Today’s post comes from National Archives Office of Strategy and Communications staff writer Rob Crotty.
History is full of strange coincidences, and the Civil War is no exception. In the 1950s, Stefan Lorant was researching a book on Abraham Lincoln when he came across an image of the President’s funeral procession as it moved down Broadway in New York City. The photo was dated April 25, 1865.
At first it appeared like one of any number of photographs of Lincoln’s funeral procession, until he identified the house on the corner as that of Cornelius van Schaack Roosevelt, the grandfather of future President Teddy Roosevelt and his brother Elliot.
The coincidence might have ended there, but Lorant took a closer look. In the second-story window of the Roosevelt mansion he noticed the heads of two boys are peering out onto Lincoln’s funeral procession.
Lorant had the rare chance to ask Teddy Roosevelt’s wife about the image, and when she saw it, she confirmed what he had suspected: the faces in the windows were those of a young future President and his brother. “Yes, I think that is my husband, and next to him his brother,” she exclaimed. “That horrible man! I was a little girl then and my governess took me to Grandfather Roosevelt’s house on Broadway so I could watch the funeral procession. But as I looked down from the window and saw all the black drapings I became frightened and started to cry. Theodore and Elliott were both there. They didn’t like my crying. They took me and locked me in a back room. I never did see Lincoln’s funeral.” (Read Lorant’s full story here.)
In the 1950s, there was another photographic discovery surrounding Lincoln. In 1952, Josephine Cobb, the chief of the Still Picture Branch at the National Archives discovered a glass plate negative taken by Mathew Brady of the speakers’ stand at Gettysburg in 1863. Photo enlargement later proved Cobb’s suspicions that Lincoln would be on that stand, making it the first known photo of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, only hours before he delivered his famous address.
For more Civil War discoveries, join us tomorrow in Washington, DC, for the opening of Part Two of Discovering the Civil War.