In the second shot, some heads are bowed. Men have taken off their hats. And the blur of a large black object is disappearing along the street to the left of the frame. What the scene depicts, why it was photographed, or where, has been a mystery for decades, experts at the National Archives say. But a Maryland man has now offered the theory that the two photos are rare, long-forgotten images of Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession in New York City.
Paul Taylor, 60, of Columbia, a retired federal government accountant, believes the scene is on Broadway, outside New York’s historic Grace Church. The day is Tuesday, April 25, 1865, 11 days after Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in Washington. And the crowd is waiting for, and then seems to be paying homage before, a horse-drawn hearse, whos motion makes it appear as a black blur as it passes by in the second picture.
If Taylor is right, scholars say he has identified rare photos of Lincoln’s marathon funeral rites, as well as images that show mourners honoring the slain chief executive.
Plus, it appears that the photographs were taken from an upper window of the studio of famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady which was across the street from the church. “It’s a big deal,” said Richard Sloan, an expert on the Lincoln funeral ceremonies in New York. “What makes it even a bigger deal is to be able to study the people. Even though you can’t see faces that well, just studying the people tells a story.” Sloan added, “It’s as if you’re there, and you can see the mood.” Many people, including children, are in their Sunday best. A few look up at the camera. Flowers are in bloom. But there is no levity.
Sloan said he is convinced that the pictures show the funeral scenes: “There’s no doubt about it.”
But experts at the Archives caution that although the theory sounds good, there could be other explanations, and no way to prove it conclusively. The digital photographs were made from some of the thousands of Brady images acquired by the federal government in the 1870s and handed down to the National Archives in the 1940s, according to Nick Natanson, an archivist in the Archives’ still-picture unit. Next year is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. The two photos in question, both captioned “scene in front of church,” apparently had gone unnoticed for decades.
“We’ve had many inquiries about many images in the Brady file,” he said. “I can’t remember . . . any inquiries about these two particular images. I don't think I ever noticed them before.”
Full Text Continued at Washington Post March 19, 2014