate date of a photograph can usually rule out a match very quickly. Hair and clothing styles can help with this, as can knowing the photographic process used. But, most of the time, when dealing with faces believed to be of historic figures, collectors, and even some of their experts, fail to make an accurate identification. That's when it's time to do a careful and thorough analysis and comparison of the facial features, and it's the only way to know for sure if the face in the photo is who it is alleged to be.
LINCOLN & PHOTOGRAPHY
The Daguerreotype, named for one of its inventors, Louis Daguerre, was invented and first introduced in France in 1839 and also made its first appearance in New York City that same year. Since Lincoln was born in 1809, he would have been 30 years old if he was ever photographed the same year the Daguerreotype became available in America. Daguerreotypes were in their heyday from 1839-1850s, but they were still being produced well into the 1920s. This was despite the many other less cumbersome and more efficient photographic processes that became available starting in the 1850s and later, primarily ambrotypes, introduced in 1854 and popular from 1855-1865, although they were still being made in the 1880s; and tintypes, which were introduced in 1856 and were still in use in the 1920s.
According to Lincoln researcher, Roger Norton, "There were four daguerreians already operating in Springfield, Illinois in 1846." One of them, Nicholas H. Shepherd, practiced there from 1845-1848. He is credited as taking the earliest known Daguerreotype of the Illinois congressman-elect in 1846 when Lincoln was 37 years old. This photo is commonly known as "Meserve #1" (left) because it was the first portrait appearing in the 1944 book, "The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln" by Frederick Hill Meserve. In his book, Meserve identifies the photo by subject, photographer, and date. Lincoln's son Robert thought the photo was taken two years later in 1848, but Gibson William Harris, who worked in Lincoln's law office 1845-1847 and shared a room in a boarding house with Shepherd, recalled in his 1903 article, "My Recollections of Abraham Lincoln" (published in "Women's Home Companion" magazine), that the photo was taken in 1846.
Any Lincoln photograph taken prior to the 1846 Meserve #1 image would be a truly remarkable find, as would any previously undiscovered photo of Lincoln from any time during his life.
As you can see, dating a photograph is not always easy, but with famous people such as Lincoln, we normally have a lot of history to back up the dating process. And after that, we've got the comparative analysis of facial features, and that is what determines who's who — or who's not who — in an old photo. I used the information provided on the Web by Kaplan, Cruz, a variety of articles, historic libraries and museums, and many known Lincoln images to try to authenticate the identities of some of the photos purported to be of Lincoln.
THE KAPLAN PHOTOGRAPH
The Kaplan Daguerreotype (below left) can be ruled out as that of a young Lincoln by measuring out the underlying bones of the skull and comparing them to known photographs of Lincoln. One of Kaplan's experts, Grant B. Romer, a conservator with George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, disassembled and examined Kaplan's Daguerreotype in 1980 and declared that it was an "American product made prior to 1845" and probably an "earlier rather than later 1840s date." No reason at all to dispute Romer's findings.
However, in 1987, Kaplan consulted a plastic and reconstructive surgeon named Claude N. Frechette, MD, to analyze and compare the Kaplan image (left) with that of Lincoln. Frechette stated that the man's style of dress in the photo was "essentially identical to that which Lincoln kept during his entire life." That is not correct.
The man in the Kaplan photo and Lincoln in the Meserve photo are both wearing the wide lapels of the 1830s and 1840s. However, in later Lincoln photos, including the 1862 Brady photo, Lincoln is wearing the much narrower lapels that became fashionable in the 1850s. The man in the Kaplan photo is also wearing a standing cravat collar that first appeared on the East Coast of the United States during the mid-1830s — already a few years out of style when the Kaplan Daguerreotype was made. By the time the Meserve photo was taken, Lincoln was already wearing the slightly turned-down collar that came into fashion in the late 1840s. By the 1850s, the collar was fully turned down (as in the 1862 Brady photo) and cravats were replaced by narrow bow ties. It is the turned down collar and narrow tie that Lincoln wore until his death in 1865.
More recently, facial recognition expert Robert Schmitt used biometrics to compare the Kaplan Daguerreotype with an 1862 Matthew Brady photograph of Lincoln taken in Washington DC. But computerized biometrics is not as accurate as you might think when identifying people in photos. Both Schmitt and Frechette believed there was a probability that the Daguerreotype was of Lincoln. But I do not deal in probabilities, only exact matches, so I do not agree with either of them. I did two comparative facial features analyses of Lincoln and the man in the Kaplan photo. You can see the methodology and the results of one of those in my article on measuring and comparing facial features.
