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kottke.org posts about John Quincy Adams

The oldest known photo of a US President

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 23, 2017

John Q Adams Photo

A daguerreotype photograph taken of President John Quincy Adams in 1843 has recently surfaced and is due to be auctioned off by Sotheby’s in October.

The daguerreotype, which carries an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000, was taken in a Washington portrait studio in March 1843, when Adams was in the middle of his post-presidential career in Congress. He gave it as a gift to a fellow representative, whose descendants kept it in the family while apparently losing track of its significance.

Emily Bierman, the head of Sotheby’s photographs department, called it “without a doubt the most important historical photo portrait to be offered at auction in the last 20 years.”

It’s mind-blowing that there are photos of the 6th President of the US — James Monroe, the 5th President, was not photographed. Adams was born in 1767, several years before the Revolution, and served as President until 1829, but he isn’t the earliest born person to be photographed. That honor (probably) belongs to John Adams (no relation), who was born in 1745.