Gettysburg Photo Now Has 2 Would-Be Lincolns

Amateur historians differ on which one is the real Abe

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 24, 2013 2:32 PM CDT

(Newser) – A fascinating photo debate is underway regarding Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, reports USA Today. An amateur historian thinks he's spotted Lincoln in a photo by Alexander Gardner. The controversy? A different amateur historian identified another figure as Lincoln in the same photo six years ago. The two would-be Lincolns are just yards apart in the 1863 image. To see for yourself, Smithsonian has an interactive version of the photo that allows you to zoom in on the competing Abes.

The most recent claim is by Christopher Oakley, a former Disney animator who teaches the craft at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. He thinks everything fits—the beard, the simple overcoat, the facial profile, the stovepipe hat. The earlier claim came from John Richter, who still thinks he's right because his figure appears to be returning a salute. But the Smithsonian story pokes a hole in that theory by pointing out that the tradition of presidents saluting troops generally didn't start until Ronald Reagan did so in 1981. One other odd tidbit: Oakley thinks he's spotted Gardner himself, the photographer, smiling at the camera, which would mean an assistant actually snapped the famous photo.

Alexander Gardner's original image from the Gettysburg dedication. Smithsonian has an interactive version that shows the competing Lincolns.
Alexander Gardner's original image from the Gettysburg dedication. Smithsonian has an interactive version that shows the competing Lincolns.   (Library of Congress)
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