During the time I spent doing curatorial work at a Lincoln museum, I dealt with a lot of people who contacted us regarding items in their possession they wanted identified or verified. They ran the gamut from old lithographs to leg irons supposedly used at Andersonville, from countless printed facsimiles of the Gettysburg Address to a petrified tree trunk.
One class of item stood out, because of how difficult it always was to convince the owner that they didn’t have what they thought they had, and that was historic photographs. My experiences led me to formulate what I call “Lynch’s Inexorable Law of Amateur Photograph Collecting.” It goes like this:
Any inexperienced person who comes into possession of an antique photograph of a tall or lanky man will be convinced that he or she has an image of Abraham Lincoln, and no amount of effort will persuade him or her otherwise.
The Abraham Lincoln Observer has just noted an example of Lynch’s Inexorable Law in action. It’s an old photo, the guy is really skinny, ergo it’s Abe Lincoln, despite the fact that he’s wearing what looks like 1880’s apparel and looks more like Paul from The Wonder Years.
As an aside, I once got a call from a lady who’d bought what she believed was a photo of Mary Todd Lincoln at a flea market. She told me that she was positive it was her because the woman in the photo had “sad eyes.” She e-mailed me a copy of it, and as you might imagine, there wasn’t even the slightest resemblance. When I informed her that she almost certainly didn’t have a picture of Mary Todd Lincoln, she insisted that she was correct. I referred her on to someone else, who no doubt told her the same thing. I would imagine that this cycle continued to repeat itself, and that today she’s still as convinced as ever.