15 April 2015
The Apotheosis of Lincoln & Washington
A box of old photos and photo albums was passed on to me last year from my aunt. One album, assembled by my Moore ancestors as a memorial piece of the Civil War, included photos of the sons of Andrew Moore who enlisted from their Lowell, Indiana farm. Three of the seven sons who served in the Union ranks did not come home. I suppose one would question if the family thought the war was worth it. Flipping to the back of the album, I think the answer is clear. Nestled into their own gold-edged cardboard photo sleeves are images of Lincoln and Grant, including one image that I had never seen before.....and it seems like one of the most awkward Americana patriotic memorial photos I've ever seen.
The artist of "Washington and Lincoln in Apotheosis" is J. A. Arthur who created the image in 1865 shortly after Lincoln's assassination. The image, which seems to have two versions, show Lincoln robed in black being greeted by Washington in the heavens. Beckoning Lincoln to his eternal rest are hosts of angels in the upper left hand corner of the image, from which streams of light beam down on the presidents. The angels are often cropped out or were removed in reprints of the postcard. The postcard, which depicts Washington placing a laurel wreath on Lincoln's head, was produced in significant numbers in 1865.
I can't imagine the depth of sorrow felt by so many families across the country who had lost sons, husbands, and fathers during the war. Then, as news spread from Appomattox, the elation felt by the nation as the long war was finally behind them....only to be covered again by the dark curtain of grief days later as news of Lincoln's death took hold of the country. Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the close of the Civil War and Lincoln's death have been marked by a number of events throughout the country, but I thought-as odd as the postcard seems-sharing this image gives just a hint of what the country was feeling 150 years ago today.