Rare Stereoview of President Lincoln’s Cottage

 Erin Carlson Mast

Original images of President Lincoln’s Cottage from the Civil War period are rare.  Over five years of research before and during restoration yielded only a couple handfuls of prints, drawings, photographs, and lithographs of the Cottage that date to around the 1860s.

Two months ago, Col. and Mrs. Gary Vroegindewey donated several cartes de visites and other materials to the site.  Amongst the other materials was an original 19th century stereocard showing the Cottage in the 1860s.   This stereocard offers new information about how the Cottage looked during the summer months when Lincoln was in residence.   Unlike the handful of other photographs of the Cottage from around the same period, this image shows the Cottage in the thick of summer with a lush garden, wisteria covering the veranda, and awnings on all of the south facing windows of the second floor.  

Recently donated stereocard of the Cottage shows summer features not seen in any other photographs to date.

Recently donated stereocard depicts the Cottage awnings, a feature not depicted in any other photographs researched by staff and contractors to date.

The back of the stereocard specifically identifies the image as the “Summer Cottage, Residence of President Lincoln, near Washington, D.C.”  This type of language has led some to believe the Cottage is located outside the District.   The Cottage is of course in the District of Columbia, but during the 1860s was located in Washington County, D.C. as opposed to Washington (City), D.C.  The two merged in the early 1870s with Georgetown, D.C. to become simply, Washington, D.C.

The stereocard was published by Richard Walzl, 103 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD, who was active in the late 19th century and into the 20th century and publisher of The Photographer’s Friend.   Prominent architectural features added to the Cottage in the early 1870s (notably the extension of the porch) are noticeably absent, however, which is explained by the indication on the back of the stereocard that it was created using a negative produced by a “G. O. Brown,” who apparently created the negative in the 1860s. 

Special thanks to Col. and Mrs. Vroegindewey for their generous donation to President Lincoln’s Cottage.

Ms. Mast is the Curator at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

1 Comment

Filed under Collections, Exhibits, History

One response to “Rare Stereoview of President Lincoln’s Cottage

  1. Richard Walzl operated from this 103 Baltimore Street location from September 2, 1866 through 1872. Brown worked for Walzl no earlier than 1871 as he had his own studio in Baltimore beginning in late summer 1866, after leaving the military. Brown may have produced the glass negative while self employed, but it is also likely that he produced it while working for Walzl. Stereoview images changed in size around 1874, so this series predates that change. Knowing the exact date of the changes to the architectural features you mention will better narrow down the possible date the photograph was taken. Based on the time frame of Brown’s working for Walzl the greatest likelyhood is no earlier than 1871 and prior to the 1874 change in size of published stereoviews. It should also be noted that Georgtown became a part of the District after June 1871, another clue to narrow the publishing date, unless Walzl was not aware of this change.
    I have been researching the life and work of G. O. Brown for the past five years and I am currently finishing a book on the subject. A preview of this work was published in the April 2009 issue of Civil War Times Magazine.

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