DL Cade admires what may be the oldest surviving photograph of a US president – a daguerrotype of John Quincy Adams at the age of 76:
It was taken on a trip to New York, during which the president visited Niagara Falls, shook too many hands, visited an all-girls school, and spent some time with a child dwarf dressed as Napoleon. We know these bizarre details thanks to the meticulous diary Adams kept.
Here’s an excerpt from that diary:
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.
That sentence is all the attention that was paid to the historic photograph, in a three paragraph entry that devoted almost an entire third to a pebble that lodged itself in the former president’s eye. But then that’s not surprising, as far as he was concerned his photos were “hideous” and “too true to the original.”
Update from a reader:
Mildly interesting presidential trivia related to JQA: Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes had, in his long lifetime, shaken hands with John Quincy Adams (b. 1767) and John F. Kennedy (d. 1963)