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Early Maine Photography

Famous People

Dolly Madison

Remembered as one of America’s great first ladies, Dolly Madison (1768-1849) was raised in rural Virginia and educated in Philadelphia. After the death of her first husband, she married Congressman James Madison in 1794. A brilliant lawyer and politician, Madison served as Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of State from 1801 to 1809, succeeding him in the presidency from 1809 to 1817. During both the Jefferson and Madison administrations, Dolly Madison conducted the social life of the White House. When the British burned Washington in 1814, she rescued the full-length portrait of George Washington from the East Room.

In 1817 the Madisons returned to Montpelier, their Virginia country estate, where James Madison died in 1836. The following year Dolly Madison returned to Washington to resume her role as the social leader of the city. Senator John Fairfield of Saco described Mrs. Madison in 1847 much as she appears in this daguerreotype:

Mrs. Madison is still residing at Washington and is the center of nearly as much attraction as the White House itself. All foreigners and gentlemen of distinction from all parts of our country visiting Washington make it one of their first pleasures to pay their respects to Mrs. Madison. Although far advanced in life, she retains much of the freshness and beauty of her early years, and all of the dignity and even majesty of her appearance and deportment. She still wears the turban and much of her costume of the olden time, which is in admirable keeping with her courtly manners.

Dolly Madison’s sister Anna was married to Richard Cutts of Saco, and the Maine Historical Society probably acquired this daguerreotype from the Cutts family.


Abraham Lincoln

This tintype of a print of Abraham Lincoln by an unknown maker may date from his reelection campaign in the fall of 1864 or from his assassination in April, 1865. Born in Kentucky in 1809, Lincoln rose to fame as an Illinois lawyer and politician. Nominated for president by the new Republican Party in 1860, he won a four way race and immediately faced the dissolution of the union over the question of slavery.

Between his inauguration on March 4, 1861 and his death on April 15, 1865, Lincoln focused on preserving the union and abolishing slavery by waging war with Confederate States of America and issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. In achieving both these goals, he is considered one of America’s great presidents.


Hannibal Hamlin

This ambrotype of Hannibal Hamlin (1809-1891) probably dates from the 1860 presidential election in which Hamlin was the Republican nominee for vice president. A native of Paris Hill, Hamlin moved to Hampden as a young man to practice law.

A Jacksonian Democrat, he began his political career in the Maine legislature, serving three terms as speaker. He was elected as a Congressman in 1843 and as U.S. Senator in 1848. During the 1856 campaign, he won the governorship of Maine as a Republican, but held that office only a few weeks, resigning to return to the Senate.


William Pitt Fessenden

As a United State Senator in 1868, William Pitt Fessenden (1806-1869) of Portland was one of seven Republicans to vote against the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, thus preventing his removal from office. Graduating from Bowdoin in 1823, Fessenden became one of Maine’s most successful attorneys. Between 1831 and 1854 he served in the Maine Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1854, he gained a national reputation for his opposition to slavery and his expertise in finance. His role as chair of the Senate Finance Committee during the Civil War led President Abraham Lincoln to appoint him as Secretary of the Treasury, a post he held for a year before returning to the Senate for the balance of his life. William Pitt Fessenden was widely condemned in 1868 for his vote to acquit Andrew Johnson, but historians, including John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage, have praised the conviction and foresight of this Maine senator’s decision.


Governor William King

Born in Scarborough in 1768, William King received only a grammar school education. Starting work in a Topsham sawmill, he rose to become the largest ship owner in Maine and a successful merchant. His business interests included real estate, banking, and cotton manufacturing. King began his political career in 1795, serving as both a representative and as a senator in the Massachusetts legislature. He held the rank of major general in the state militia during the War of 1812. The hardships experienced by Maine during the war prompted King to take up the cause of separation from Massachusetts. Beginning in 1813, he became Maine’s chief proponent for statehood, which was accomplished through the Missouri Compromise in 1820. A drafter of the Maine Constitution, King consulted Thomas Jefferson for guidance in its preparation. Elected Maine’s first governor, William King served until 1821, when he was appointed commissioner to negotiate a treaty with Spain, a post he held for three years. A staunch advocate of education, he was a trustee of Waterville (now Colby) College and a trustee and overseer of Bowdoin College. He died in 1852, just prior to the availability of the ambrotype process, which indicates that this picture is probably copied from an earlier daguerreotype. This strong profile image of an aged leader is reminiscent of daguerreotypes of Andrew Jackson taken shortly before his death.


