Lincoln’s Body Double.

John C. Calhoun print, 1852 Library of Congress/LC-DIG-pga-02499.

After Lincoln’s assassination, there was a dearth of “heroic-style” pictures of the president. So one portrait painter got creative. On a print of the late president, Thomas Hicks superimposed Lincoln’s head onto the body of John C. Calhoun—the virulent racist and slavery proponent who did not exactly see eye-to-eye with the 16th president.

Engraver A.H. Ritchie created the Calhoun print in 1852. The original included the words “strict constitution,” “free trade,” and “the sovereignty of the states” on the desk papers. But when it was altered to feature Lincoln instead, the words were changed to “constitution,” “union,” and “proclamation of freedom.”

Lincoln edited print Library of Congress/LC-DIG-pga-02353.

For a century, no one noticed. The famous photo was only recently revealed to have been faked.

Photojournalist Stefan Lorant was compiling photos of Lincoln for his book Lincoln, A Picture Story of His Life (first published in 1957, then revised in 1969) when he discovered something odd: in the Hicks print, Lincoln’s mole was on the wrong side of his face. After some investigation, he realized that Lincoln’s face in the print exactly matched his face in Brady’s five-dollar bill photo—except in the print Lincoln’s face was flipped, making Lincoln’s mole show up on the opposite side.

Apparently, Hicks hadn’t noticed this discrepancy when superimposing the picture onto Calhoun’s body.

You can read more about this and the other photographic manipulations done by Brady when it came to photographing Lincoln at Atlas Obscura.


  1. says

    I was quite amused by some of the descriptors of Lincoln, people certainly enjoyed talking about how ugly he was.

  2. says

    Also, I didn’t know about this prior; but in looking at the two photos, the one with Lincoln is terribly wrong. In Calhoun’s portrait, he has the stern visage and burning eyes of the zealot, which go with that terribly righteous pose. Lincoln’s face doesn’t match it in the slightest.

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