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Out of the Past

Henry V. Bender, the chairman of the humanities department at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., made a startling discovery recently while cleaning out his office.

Carefully wrapped and put away in a box on a shelf 13 feet off the floor were four forgotten photographs of Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. Bender learned that the photos had been annotated and put away years ago by John Chancellor, the humanities chairman at the independent boarding and day school.

The notations on the photos helped Mr. Bender research their authenticity and identify their donor. They were given to the 480-student school for its centennial celebration in 1951 by Frederick Meserve, a famous collector of Lincoln artifacts, whose grandson was a student at Hill at the time.

The earliest of the portraits, taken by Stephen M. Fassett in October 1859, was made before Lincoln was elected president. Two were taken by the noted Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, one around Lincoln's 52nd birthday in 1861, the year he took office, and the other in February of 1864, the year the president was elected to a second term.

The last photograph, made by Alexander Gardner four days before Lincoln's assassination in April 1865, was taken on a glass negative, Mr. Bender said. But it cracked across the top, and the photo at the Hill School is an enlargement of the original made from that negative and still shows the crack.

The pictures have been restored and framed and are on display in the school's library.

—Vanessa Dea

Vol. 20, Issue 23, Page 3

Published in Print: February 21, 2001, as Take Note

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