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Background Info

Abraham Lincoln was the first president to use photography to document his presidency and distribute those images to the public. During Lincoln’s campaign to be president in 1860, Matthew Brady took many of the pictures of President Lincoln using daguerreotype technology. Over 100 years later, on November 22, 1963, Cecil Stoughton captured a picture of Lyndon Johnson being sworn into office on Air Force One after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated during a presidential motorcade in Dallas, Texas. The shots were fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, an employee at the Book Depository, and charged him with the president’s assassination. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president that day. Oswald never made it to court, because Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald when they were transferring him from jail.

Questions

1. 

Who was the first American president to be photographed while in office? What photographic process was used?

Show Answer

The first American president to be photographed in office was James K. Polk in 1849.  The photographic process used was called daguerreotype.

2. 

President Abraham Lincoln had a photograph taken standing with his left hand on a stack of books.  Why did he do this?

Show Answer

He did this to portray himself to the public as scholarly and intellectual.

3. 

What types of photographs do presidents' photographers take and show to the public?

Show Answer

Recent American presidents have had pictures taken of them working in the Oval Office in the White House, spending time with their families, and giving speeches to the public and to Congress.

Fast Facts

  • Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre invented the daguerreotype process in France.
  • American photographers quickly capitalized on the daguerreotype process, which was capable of capturing a "truthful likeness" of the subject being photographed.
  • Cecil Stoughton took over 8,000 photographs of the Kennedy family from Kennedy's Inauguration until his assassination on November 22, 1963.
  • Cecil Stoughton was also the presidential photographer for the first two years of Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency.

Vocabulary

Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry

Abraham Lincoln

Noun

(1809-1865) 16th American president.

James K. Polk

Noun

(1795-1849) 11th American president.

John F. Kennedy

Noun

(1917-1963) 35th president of the United States.

photography

Noun

art and science of producing still or moving images using the chemical reaction of light on a sensitive surface, such as film or an electronic sensor.

sitting president

Noun

incumbent president or president who is currently in office.

Credits

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Writer

Chris Celauro

Editor

Alison Michel

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