On April 8, 1977, I was a visitor, from France, in New York City, residing in marvelous accommodations at the Downtown Athletic Club. I was 45 years old. It was a Friday, and I remember driving a rented car that day.

Earlier, I learned about a group of photographs, made in Poland shortly before the war, and which were offered for sale by an art gallery. I had made a note to see those photographs.

This gallery was devoted to photography and rare books related to photography. It was a privilege, I felt, to be in such a place. I had not known there were art galleries devoted to photography.

In addition to the framed photographs on the wall, and a small bookcase, I noticed they had a glass showcase containing many small photograph-like objects. An attentive young clerk unlocked the showcase, and thoughtfully brought me a chair.

As I recall, there were around 50 or so cased images. I had never before seen a cased image. I knew a little of modern photography, but nothing whatsoever about early photography. The names, “daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes” would have meant nothing to me.

The daguerreotypes were priced according to size. The smallest offered were Sixth plate priced at $25, the Quarter plate were $50, and the Half or Whole plate were $100. I purchased one Sixth plate daguerreotype. The image of the distinguished young man reminded me of Abraham Lincoln.

As I reflect on those moments, 44 years ago, there was another 6th sized daguerreotype in the showcase, that was, I now believe, made at the same time and place as the Lincoln daguerreotype. It is likely that the housing of this daguerreotype is identical to that of the Lincoln. I remember the image of a movie star-handsome young man in a beautifully tailored checkered suit. I am now quite confident that he is Joshua Speed. The art gallery surely sold it to somebody. If that somebody is reading this, do let me hear from you.

My interest in early photography thus began. It greatly interested me to view photographic portraits of 19th Century personalities.

It seemed to me that my acquisition of the Lincoln daguerreotype was the pure chance of a serendipitous moment. It never occurred to me that I might acquire other cased images of illustrious personalities. And yet, it occurred. The advent of the internet made the Kaplan Collection possible. 20-years after acquiring the Lincoln daguerreotype, I acquired the daguerreotype of Judah P. Benjamin via the internet. Then there was another illustrious 19th Century personality, then a further one, etc. After each acquisition I was, literally, astounded. Since that fateful day in 1977 I have acquired many cased images of illustrious 19th Century personalities; and each time I was astounded.*

By virtue of the significance of the personalities photographed, and the number of such portraits, this collection of 19th Century cased images, (to the best of my knowledge), eclipses all known comparable collections, including, collectively, those of the National Portrait Gallery, The George Eastman House Museum of Photography and Film, The Getty Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Library of Congress.

* The Collection was reduced by four pieces, essentially gifts. They are, Judah P. Benjamin, Oscar Wilde, Jane Slidell Perry, and P.T. Barnum.

President Lincoln - 1862
Copyright Albert Kaplan 1983

(click on image for the
full daguerreotype plate)

In 1977 Albert Kaplan purchased the daguerreotype receipted as "Portrait of a Young Man" from an art gallery in New York. "When I first saw it I thought that there were similarities between the handsome, aristocratic, and tastefully groomed young man of the daguerreotype, and my mental image of President Lincoln."

Over the years Kaplan researched and assembled materials which cast light on the physical man, Lincoln. Kaplan believed that the best qualified people to analyze the image, and the assembled materials, to consider whether the daguerreotype is of Abraham Lincoln, would be plastic and reconstructive surgeons who work with the human face. In 1987 Kaplan, then living in Paris, sought out Dr. Claude N. Frechette, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the American Hospital in Paris, whose report "A New Lincoln Image" is here included. A second report, "Artifact Description of Kaplan Daguerreotype", is by Grant B. Romer, Conservator of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film in Rochester, New York.

The only other known, and hitherto earliest, daguerreotype of Lincoln, Meserve #1, in the possession of the Library of Congress, was a gift of Robert Todd Lincoln to Frederick Hill Meserve. Meserve reported that "Lincoln believed it was made in Washington in 1848".

In 1965, the New York Academy of Sciences published "Abraham Lincoln's Philosophy Of Common Sense - An Analytical Biography of a Great Mind", by Edward J. Kempf, M.D., a neurologist and psychiatrist whose interest in Lincoln began when he first saw the Volk life mask, from which he inferred that Lincoln must have suffered a serious cranial injury in childhood. After investigating further, Dr. Kempf found Lincoln's own account of having been kicked in the forehead by a horse at age 10 years and "thought dead for awhile." The nature of the cerebral damage, and how it might have influenced the development of Lincoln's personality and mind became a question of absorbing interest to the author. The resulting analytical biography was the product of the author's 12 subsequent years of research.

Because the trauma-induced deformations of Lincoln's face, distinctly described by Dr. Kempf, are seen unmistakably in the Kaplan daguerreotype, providing in themselves definitive, certain, evidence of the daguerreotype's authenticity, we reprint the Kempf analysis (from the title page to the end of Chapter I of Volume I).

An earlier Kempf study of Lincoln's cranial injury appeared in the April 1952 American Medical Association (AMA) Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, Volume 67, Number 4, entitled, "Abraham Lincoln's Organic and Emotional Neurosis".

The Kaplan Collection