In the analysis that I did for this article, I looked through many photos trying to find one in which Lincoln is posed similarly to the unidentified man in the Kaplan photo. I first considered using Meserve #1 since it is so much closer date-wise to Romer's estimated date for the Kaplan photo. But, I ended up using the same photo that was on Kaplan's Web site, the one that Schmitt also used, the 1862 Brady photo. The Brady image is the only one I could find anywhere in which Lincoln has an expression on his face similar to that of the unidentified man in the Kaplan photo. In it, he is also posed with his head in the same upright angle and position as that of the unidentified man. To make the comparison as simple as possible, I cropped these photos so that the men's heads were about the same size, with their features lined up as closely as possible.
As you can see from the Brady photo (left) and the Kaplan photo (above left), both men have their hair combed alike and they each have high foreheads. That is where all similarities begin and end. So let's take apart the other components of these two faces and see how they compare.
EYES. Lincoln and the man in the Kaplan image have "droopy" eyelids. This can be attributed to a condition called ptosis (which has literally hundreds of causes), but it is more likely a mere hereditary feature. But, the eyelids of the unidentified man are far more heavily lidded, even when compared to Meserve #1, which was taken much closer to the time that the Kaplan image was allegedly made. This is clearly visible in any comparison with a known Lincoln photo and the Kaplan photo. Lincoln's eyes also appear to be more deep-set than those in the Kaplan photo. The unidentified man's eyes are also proportionately bigger in relation to the size of his face and head than are Lincoln's eyes, which are smaller in relation to the size of his face and head. And that is not something that changes with time and age in anyone once they are an adult.
NOSE. The nose of the unidentified man in the Kaplan photo is more turned up at the base and it reveals far more of the nostrils than is seen in any known photo of Lincoln whose nose does not turn up at that angle, and only has a slight upturn at the tip.
CHEEKS. The unidentified man in the Kaplan photo lacks the high cheek bones and sunken cheeks evident in the known photographs of Lincoln. This is due to the underlying bone structure of the skull. Now, I would actually be willing to concede that a significant loss of weight could attribute to that fact, but even in the Meserve #1 photo and in his earliest lithographic portraits, Lincoln appears to be quite gaunt, his cheeks noticeably thin or at least somewhat sunken.
LEFT: Lincoln's mouth. RIGHT: Unidentified man's mouth in Kaplan photo.
MOUTH. The unidentified man has a longer philtrum (the indentation between the nose and upper lip). This is due to underlying bone structure. Also, his upper lip is much fuller than Lincoln's; and the fissure (the line along which the lips meet) is very curved in the unidentified man, while it is much straighter on Lincoln in all of his known portraits. Lincoln had a noticeable downturn on the right side of his mouth, and a subtle puckered look on the left side of the mouth. These features cannot be properly analyzed without frontal photographs of both men's faces.
LEFT: Lincoln's jaw. RIGHT: Unidentified man's jaw in Kaplan photo.
JAW. The ramus (the distance between the base of the angle of the jaw/mandible and the juncture of the lobe of the ear) is at a 90-degree angle and is very noticeably longer on all known photos of Lincoln; the ramus on the unidentified man is very short and is at about a 70-degree angle. This is a highly significant difference, as the height and angle of the ramus is 100% due to the underlying bone structure.
LEFT: Lincoln's chin. RIGHT: Unidentified man's chin in Kaplan photo.
CHIN. In photographs of Lincoln without his beard he does not have the very pronounced cleft in his chin that the unidentified man does. In most Lincoln photos, you can't see a cleft at all, and I really had to search hard to find any strong photographic evidence of a cleft. The photo at left above was the only one where I could really see what may be a cleft. In a few of Lincoln's photos, he appears to have a slight round "dimple" on his chin, and while some people call a cleft chin a "dimple chin," dimples are something entirely different. A cleft chin is often a hereditary feature that shows up as a vertical crease in the chin skin due to the fact that there is also a cleft bone underneath it. Dimples, on the other hand, are simply round indentations in the skin, often appearing in cheeks when a person smiles. Because of the underlying bone indentation, chin clefts do not diminish or disappear over time. The "cleft" I found in the left photo above doesn't appear to be nearly as prominent as that of the unidentified young man. Even the Volk mask (seen later in this article) does not show much more than a shallow, oval indentation on Lincoln's chin. However, even if both men did have a cleft chin — and I'm not saying they don't, because I can't tell for sure — there is still something that is far more compelling in making an accurate facial comparison: the ears.
