Free Shipping
Curated Collections
By Collection:


MESERVE PRESERVES: America's first great collector of photography

“It is quite probable that certain Lincoln photographs would not have come to light but for Meserve.”
- Carl Sandburg
(Lincoln biographer, American Poet)

Frederick Hill Meserve (1865-1962), a New York textile executive and book lover is considered America's first great photograph collector and a premier authority on Linconiania.

Frederick's father, William Neal Meserve, a soldier in the American Civil War, was wounded at the battle of Antietam. Meserve kept a diary of his entire experience as a soldier. That diary was illustrated by his son, Frederick Hill Meserve, years after the war through collecting photography. Frederick became one of the leading collectors of 19th-century American photography.  At that time the artform was still quite new and underappreciated. In the late 19th century, the war-weary nation lost its interest in the painful images of that era. The glass negatives were thought to be worthless. The emulsion was washed off, and many were used to build greenhouses.


Obsessed with his collected images of the Civil War and President Lincoln, Meserve wrote a book in 1911 called "Photographs of Abraham Lincoln." Lincoln was the first president to be photographed while in office and Meserve's goal in life was to find and catalog all the existing images of Lincoln, of which it is now known to be approximately 120. He would supply his close friend Carl Sandburg with the majority of the photos used in the great American poet's six-volume biography of the 16th President. Meserve is also closely associated with esteemed Civil War documentarian Mathew Brady, purchasing his negatives in 1902; plates the great photographer had been forced to surrender to E. & H.T. Anthony to satisfy a debt. 

Today the collection that Merserve started five generations ago constitutes one of the nation's greatest archives of Civil War era and Abraham Lincoln photographs. During the past century, the collection has grown so large that the family decided it was finally time to place it in public hands. The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation was formed and the collection moved to the Neuberger Museum of Art at the State University of New York in Purchase, New York, and the Purchase Library at SUNY, where it is available to students and scholars.


About Our Collection:

JG Autographs, Inc. is excited to offers a collection of original photographs direct from the Federick Hill Meserve archives. Printed and compiled by Merseve, these first generation silver gelatin photographs are from the original negatives of esteemed Civil War era photographers including Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner. Each carte-de-visite sized photograph is displayed through a approximately 2" x 3.25" cut window in a portfolio-style folded matte measuring approximately 8.5" x 11". The photos are attached to their backings by a single strip of tape, rather than adhered completely; they can be removed easily, if desired. The reverse sides of the photos are blank, and located below each image on the front of the respective portfolio is a caption of the subject or title in Merserve's own hand.

This exceptional sampling of Meserve's world-famous collection contains individual portraits or scenes of: Abraham Lincoln, his family, his cabinet and his conspirators; George Washington; Andrew Jackson; influential statesmen of the Lincoln administration; key Civil War Army and Navy figures including Grant, Ellsworth, Burnside, Sherman, Dix and Custer, Davis and Lee; Landscape scenes of Fort Sumter; Literary greats like Beecher Stowe, Irving, Hawthorne, Longfellow and Dickens; and notables Queen Victoria, actor Edwin Booth, Vanderbilt and the original Siamese twins, Change and Eng; An original 8 page promotional program for Meserve's book "The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln;" A program honoring Frederick Hill Meserve's 80th birthday thrown by the Civil War Round Table of New York; A book titled "The Religious Life of Abraham Lincoln: A Centennial Sermon Preached in the Westchester Congregational Church, Scarsdale Congregation by Rev. Arthur O. Pritchard Feb. 7, 1909"

Explore Our Collection:
JG Autographs