Uncovered Photos Offer View of Lincoln Ceremony The Library of Congress has discovered previously unseen photos of President Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration. They had been housed at the library for years, hidden by an error in labeling. The photos show the crowd that gathered for the speech.
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Uncovered Photos Offer View of Lincoln Ceremony

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Uncovered Photos Offer View of Lincoln Ceremony

Uncovered Photos Offer View of Lincoln Ceremony

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And some even older artifacts have turned up in the Library of Congress. These are presidential artifacts, previously unknown photographs of President Lincoln's second inauguration. They'd been hidden for years because of a labeling error.

NPR's Kitty Eisele went over to the library to take a look.

KITTY EISELE: There was a time, some two decades ago, when I could've told you not only what photos of Lincoln existed, but probably cited all the negative numbers they were filed under. I was producing "The Civil War" series with Ken Burns, and it would not be an exaggeration to say we spent months in the Library of Congress pouring over and filming the photos of the Civil War.

I spent a lot of time in those years wearing white cotton gloves, pulling dusty photos out of filing cabinets and making notes, while Ken and the cameraman filmed. So learning there were new photos, long unseen photos of Lincoln's last great speech, made me feel a little like a detective who comes across key evidence in a case that's long been closed. I had to take a look.

Ms. CAROL JOHNSON (Curator, Library of Congress): We'll come over to the presidential file and open the Lincoln drawer.

EISELE: From a cabinet in the library's prints and photographs division, curator Carol Johnson pulled out a familiar folder.

Ms. JOHNSON: The 1865 inauguration.

EISELE: These new pictures weren't in this cabinet when we were filming at the library. They'd been stored elsewhere, filed under President Grant.

Ms. JOHNSON: Over time, the caption for these photos had been misplaced. It just never made it into our records.

EISELE: The library recently put its photographic images online, and a researcher in Colorado spotted the error.

Ms. JOHNSON: One of them was labeled as Grant's inauguration, and the other one was labeled as a Grand Army of the Republic Parade.

EISELE: That would be the Union Army parading, and they look pretty grand. They stand at attention, awaiting Lincoln's speech in parade dress, rows of soldiers in buttoned uniforms with horses, rifles, caissons and regimental flags. They'd marched from the White House to the Capitol that day, and you can see from one moment to the next the crowd part to make room for the president's carriage.

Ms. JOHNSON: I love how the ground looks so wet, because it had rained for a few days before the inauguration. And when you read accounts, people talk about how muddy they got.

EISELE: Muddy but exuberant. The war is nearly over, and this crowd seems to know it. A few have arms raised as if cheering the speech.

Ms. JOHNSON: There were several military bands, and there's a huge drum right behind the carriage.

EISELE: And there's another discovery I don't remember having noticed before.

Ms. JOHNSON: This was the first time that African-American troops had marched in an inauguration.

EISELE: And you can see them if you look closely in the very front row. Of course, what I know when I look at these faces is what this crowd does not: That in one month, the war will be finished, but five days after that, Lincoln himself will be dead at an assassin's hand.

It's almost impossible to see these pictures without that knowledge shadowing the view. And it adds a note of poignancy when I read the speech Lincoln gave for his second inauguration.

He instructs this crowd for the task that lies ahead after the war has ended, to bind the nation's wounds, to care for the veteran, the widow, the orphan with malice toward none, with charity for all.

Those are generous words, and they're worth remembering today.

MONTAGNE: Kitty Eisele is an editor here on MORNING EDITION. And you can see the newly discovered Lincoln photos at npr.org.

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