EARS. Ears do not lie. When I'm comparing facial features for the purpose of identifying someone in a photograph, I first look at the face/head shape, and then I look at the ears. They are extremely important and highly reliable in identification. Like fingerprints, no two are alike. And when it comes to Lincoln's ears, they have been documented by observers over the years, including, Edward J. Kempf, MD, who mentions them in his 1952 American Medical Association article republished by Kaplan: "As an adult ... [h]is ears were large and thick-lobed and extended almost at right angles to his head." Kempf is absolutely correct in this observation.
Too bad Kaplan's expert, Dr. Frechette, didn't look more closely at the ears.
When Frechette analyzed and compared the Kaplan, Meserve, and Brady photos, he placed them side by side in order of their age, then drew lines to indicate where the eyes, nose, and mouth lined up:
ABOVE: Frechette's comparison of the Kaplan photo (far left), the Meserve #1 photo (middle), and the Brady photo (far right).
Lining up the features is only one very minor aspect of making a quick comparison between or among faces based on their vertical alignments, particularly of the ears. But Frechette has measured the distances between the eyes and compared them to each other, and the way he did it is absolutely incorrect. See my article on measuring facial features to learn how to measure and compare correctly. But, the point I am trying to make here is about the ears, and Frechette neglected to compare their positions in his diagram. If he had, he would have seen that due to the 1862 Brady photo being ever so slightly tilted, and the unidentified man's head being smaller than those of Lincoln in the other two photos, none of the ears lined up at all! Frechette casually mentions this discrepancy in the ears: "The angle is very small in the Kaplan but more open in all other Lincoln pictures." He attributes this to loss of weight and then concludes that in his opinion and that of the French police who examined the photos, the ears are similar or the same.
But they most certainly are not.
Look at the side-by-side portraits above, and notice where Lincoln's ear is in relation to the rest of his head and face. As in Kempf's observation, Lincoln's ear is clearly positioned at an almost 90-degree angle (a right angle) to his head. However, the ear of the unidentified man is set at about a 60-degree angle from his head. Lincoln's ear is also positioned higher on his head in relation to his nose and jaw line than is the ear of the unidentified man. In real life, Lincoln's right ear was slightly lower than the other — which is typical of many people — but compared with either ear, the unidentified man's is even lower. And ears don't move or change position during your life, not due to weight loss or anything else. This alone is sufficient proof that these are not both photographs of Abraham Lincoln. But, the ears still have even more to say.
LEFT AND MIDDLE: Lincoln's ears from known Lincoln photos. RIGHT: Unidentified man's ear in Kaplan photo.
As you can see in the three photos above, Lincoln's ear is shorter in height than that of the unidentified man. Lincoln has a straighter helix (the outer edge of the ear); a significantly larger ear lobe; and an intertragal notch or intertragic notch (the opening right above the lobe) that starts much higher up from the bottom of the lobe than it does on the ear of the unidentified man. Lincoln's ear lobe is also positioned away from his head, while the unidentified man's ear lobe, according to Frechette's own observation, "hangs free and is close to the neck."
Lincoln died at age 56, and the photos of him used in this article place him in his late 40s and early 50s. Ears grow very little during a person's lifetime, and any amount of growth in his ears would have been negligible at that age, and in all photos taken up to the time of his death, his ears are shorter in height than those of the unidentified man. If we were to conclude that the unidentified man in the Kaplan photo was indeed Lincoln, then we would also have to conclude that Lincoln's ears did not grow at all as he aged; in fact, they shrank!
LIFE MASKS. Still not convinced? The ears have even more to say. During Lincoln's lifetime, he had two plaster life masks made, the first by sculptor Leonard Wells Volk in the early spring of 1860, and the second by sculptor Clark Mills on February 11, 1865, just two months before his death. Both masks are in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and both casts included Lincoln's ears.
LEFT: 1860 Volk life-mask of Lincoln. RIGHT: 1865 Mills life-mask of Lincoln.
