13.4. Blackwood. 1

1. The book that Lincoln held in his lap in the Mathew Brady studios was a photograph album. However, in most reproductions of the image, the book is either captioned as, or made to look like, a Bible. The 1865 Currier & Ives’ lithograph based on the pose was titled President Lincoln at Home, Reading the Scriptures to His Wife and Son. One can see the deliberate visual changes made by the artisans reproducing the image by comparing two engravings published by H.B. Hall. Look closely at the visual detail of the books: the first reproduces the book as a photo album, the second as a Bible. Lincoln himself worried over the book’s falsely “biblical” appearance. In Lincoln in Photographs, Lloyd Ostendorf relays Lincoln’s concern that any visual fabrications representing the photo album as a Bible would amount to “a species of false pretence.” Lincoln’s brief but suggestive comment makes explicit what the photograph’s changing nature asserts implicitly: images can and do lie.


Welcome to Commonplace, a destination for exploring and exchanging ideas about early American history and culture. A bit less formal than a scholarly journal, a bit more scholarly than a popular magazine, Commonplace speaks—and listens—to scholars, museum curators, teachers, hobbyists, and just about anyone interested in American history before 1900. It is for all sorts of people to read about all sorts of things relating to early American life—from architecture to literature, from politics to parlor manners. It’s a place to find insightful analysis of early American history as it is discussed in scholarly literature, as it manifests on the evening news, as it is curated in museums, big and small; as it is performed in documentary and dramatic films and as it shows up in everyday life.

In addition to critical evaluations of books and websites (Reviews) and poetic research and fiction (Creative Writing), our articles explore material and visual culture (Objects); pedagogy, the writing of literary scholarship, and the historian’s craft (Teach); and diverse aspects of America’s past and its many peoples (Learn). For more great content, check out our other projects, (Just Teach One) and (Just Teach One African American Print).


How to cite Commonplace articles:

Author, “Title of Article,” Commonplace: the journal of early American life, date accessed, URL.

Sophie White, “Trading Looks Race, Religion and Dress in French America,” Commonplace: the journal of early American life, accessed September 30, 2019, https://commonplace.online/article/trading-looks-race-religion-dress-french-america/


Joshua R. Greenberg, editor


Read more about Commonplace

Contact Us

If you are looking for a specific Commonplace article from the back catalog and do not see it, or if have any other questions, please contact us directly. Please follow us on Twitter @Commonplacejrnl or Facebook @commonplacejournal and thank you for your support.