One day while in his office I casually remarked that I would like very much for him to give us another sitting as those we had been favored with were unsatisfactory to us, and would he permit us to try again, to which he willingly assented.
Not long afterwards he sent word that he could “come on some Sunday,” and a date was arranged, which was the second Sunday previous to the Friday night when the assassin, Wilkes Booth, in cold blood shot to death one of the most beloved men God ever created.
At the time named by appointment, he came and at my first glance I saw, with regret, that he wore a troubled expression, which, however, was not unusual at that eventful period of our country’s fitful condition, and throwing aside on a chair the gray woolen shawl he was accustomed to wear, Mr. Gardner, after several squints at his general make-up, placed him in an artistic position and began his work.
After several “snaps” during which the President, while making jocular remarks had completely upset the operator’s calculations, I followed Mr. Gardner into his “darkroom” and learned to my sorrow that he had not succeeded in getting even a fair expression of his…countenance, and therefore was much discouraged which, however, was but a repetition of former occasions.
I courageously named the result of my investigation to Mr. Lincoln, whereupon he, noticing, perhaps, my disappointment, said to me, “Tell Mr. Gardner to come out in the open” – referring to the “darkroom” – and you, Solomons tell me one of your funny stories and we will see if I can’t do better.”
I complied as best I could, and the result was the likeness as reproduced in these memories.
Poignant Recollections of a Dear Friend
Looking back more than fifty years after Lincoln’s assassination, Adolphus Solomons wrote:
….Men now not only recognize the right which he championed, but behold in him the standard of righteousness of liberty, of conciliation and truth. In him, as it were incorporate, stands the Union, all that is best and noblest and enduring in its principles, in which he devoutly believed and served mightily to save. When today the world celebrates the century of his existence, he has become the ideal of both North and South, of a common country, composed not only of the factions that once confronted each other in war’s dreadful array, but of the myriad thousands that have since found in the American nation the hope of the future and the refuge from age-entrenched wrong and absolutism. To them Lincoln, his life, his history, his character, his entire personality, with all its wondrous charm and grace, its sobriety, patience, self-abnegation and sweetness, has come to be the very prototype of a rising humanity.
[ii] Available for download at http://americanjewisharchives.org/exhibits/aje/details.php?id=688
About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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