While experts debate about Lincoln's health when viewing the distortions in the Mills mask, it is the ears that are interesting to me in both masks. The ear shapes are clearly visible, much more so when viewed in person. That, along with their position and alignment to the head as shown in the Volk mask, confirm my findings in comparing the ear in the known Lincoln photographs with the ear of the unidentified man in the Kaplan photo.
IDIOSYNCRATIC FEATURES. Features such as moles and scars are not always useful in identifying people in photos because they can appear suddenly or fade with time. But, Lincoln had at least three highly visible moles. One was on his left ear at the edge of the antihelix (the inner edge of cartilage along the opening to the ear); one was on the crease of his right cheek at a level that is at the middle of the philtrum; and another on the left side of his face at the level of the fissure of his mouth and about 1/8" from the crease in his cheek (see photo at left). Moles can grow at any time in one's life; however, these moles are not visible on the unidentified man in the Kaplan photo. The unidentified man's image indicates something on his upper left cheek that is not on Lincoln's upper left cheek, but whether it is a mole, acne, a pock mark, or damage to the Daguerreotype cannot be determined by me, and it would be irrelevant in any case given the overwhelming evidence of the ears and other features already analyzed.
THE CRUZ PHOTOGRAPH
The Ivan Cruz photo can be immediately and easily dismissed as being Lincoln without any need for anything other than an examination of the clothing and hair, because both are from around the early-to-mid 1880s, at least twenty years after Lincoln had died.
Cruz states that the man in the photo is wearing a cravat of the Victorian age, but he is not. I greatly enlarged this image onscreen, and the man is very clearly wearing a print fabric necktie tied in the four-in-hand style with a turn-down collar, both styles from the late 19th century. The coat lapels on the man in the Cruz photo are not even close to the width they would have been in the early 19th century (see the ultra-wide lapels on Lincoln in the Meserve #1 photo for comparison). The young man's hair in the Cruz photo is also in a style from the late 19th century. It is the shorter and closely-cropped haircut that came into fashion in the 1870s-1880s and was common throughout the first half of the 20th century, not the longer hair and sideburns of the "romantic" era of the latter part of the 18th century and early part of the 19th. In addition, the Cruz photo was taken against a decorative backdrop, and those do not appear in photos until the late 1850s and early 1860s. That alone rules out any earlier date.
But every expert has to have his say. Cruz allegedly showed this photo in person to Dr. Jerome R. Corsi (author and political scientist), Robert J. Garrett (forensic investigator and crime scene specialist), and Dave Blanchette (Spokesperson, Illinois Office of Communications & Information). According to Cruz, they all agreed the photo was of a young Lincoln. While I am sure these men are highly-qualified experts in their own fields, I could find nothing to indicate that any of them have knowledge or experience in comparative facial features analysis, historic clothing styles, or authentication of antique photographs by their processes. Therefore, unless they personally tell me otherwise, I do not consider them to be qualified to authenticate the identity of the man in this photo.
Cruz also allegedly showed this photo in person to Dr. Thomas Schwartz (well-known Lincoln scholar, former Illinois State Historian, former director of Research and the Lincoln Collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Illinois, and now with the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum in Iowa), and Dr. James Cornelius (Curator, the Lincoln Collection, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, Illinois). Again, Cruz states that these two experts agreed it was a photo of a young Lincoln.
When I read that, I found it impossible to believe. I seriously doubted that either of these two incredibly astute men would think for even a fleeting moment that this photo was of a young Lincoln. I am sure that they have seen many more known photographs of Lincoln up-close-and-personal than any other people in the world. I'm sure they have likewise been called upon countless times to have possible Lincoln photos authenticated by their circle of qualified Lincoln photo experts. According to the Web site "The Abraham Lincoln Observer," Schwartz and Cornelius did not believe the Cruz photo was of Lincoln.
The Observer states that it contacted Schwartz, and that Schwartz responded saying he and Cornelius believed it was not a photo of Lincoln, that it did not look like Lincoln, and that the clothing was not right for the time in which a young Lincoln would have been photographed. Schwartz is also said to have claimed that his and Cornelius' opinion was being misrepresented on the Internet by Cruz. All of this was confirmed for me after I personally contacted Drs. Schwartz and Cornelius, and Dr. Cornelius responded on their mutual behalf as follows: "Mr. Cruz has pestered us through various pseudonyms and we have asked him to desist. The words he quotes from anyone here are fabricated. We can believe nothing he says, writes, or does. The photo is plainly someone from the 1870s."
