On this day in 1896, pioneering photographer Mathew Brady died. Brady was famous for his famous studio portrait of Abraham Lincoln used in the 1860 general election, as well as his photographs of the American Civil War. He and his assistant Alexander Gardner photographed Lincoln nearly two dozen times.
In the 1850s, Mathew Brady was one of the most famous photographers in the world. In 1851 he won a medal at the Great Exhibition in London. He had studios in New York and Washington and his studio in New York was also a tourist attraction with portraits of many dignitaries from around the world. On February 27th 1860, then presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln stepped into his studio on Broadway for a photograph just before his speech at Cooper Union. This photograph was widely published during the general election campaign of 1860. Brady would move to Washington and began to document the American Civil War in photographs. Using travelling darkrooms, Brady and his assistants traveled to battlefields and took photographs of the scene.
Despite his fame, Brady's fortunes declined after the war. Anticipating future sales of his Civil War photographs, Brady invested in having photo plates made, but found far fewer buyers than anticipated. He went into debt and began to suffer from depression. He died in poverty in 1896 at Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. His funeral was financed by veterans of the New York 7th Infantry, and he was buried at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC.