After 200 Years, Still Learning About Lincoln by Sandra Smith of the Verona NJ Historical Society

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The discovery of a miniature painting grows in evidence and acceptance as the earliest known portrait of Abraham Lincoln according to the Verona NJ Historical Society

One year from now Americans will celebrate Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday with great fanfare. Lincoln will dominate the news, and it would make sense that all there is to know about this nation's greatest president is old history. Yet advanced technology offers new insights at both the future and the past, and the ability to unearth hidden treasures believed to have been lost to the ages. One such treasure is a small painting with growing acceptance it is the earliest known image of our 16th president. "The evidence just continues to add up," according to Sandra Smith of the Verona NJ Historical Society.

At first glance this painting might be dismissed as not resembling the face Americans have come to know and loveā€¦a face not captured by any artist until more than 20 years after this miniature was painted. Yet the circumstances surrounding this tiny portrait supports this may be Abe - honest.

This discovery was made with the sale of a New Jersey home originally owned by Mildred Downing, who passed away in her 90's. Mildred's great aunt was married to Mary Todd Lincoln's brother. Cleaning out centuries of accumulated possessions from this old home unearthed fascinating historical artifacts ... including this miniature painting, genealogy books and letters, surveys and deeds, a framed bill of sale for a slave, a Mary Todd china doll head, steamer trunks with strong Mary Todd connections, and other relative items which can be found at

Measuring just 2" x 2-1/2", this watercolor was painted on ivory shortly before the invention of photography became popular. Miniatures were painted exclusively at the time of a person's engagement, to be given as a bond between the subject and the recipient. This miniature dates to the early 1840's - the time of Abe and Mary Todd's engagement. Lincoln's very distinctive face, from his cleft chin, to his "cupid's bow" lip and his lazy left eye are all dead-on matches.

As researchers continue to unearth new evidence, this painting is being met with growing interest and acceptance. It is hoped that technology in forensic digital comparative brushstroke analysis will allow this significant discovery to find a proper home in American history. For additional information on this miniature painting, visit

Submitted by Sandra Smith
Researcher, Historical Society Member


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