That response seems emphatic enough to me (although I think the photo is later than the 1870s).
The Cruz image may be one of a Lincoln family member, especially since it was discovered in an album with photos of Lincoln and his family. And there could certainly be historic and monetary value in that alone if it could be determined who the young man is and his relationship to Lincoln. But this particular photograph definitely cannot be that of a young Abraham Lincoln.
THE TRIO PHOTOGRAPH
The trio in this photograph are purported to be Lincoln with Mary Todd Lincoln (middle) and her sister Elizabeth Todd Edwards (at right). I could find very little information about this photograph on the Internet. Most came from an auction house and from a few short articles on the photo. It is said to be an ambrotype, and it looks like an ambrotype, so I'm not going to argue about the photographic process. The clothing is a hodge-podge of styles, with the most recent pieces (the man's tie and hat) being from the mid-to-late 1850s.
The auction house claims that this is a Lincoln photo on the sketchiest evidence: 1) that the man is wearing Lincoln's trademark "stove pipe" hat; 2) that the man's left hand is draped down because "it is a known fact" that Lincoln had Marfan's syndrome; and 3) that facial recognition experts found 8 of 15 points that matched with 15 known Lincoln photographs.
Let's just get all that nonsense out of the way once and for all, and then we can move on to something real. First of all, tall or top hats came into fashion in the late 1790s, and they remained in fashion with only the slightest variations (the one in the trio photo is from around the late 1850s) for more than 100 years! A stove pipe hat does not a Lincoln make. Second, it is not a known fact that Lincoln had Marfan's syndrome. That is a theory only, and one that can never be proved without exhuming Lincoln's remains. Besides, I have several of my own family photos in which someone's hand is draped down casually over someone else's shoulder in the same way, and they don't have Marfan's syndrome. Third, these unidentified facial recognition experts found only 8 of 15 points in Lincoln's face? That's not enough to make a proper and positive identification of anyone. Identifying people requires 100% exactness, not probabilities. And, unless the original image shows Lincoln's eyes very clearly, that is a huge omission in their analyses. I also looked at the traits with underlying bone structure to determine their size and placement on the head and face, and then compared them to known photographs of Lincoln, and I did not see any resemblance to Lincoln in this photo at all.
But, let's just forget about whether or not it's Lincoln. Nobody seems to have bothered to analyze the images of the women purported to be Mary and Elizabeth in the trio photo. Here are two known photographs of Mary (far left) and her sister Elizabeth (near left). At first glance, I was sure it was not Mary in the middle, and I wasn't familiar enough with Elizabeth's face to know for sure. So, I compared the individual facial features in the group photo with the two images at left and with other known photos of Mary and Elizabeth.
Nothing matches for either woman. With Mary, the bone structure is all off. The face shape and cheeks don't match known photos of Mary; the mouth and chin are not a match; and neither are the brow line or the distance between the eyes. With Elizabeth, bone structure is also off. The mouth and chin are not a match, and neither is the brow line. All other features are either not visible (e.g., the ears) or are not sufficiently clear to compare. But the bones don't lie. The women in the group photo are not Mary and Elizabeth.
THE HAY WADSWORTH PHOTO
This photo is a Daguerreotype purported to have been taken in 1843, and I don't know where that date comes from. The clothing is off for that early a date, but I don't think it is off by much. This is really an example of how people held on to their clothes after they had gone out of style. The lapels are too narrow to be 1843, but they could be very late 1840s or early 1850s. The collar is partly turned down, and that makes it late 1840s. But the tie looks more to me like early 1850s. None of this is specific enough to attribute a definitive date, but it was probably taken around 1848-1852. So, we'll move on to the comparison and analysis of the facial features.
After examining many Lincoln images, there is not really an inch of his face that I don't know pretty much by heart. I knew at first glance that the Hay Wadsworth image was not of Lincoln, but I always do the comparison and analysis anyway, just to confirm it. For comparison, I used the Meserve #1 photo of Lincoln because the Meserve #1 photo was taken in 1846, midway between the purported 1843 date and the 1850 date that I lean towards for the Hay Wadsworth photo. However, I do not know whether the Hay Wadsworth image was laterally reversed or not, so I looked at it in comparison to Meserve #1 both as it looks at left and I also reversed it and compared it to Meserve #1. I also compared the Hay Wadsworth photo to other known Lincoln photos, and came up with the same findings.
