Published September 24, 2013
Will the real Abe Lincoln please stand up?
Historians rejoiced at the discovery of the second photo ever found of Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg address six years ago. The blurry photo was found by amateur historian John Richter who picked out the president on horseback saluting the troops from among a sea of faces.
Tuesday morning, with the help of improved technology, former Disney animator Christopher Oakley announced he had found Lincoln in the same crowd -- only his Lincoln is a few yards to the right in front of the speaker’s stand. Richter’s Lincoln is just a top-hat-wearing doppelganger, Oakley says.
Now, historians who once supported Richter’s photo are switching sides and saying Oakley’s photo is the real deal.
“I know this sounds silly,” Oakley told Smithsonian magazine, “but when I saw that picture, I felt like I knew him and that he was a nice man.”
Oakley came across Richter’s photograph while he was working with students to recreate the 1863 Gettysburg ceremony for North Carolina-Asheville University’s Virtual Lincoln Project where he works as a professor.
After studying the picture, Lincoln wasn’t the only famous face Oakley found in the crowd. With the help of his students, Oakley identified Secretary of State William Seward who was known to be standing close to Lincoln during the ceremony.
Oakley then knew Lincoln must be nearby and soon concluded that a different blurry figure other than the one Richter found was indeed the 16th president.
He turned to the Library of Congress’ website to request a high-resolution image of the negative -- and for $73 they said they would produce one for him although they had denied Richter’s request.
"It's the best $73 I ever spent," Oakley said. “As soon as I had that in my hands, I was able to look at it much more clearly."
Oakley determined Richter’s figure on horseback had longer hair and a fuller beard than Lincoln. He also had epaulets on his shoulders, while Lincoln would have worn a simple overcoat. He also would not have been saluting the troops as this practice was not adopted until Ronald Reagan started doing it 100 years later.
We may never know whose Abe is honestly Lincoln.