Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mr. President, Watch the Birdie!

Today is February 14…

Yes, Valentine’s Day, and I will celebrate it today, but I am not going to talk about it here…

On this day in 1849 US President James K Polk did something remarkable. He was the first US President to have his photograph taken while serving in office.

In our digital age, when most people see more photo and video images in a day than pre 1800 people saw in a lifetime, it seems odd, doesn’t it, to be able to pinpoint down to the very day, the very first time a US President had his photo made while serving in office.

The photo was made in New York City.

President Polk was not the first President to be photographed - William Henry Harrison got to that before him, but not during his one month long presidency. The photo happened before that.

Polk was a highly sought after subject for early photographers when portrait photography was really coming into its own. He probably liked the time saving feature that photograph had when compared with sitting long hours for a portrait painting.

Several very important "photographic firsts" occurred while Polk was President: the first photograph of a President with his cabinet, the first interior photograph of the White House (one and the same photo, taken by John Plumbe in the State Dining Room – one is tempted to add “with the led pipe and Colonel Mustard”), and the first exterior photographs of the White House.

These treasures are in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

If you go, say "Cheese!"

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