Starting with traits related to underlying bone structure, the head shape is very similar in both photos, but the forehead and hairline do not match. Lincoln's are much higher in all his photos, and his hairline is set back farther from his face at the temples than it is in the Hay Wadsworth. The philtrum (that little ridge between the nose and mouth) is also not a match at all. It is much narrower and deeply defined in Meserve #1. The mouth in the Hay Wadsworth photo is larger in proportion to the face than is the mouth in Meserve #1. The upper lip in the Hay Wadsworth photo is much fuller than in the Meserve #1 and lacks the pointed tips at the base of the philtrum on the upper lip that are present in Meserve #1 and all other known Lincoln photos. The ear lobe sticks out further in Meserve #1 than it does in the Hay Wadsworth. As for the bones of the orbits (eye sockets) and brow ridge, the brow in Meserve #1 is much more extended than in the Hay Wadsworth image, and the eyes are more deeply set in Meserve #1. Because I don't have a better scan of the Hay Wadsworth image, I can't tell if the man in that image has a cleft chin, but I do not see a cleft in the Volk mask either, and it is absent in all images I have of Meserve #1, so I can't analyze that feature if it existed in Lincoln. But, back to bones, the chin is shorter in the Hay Wadsworth than in Meserve #1. The nose is very similar, but the Hay Wadsworth nose is thicker than Meserve #1 and other known Lincoln photos. There were also other smaller details that did not match up between the two photographs. With so many features not matching, it is my opinion that the Hay Wadsworth photo is not of Lincoln.
THE ELLISON PHOTOGRAPH
On the Ellison Collection's Web site, the Ellisons have posted the following group shot, below left, which I cropped slightly to save space and show only the heads.
The Ellisons state that this group carte de visite photo was taken by Mrs. J.W. Fessenden of Twinsburg, Ohio. I don't dispute this, and I have no doubt that the name is probably stamped on the photo somewhere and that it really is a CDV (even though it would seem a cabinet card would be more appropriate for a group photo). I also will not dispute any of the other allegedly historic figures the Ellisons identify in the photo because I am not an expert on any of them and I am not being paid to authenticate their identities, so time is an issue for me. I will also not dispute the probable date or place that the Ellisons attribute to this photo (an 1861 peace convention in Washington, DC). But the Ellison's believe that the man seated in the front row at the far left is Abraham Lincoln. and I am positive that it is not.
When I cropped out the image of the unidentified man seated on the far left, I compared his face to that of Lincoln. Not a match. Not even close. While the photo is not very clear, it is sufficiently clear for me to see that, working top to bottom, the bones and features don't match. The eyebrows are not sharply arched like Lincoln's and instead droop downward. The nose is way too long and bulbous at the tip and droops downward, while Lincoln's is more pointed, is shorter in proportion to his head, and tilts upward slightly at the tip. The lips are too large, while Lincoln's top lip is much thinner than the bottom and has distinct "points" at the base of the philtrum (the little furrow between the top of the lips and the base of the nose). The beard is not accurate either, as Lincoln's beard always grew above the mentolabial furrow (the little dip between the lower lip and the chin) all the way up to the rim of his lower lip. The long sideburns that Lincoln wore throughout his bearded years are also missing. And lastly — my favorite "tell" in authenticating old photos — the ears of the unidentified man are not correct. They are placed too low and at the wrong angle on the head. The clothing is off a little too, but I'm not going to go into that since I am already 100% certain that this is not a photograph of Lincoln.
I have no clue who the unidentified men are in these photos. The only thing I do know for sure is that bones do not lie, neither do ears, and neither do facial features or clothing styles or the types of photographic processes used at any given point in time. It is very easy to be blinded by wanting something to be what it is not or cannot be. I'd be thrilled to be able to say that any of these photos are those of Lincoln. What wonderful historic finds they would be! But they are not Lincoln, and I don't want to be yet another person who perpetuates a myth on the Internet — home of far too many inaccuracies and way too much misleading information — and I also don't want to insult the memory of a great man like Lincoln by saying these are images of him when they are not. This article is my opinion as someone who has been authenticating old photographs for a very long time, since 1980. However, the fact that some of these photos have been floating around the Web for so many years and that no one — no museum, no library, no wealthy collector — has ever acquired them, would alone seem to be sufficient to confirm my findings, that they are not photos of Abraham Lincoln.
This article last updated: 09/18/2012.