Remarkable 1843 image of John Quincy Adams
A photograph of John Quincy Adams that he described as ‘hideous’ is now venerated in history as one of the oldest surviving photos of a U.S. president.
The photograph, taken during an uneventful trip to New York in August of 1843, turned up in an antique store in the 1970s and was bought for 50 cents.
It is now housed in the National Portrait Gallery under the care of the Smithsonian.
Adams was the sixth president of the United States, serving for four years between 1823 and 1829.
In a diary entry dated Aug. 1, 1843, Adams described posing for the photograph during a visit to Utica Female Academy in New York.
After he delivered a short speech, ‘The shaking of some hundred hands then followed and on my way returning to Mr. Johnson’s, I stopped and four daguerreotype likenesses of my head were taken, two of them jointly with the head of Mr. Bacon – all hideous.’
The daguerrotype was the machine that was used to take the photographs of Adams.
He was 76 at the time that the photograph was taken.
In addition to snapping some photos while in New York, Adams also called on an 11-year-old child dwarf nicknamed General Tom Thumb, he wrote.
Another photograph was taken of Adams at home in Quincy, Massachusetts, around the same time. Less is known about this photograph, except that it was taken by Philip Haas.
A PORTRAIT, AN EYE INJURY AND A DWARF: A PAGE OF A PRESIDENT’S DIARY
Excerpts of John Quincy Adams’ diary dated August 1, 1843:
At ten o clock the reception [at Utica Female Academy] took place on a stage erected in front of the Bleeker House, where Mr. Bacon addressed and welcomed me in the name of the citizens of Utica. I answered him in a speech of about half an hour, sufficiently cheered for my hopes or wishes, but of mortifying inanity to myself.
The shaking of some hundred hands then followed and on my way returning to Mr. Johnson’s, I stopped and four daguerreotype likenesses of my head were taken, two of them jointly with the head of Mr. Bacon — all hideous.
Then a visit to the dwarf C.F. Stratton, called General Tom Thumb, eleven years old, twenty-five inches high, weighing fifteen pounds, dressed in military uniform mimicking Napoleon.
At Little Falls I was addressed and welcomed by Arphaxad Loomis, an ex-member of the Twenty Sixth Congress, whom I did not recognize till after I had answered.
…About an hour before we reached Schenectady, the wind raised by the rapid motion of the car lodged on the ball of my left eye, beneath the under lid, a small sharp-angled pebble, of the entrance of which I was not conscious when it happened, but which fretted the eye to torture, produced considerable inflammation, and made it impossible for me to look in the face of those whom I was to address. A sumptuous dinner had been prepared for us at Schenectady.
I was in anguish unutterable. I retired to a private chamber and washed the eye in cold water without relief. Dr. Duane, who had observed my suffering, followed me to the chamber, examined the eye, discovered the offensive pebble, wiped it out with the corner of a towel, and I was well.
Attribution: Daily Mail