Kevin Briggs Photography

The Oldest Surviving Photo of a U.S. President

Kevin Briggs

With so much time and attention being paid to the current U.S. president — whether for good or for bad — I found the following to be of note with regarding photographic history.

In March of 1843, the 6th US president, John Quincy Adams (who served from 1825–1829) sat for a portrait photo in a Washington studio. The daguerreotype is currently the oldest surviving photograph of a U.S. president. 

As the auction house Sotheby’s highlights on its site, it will be going to auction soon and carries an estimated value of $150,000 to $250,000.

When he posed for this portrait, John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) had completed his term as the sixth American president (1825–29) but was still serving his country as a congressman from Massachusetts. An indefatigable diarist, Adams documented the sitting in entries for 8 and 16 March 1843, when he twice visited the Washington, DC studio of Philip Haas. This recently rediscovered plate – the only one currently known to have survived from the Haas sessions – is believed to be the earliest photograph of an American president to come to market in many years and the earliest extant photograph of the man himself. An invaluable document, this daguerreotype crystallises a remarkable moment in the history of photography and American politics.

I will be very interested to know the final winning bid.