“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Beardstown in Cass County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Lincoln Photograph

Looking for Lincoln

Lincoln Photograph Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Beverly Pfingsten, June 10, 2012
1. Lincoln Photograph Marker
Abraham Lincoln had just won an acquittal for his client William Duff Armstrong in what is now known as the celebrated Almanac Trial of May 7, 1858. At the conclusion of the trial, held on the second floor of the Cass County Courthouse in Beardstown, a young entrepreneur named Abraham Byers invited Lincoln to walk to his nearby studio for a short photography session. No doubt, Lincoln was tired and perhaps looked forward to supper and then retiring to his room at the Dunbaugh House. According to some accounts, Lincoln initially declined Byers' invitation, insisting his suit was too rumpled and that he would make a poor subject. In the end, Byers convinced him to post. Byers made use of the newest photographic technique called ambrotype, which produced a picture by imaging a negative on glass backed by a dark surface. Byers took two photos, one of which was lost or, according to some accounts, discarded by Byers. The other shows an obviously tired Lincoln attired in a white linen suit, seated with his right arm resting on the arm of a chair. A copy hangs in the courtroom where Lincoln defended Armstrong.

Abraham Byers'

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famous May 7, 1858, photograph of
Abraham Lincoln is a seven-by-nine-inch ambrotype, mounted in an ornate brass frame. Taken at Byers' Beardstown studio, it is the only known portrait of Lincoln in a white suit. Also,it is generally believed to be one of ten photographs taken of Lincoln during 1858. Owned by the University of Nebraska, the photo is usually kept in a vault, though it was displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., during the bicentennial celebration in 1976.

As Abraham Lincoln was no ordinary lawyer, Abraham Byers was no ordinary photographer. in fact, this man who took the famous portrait of Lincoln in a white suit was not really a photographer. A store clerk, Byers settled in Beardstown for time, but spent much time in Nebraska engaged in land speculation. He gained ownership of the photography studio in a settlement of an unpaid load. Byers taught himself the art of ambrotype photography. In the 1850's, Byers developed a friendship with Lincoln, according to his daughter, Olive Byers Hayes. In 1861, Byers married Mary Tull in Beardstown. Later they moved to Aledo, Illinois, where Byers became a successful banker. Byers remarried after Mary's death in 1902. He eventually went to Omaha, where he passed away in 1920. his widow Zora, donated the famous photograph to the University of Nebraska.
Erected by

Lincoln Photograph image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Beverly Pfingsten, June 10, 2012
2. Lincoln Photograph
State of Illinois Historic Preservation Agency & Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, MusicIndustry & CommerceScience & Medicine. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the Looking for Lincoln series lists. A significant historical date for this entry is May 7, 1897.
Location. 40° 1.075′ N, 90° 26.07′ W. Marker is in Beardstown, Illinois, in Cass County. Marker is at the intersection of South State Street and Main Street on South State Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Beardstown IL 62618, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Lincoln in Beardstown (within shouting distance of this marker); Traveling to Beardstown (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Lincoln the Candidate (about 300 feet away); Lincoln and the River (about 300 feet away); Site of Abraham Lincoln's Speech (about 400 feet away); In Memory of Abraham Lincoln (about 600 feet away); Lincoln the Lawyer (about 600 feet away); Lincoln and Blackhawk (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Beardstown.
Byers Camera image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Beverly Pfingsten, June 10, 2012
3. Byers Camera
Credits. This page was last revised on October 9, 2019. It was originally submitted on July 26, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 762 times since then and 67 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on July 26, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.

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Jun. 9, 2023