|not the 1841 photo or the 1850 copy you think it is|
I've been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they're real - The Cure
A daguerreotype (an early form of photography introduced in 1839) WAS in fact taken of the new President at the US Capitol on inauguration day March 4, 1841. According to the photographer Justus F. Moore, President Harrison was “delighted with the results.” We'll have to take his word on that since it was never seen again and no known copy exists. The image often implied and misreported to be an 1850 photographic copy of that lost image is likely a daguerreotype made by Albert Southworth of an oil portrait by Albert Gallatin Hoit that Harrison sat for in 1840.
One might wonder, perhaps the painting was done from the photo? Good question!...but according to a Salmon P Chase diary entry, Hoit (sometimes spelled Hoyt) traveled from Boston to North Bend OH in May 1840 to paint this portrait of Harrison, then a candidate for President, for the Boston Whig Association.
I have seen the digital version of the painting and the 1850 photo previously and while it occurred to me they are very similar it hadn't dawned on me that they are basically the same image. Everything seems to match up. The photo seems to be tilted a bit counterclockwise from the original. and the early crude photographic process adds some slight variances. Just like an Instagram filter, it also produces some shadowing and contrast changes which give the daguerreotype a more life-like three-dimensional appearance. It's no wonder this myth came to be. It looks very much like a photo and not a photo of a painting. Other engravings were also based on the painting such as this one.
Every picture tells a story, don't it? - Rod Stewart
|the 1840 Hoit painting used for the photo|
So alas, while Harrison does indeed get the honor to be the first President to be photographed in while in office, no one has seen it since 1841 and what we often see credited as an 1850 copy of that photo is an 1850 photo of an 1840 painting.
Sorry to break the news on William Henry Harrison' s 245th birthday, born on this day 1773. President's Day is on the 3rd Monday of February. Did you know only four US Presidents were born in February? Washington, Harrison, Lincoln, and Reagan.
In case you are wondering, the oldest surviving original photo of a sitting US President is that of James Polk from 1849. The oldest surviving photograph of a US President, recently discovered, is that of elderly John Quincy Adams taken in 1843, well after his time in office.
If I had a photograph of you
It's something to remind me
I wouldn't spend my life just wishing - Flock of Seagulls
The Hoit portrait image was taken from a general internet image search also resized and cropped by me for comparison purposes. The original painting and image can be seen at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.