Governor Enoch Lincoln

Governor Enoch Lincoln died in 1829, a decade before the invention of photography. Thus, his image is known only through portraits painted during his lifetime, including this one that has survived through a daguerreotype copy.

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1788, Enoch Lincoln came from a distinguished family in which his father Levi Lincoln was a leader in Massachusetts legal and political circles and his brother Levi Lincoln became governor of Massachusetts. Like his father and his brother, Enoch Lincoln attended Harvard and became a lawyer. Admitted to the bar in 1811, he started practicing law in Fryeburg, Maine in 1812, moving his office to Paris in 1819. Lincoln served as a Congressman from 1818 to 1826, when he resigned to run for governor. While governor, Lincoln worked to settle the Northeastern Boundary Dispute with Great Britain in Maine’s favor. During his third term, he traveled from Portland, then the state capital, to Augusta to speak at the cornerstone laying ceremony for the new State House. While there, he became ill and died on October 8, 1829. Reflecting the high esteem in which he was held by his fellow citizens, he was buried in Capitol Park, where his grave is marked by a granite tomb and monument. In addition to his public life, Governor Lincoln was a man of literary accomplishments, which included publishing poetry and historical research.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This rare glass stereo view shows a beardless Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) sitting on the porch of his cottage at the popular summer resort of Nahant, Massachusetts. By the time the Philadelphia photographer Frederick Langenheim took this picture in 1856, Longfellow had established an international reputation for his poetry. Born in Portland in 1807, he graduated from Bowdoin College in 1825 and taught modern languages there from 1829 to 1835. Called to Harvard in 1835, he taught modern languages there until 1854, when he resigned to devote himself to writing poetry. Widely read during his lifetime, Longfellow is best remembered for his books of verse based on American themes: Evangeline, The Song of Hiawatha, The Courtship of Miles Standish, and Tales of a Wayside Inn.




Reverend Samuel Longfellow

This daguerreotype by an unknown photographer conveys the image of the Reverend Samuel Longfellow (1819-1892), the younger brother of the poet. Born in Portland, Samuel graduated from Harvard in 1839 and from its Divinity School in 1846. From 1848 to 1882 he served Unitarian churches in Fall River, Massachusetts; Brooklyn, New York; and Germantown, Pennsylvania. He is remembered as a prolific writer of hymns, the compiler of collections of hymns, and the author of a vesper service. After the death of his brother Henry in 1882, Samuel retired from the ministry and moved to Cambridge to devote himself to writing a three volume biography of the poet.


Seba Smith

Seba Smith (1792-1868) gained national fame as a political satirist who wrote newspaper articles and books under the pen name of Major Jack Downing. A native of Buckfield, Smith rose from a modest rural background to graduate with honors from Bowdoin College in 1818. After a brief period of teaching and travel, he became a newspaper editor in Portland. In 1829 he started the Portland Courier, in which he published his Jack Downing letters. When the letters first appeared in book form in 1833, Smith’s brand of political writing captured national attention and launched his thirty-five year career as a widely read American humorist. He pioneered a homely form of commentary that paved the way for later humorists such as Sam Slick, Mr. Dooley, and Will Rogers. His wife Elizabeth Oakes Smith was a major literary figure in her own right. This ambrotype of Seba Smith was taken by Myron H. Kimball of New York.


Professor Parker Cleaveland

Parker Cleaveland (1780-1858) achieved an international reputation in the scientific community for his 1816 book Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology, the first American publication on the subject. A native of Byfield, Massachusetts, Cleaveland graduated from Harvard in 1799 and taught mathematics there until he joined the Bowdoin College faculty in 1805. In addition to math, Cleaveland gave courses in chemistry, geology, and medicine. As his professional reputation grew, he declined offers of positions at Harvard and other institutions, devoting himself to a lifetime of teaching at Bowdoin. When he died at the age of seventy-eight, in the fifty-third year of his professorship, the college estimated that he had taught more than two thousand students. This daguerreotype of Parker Cleaveland is similar to one in the Vickery-Shettleworth Collection by Benjamin F. Upton of Bath.