Four generations built the collection of Civil War period photographs that has been the primary pictorial resource for historians and biographers in presenting the life of Lincoln. The Meserve-Kunhardt collection was begun in 1897 as Frederick Hill Meserve sought Civil War pictures to illustrate his father’s memoirs. By that time, however, the war was a bitter memory, and the thousands of photographs that recorded it were not wanted or preserved. Thousands of Matthew Brady’s glass negatives were destroyed or used to build greenhouses. Meserve, sifting through shards of historical treasures, was astonished by the face on one unbroken negative — the face of Lincoln. He was soon driven by a collector’s obsession.
More than seven hundred photographs are lovingly presented in this book. There is Lincoln’s stepmother, Lincoln’s law partners, his barber, his friends, and his political rivals. The fascinating Mary Todd and her sisters are here along with cousins, beaus, and confidants, and even the horsehair sofa on which Lincoln courted Todd. There are moving portraits of the tragic sons of Lincoln, Willie and Tad, and the controversial Robert. The campaign, the battlefield, and the assassination are covered, as well as the long nightmare of the widowed Mary.
This is not a formal or detailed biography, nor does it attempt to put its subject in any original light. Text and illustrations are given in the form of an intimate portrait of the man whose face is itself an arresting revelation of humanity.