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Abraham Lincoln | by Archives New Zealand
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Abraham Lincoln

In September 1906 Henry Hughes of the Patent and Trade-Marks Office, Queen Chambers, Wellington, New Zealand put forward a registration of proprietorship of copyright for a photograph of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States. The registration was put forward on behalf of Henry Martyn Williams who was from Fort Wayne, Indiana. His address on the application form was 124 East Wayne Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States of America.


Williams was a Civil War veteran and was in his senior year at Princeton University, New Jersey, when the Civil War began. He left college to join the Army and was made First Lieutenant of Artillery in the Eleventh Indiana Battery. In the battle of Chickamauga he was severely wounded while defending his guns, so much so that he had to eventually retire from the Army. His unit records show that he joined up at 19 years of age on 17 December 1861, his occupation was given as Clerk. He was mustered out on 23 November 1863 with a disability, presumably from the injuries he sustained at the battle of Chickamauga. In later life he was engaged in various business enterprises in different parts of the country. He married Mary Hamilton and had two children. Williams died in 1917.


The original photograph was taken on 5 February, 1865 by Alexander Gardner. President Lincoln visited Gardner’s studio in February 1865, the final year of the Civil War, accompanied by the American portraitist Matthew Wilson. Wilson had been commissioned to paint the president’s portrait, but because Lincoln could spare so little time to pose, the artist needed recent photographs to work from. The photos served their purpose; the resulting painting was a traditional, formal, bust-length portrait in an oval format. Gardner’s surprisingly candid photograph of the President has proven more enduring than the painting, even though it was not originally intended to stand alone as a work of art.


The photograph held by the Library of Congress Washington DC., is a gelatin silver print of a lost period print of the multiple-image stereographic pose.


How Williams came to acquire the photograph, and then propose proprietorship of copyright of the photograph that Archives New Zealand now holds, is a mystery. The application to register the photograph was declined by the registrar because Williams was not a resident in New Zealand.


Archives Reference: PC4 CR 1906/63 [Copyright file and photograph]


Please note: This photograph has been retouched

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Taken on April 1, 2014