By Kristin Douty
On Saturday night, Feb. 8, 2014, Abraham Lincoln visited the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, 4141 5th Avenue – in the form of nineteenth century photographs.
The exhibit, “Abraham Lincoln: The Man, The Myth, The Legend,” traces the photographic history of Lincoln’s life to commemorate his legacy as one of the nation’s most beloved presidents. The photographs follow Lincoln’s rise to the United States presidency from the year 1847 until the last photograph of him in 1865, taken shortly before his assassination.
Representative Senator Jim Ferlo from the 38th District joined forces with Bruce Klein and Frank Watters, the directors of the Photo Antiquities Museum, 531 East Ohio St., to make the Oakland exhibit a reality. Soldiers & Sailors Memorial President John McCabe was happy to contribute a space for the opening event to commemorate an honorable wartime leader.
“The exhibit took three busy years to organize,” Klein notes.
Senator Ferlo opened the event with a speech to commend the combined efforts of the Pittsburgh community to preserve an important part of United States history.
“150 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, and just in time for Abraham Lincoln’s 205th birthday, I am honored to see this unique exhibition of Lincoln artifacts from all over the country here in Pittsburgh,” Senator Ferlo said.
He worked with Klein and Watters to ensure that their vision to display the largest collection of Abraham Lincoln photographs came to fruition.
The photographs were not the only attraction of the show. Three Lincoln impersonators walked among the crowd, standing tall and silent with full beards and top hats. One convincing impersonator, Rick Miller, is a resident of Cranberry Township and a yoga instructor, but he has a twenty-year history as a Lincoln doppelganger.
When asked how he gets into character, Rick recited facts about Lincoln’s life as though he lived during the Civil War; while Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address resonated from speakers through the banquet hall. Several other guests took turns reading their favorite writings from the Civil War era.
The exhibit provided a small glimpse of the eventual destination of the photographs on the Northside, scheduled to begin in April and remain on display until December 2015. The exhibit will join the museum’s permanent collection of 500,000 photographs from all over the world.
Klein anticipates that the upcoming exhibit on the Northside will be even more impressive than the preview at Soldiers & Sailors.
“There will be more than twice the amount of photographs of Lincoln at the Photo Antiquities Museum,” Klein notes.
The Lincoln exhibit coincides with other featured collections at the Photo Antiquities Museum, including: the History of Photography, Shanty Town, Pittsburgh Room, Between The Battles, Dog Day’s of Summer, and Equipment Display.
The Photo Antiquities Museum is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call the museum at 412-231-7881.