Picture Lincoln

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.

—Abraham Lincoln

In this lesson students study Alexander Gardner's photograph of Lincoln taken a little over two months before his death. They look for clues to Lincoln's personality and mood, read a short biography, write a poem describing what they learned about Lincoln, and create an artwork showing his character. They also learn about Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner and 19th century photographic processes.

Guiding Questions

What evidence of Lincoln's personality and character as well as his struggles as president are revealed in Alexander Gardner's 1865 photograph?

Learning Objectives

At the end of this lesson students will be able to

Describe Abraham Lincoln as shown in Alexander Gardner's 1865 photograph

Understand how 19th century photography differed from that of the 21st century

Explain the challenges Lincoln had late in his first term