John Littlefield, Death-Bed of Lincoln, Albumen Photograph of Painting


Littlefield Studied Law Under Lincoln

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John Littlefield’s Death-Bed of Lincoln is a pictorial representation of President Lincoln on his deathbed in the back bedroom of the Petersen House, surrounded by family, friends, and dignitaries, including Mary and Robert Todd Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. It is one of the strongest examples of the “Rubber Room” phenomena related to Lincoln’s Death-Bed. The room is referred to as “The Rubber Room” because the 10′ x 18′ room expands endlessly, seeming to include people who were there (and in some prints those who weren’t) over the many hours Lincoln lay dying. Some renderings of  the scene include over 40 people. 

John Littlefield began studying law under Lincoln in 1858, after previously being a design painter in the carriage trade. With Lincoln’s nomination, Littlefield began stumping across the state on Lincoln’s behalf. Littlefield made over 60 speeches, and in 1862 he was given a place in the Treasury Department.

After the assassination, Littlefield conceived the idea of painting a death-bed scene. He completed and copyrighted the painting in 1865, it was then photographed by John Goldin, and the mount printed by William Terry, with a key printed on the mat to identify the fine likenesses, taken from photographs, of the 25 eyewitnesses who are crowded into a small bedroom at the Peterson House. The profile of Lincoln, though, shows the first-hand knowledge Littlefield gained from years with the president.

Photograph is excellent, save for a very small bend of the lower right corner. Adhered to a stiff board, excellent except for a few bends above and away from the albumen, very slight water tiding that also is away from the image, and a small bump of the lower left corner.

A truly scarce memento from shortly after Lincoln’s assassination, when the horror was still palpable throughout (especially) the North.

Littlefield, John H. “DEATH-BED OF LINCOLN / APRIL 15, 1865.” [Washington: c1866] Albumen photographic adaptation of Littlefield’s painting, on a printed mount printed with the names of each person in the image. 9-1/4″ x 5-5/8″ albumen photo; laid on a mount 14″ x 11″ overall.