John Quincy Adams photographs the oldest known of a US President

John Quincy Adams is the subject of the oldest known photographs of a former American President.

Courtesy of The Atlantic – John Quincy Adams, former President of the United States, was serving in the House of Representatives in 1841, but he still made Presidential history that particular year.  The former President sat for two photographs, or more specifically daugerrotypes, which was the first commercially successful photographic method.

One was taken while John Quincy Adams was visiting Ezekial Bacon, a friend and nephew in Niagra Falls, New York.  The other was taken at the Massachusetts home of the former President.

John Quincy Adams

(John Quincy Adams daguerreotype taken at Niagra Falls, New York – 1841 / Smithsonian Institute)

John Quincy Adams

(John Quincy Adams daguerreotype taken at his home in Massachusetts – 1841)

President Adams’ thoughts on the process were recorded in his personal diary.

The shaking of some hundred hands then followed and on my way returning to Mr. Johnson’s, I stopped and four daguerreotype likenesses of my head were taken, two of them jointly with the head of Mr. Bacon — all hideous.

The journal went on to describe how President Adams’ met with the well known circus performer Tom Thumb shortly after the images were recorded.

John Quincy Adams, though, was not a sitting President when the images were captured.  President William Henry Harrison has that distinction.  President Harrison posed for a daugerrotype shortly after his inaugural speech in 1841, but those images have been lost to history.

For more information about these images, including how one was purchased for 50 cents at an antique store, please visit http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/02/the-oldest-known-photograph-of-a-us-president/272872/


I’m a history and trivia buff, but trivia about American Presidents tends to get me more times than not.  Until I came across this article, I did not know President Harrison was the first sitting President to be photographed nor did I know that the images of John Quincy Adams are the oldest still in existence.

As the article mentions, the history of the actual photographs is the big draw.  President Adams didn’t think much of the process, but he couldn’t have known how historic they would become.  Adams was more concerned with the pressing matters of the day.

It goes to show that things considered historic and memorable now might not have been held in the highest of regards when they were created.

“Modern Photography for Modern Times”

David Smith

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