26 Feb 2010 9:00 am   //   Filed under: New York is different

Lincoln and Brady, 150 years ago

This is one of the most famous photographs of Abrahan Lincoln. It’s one of the most famous photographs period. And it was taken here in New York City on February 27, 1860, 150 years ago tomorrow.

Lincoln, campaigning for president and needing to carry New York, was in the city to give a speech. Originally planned for Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, the event was moved to Cooper Union, then a brand new facility. On his way to the speech, Lincoln stopped at the photo studio of Mathew Brady, a celebrity in his day and recognized today as a path-breaker in the art and trade of photography. (His modern-day counterpart might be, say, James Cameron.)

Brady’s studio was at 643 Broadway, on the corner of Bleeker Street. There’s a café there now. I’ve eaten in that café a few times, each time oblivious to the knowledge that in the very spot where I was washing down an overpriced mesclun salad with a glass of white, Matthew freakin’ Brady had photographed Abraham freakin’ Lincoln! New York is such a place!

Brady, by the way, is buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.—not far from where my brother Gerritt lives. We visited his grave in 2007.

(Information from the New York Historical Society, the Lincoln Institute, and the Library of Congress.)