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Lot #2
John Quincy Adams

FACE (of) THE NATION: Rare engraving of JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, one of the earliest signed presidential images in existence

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FACE (of) THE NATION: Rare engraving of JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, one of the earliest signed presidential images in existence

Portrait engraving by N[athaniel] Dearborn, Boston, featuring a chest-length image of Adams surrounded by a decorative frame and bearing a facsimile signature and printed caption, “John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the U.S. of America,” the image approximately 1.75″ x 2″ (3″ x 4.5″ overall), signed in ink in the blank top margin “John Quincy Adams.” While his predecessor, ex-president Andrew Jackson, was captured on film in 1845, Adams was in fact the subject of the earliest known photo of any occupant of the Executive Mansion, a daguerreotype taken by the famed Mathew Brady in 1843. However, the history of signed presidential photos was delayed until the 1860s, when a process for printing photos on paper was developed, and the elderly Martin Van Buren became the earliest president to sign his photographic likeness. Most significantly in the case of the present item, the standard reference The Sanders Price Guide to Autographs identifies John Quincy Adams as the first president to sign any likeness, in the form of these rarely seen engravings. Likewise, Kenneth Rendell, in his book History Comes to Life, states that “Adams is the first president whose signed images can be obtained, although these steel engravings are very rare.” (Indeed, the only exception of which we are aware in regard to rarity is the only known signed image of William Henry Harrison, also an engraving and possibly of an even earlier date, sold by us in June 2007.) The present item must therefore be regarded as a landmark of first importance in the history of presidential iconography and the then-fledgling field of autographic Americana. Framed to an overall size of 5 x 6.5. A touch of mild soiling and toning (mainly to perimeter), light wear to edges and corners, and a few small, subtle creases, otherwise fine, bright, attractive condition. A true treasure for the most discriminating collector! Auction LOA John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and R&R COA.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title:
  • Dates: #338 - Ended October 15, 2008