Is this a mini 19th century album of the Lincoln assassination conspirators?

Its dealer believes so.

Here’s one obsession I didn’t know I had until recently: antique miniature photo albums from the 1860s-1890s. There’s a certain allure to an object that contains so much history yet fits nicely in the palm of your hand.

A miniature photo album containing photos of Lincoln’s assassinators

And there are more of these curiosities in existence than you might think, largely thanks to the affordability of tintype portrait photography at the time. The popularity of the smallest tintype, called “gem” for its size, sparked a proliferation of photo albums that measured around 1/2 by 1 inch.

This particular album appears to feature some interesting characters: the conspirators behind the Lincoln assassination. Its Etsy dealer believes it was made by a company and marketed as a kind of “Lincoln assassination memento” not long after the event took place. Perhaps a southern company?

A tiny photograph of Mary Surratt, who was hanged for her role in the conspiracy

To the right is a picture of Mary Surratt, who owned a boarding house in Washington D.C. where the conspiracy was hatched. She paid the ultimate price for her crime, becoming the first woman to be executed by the federal government.

The album also contains a photo (probably) of John Wilkes Booth, the man who killed Lincoln. On the evening of April 14, 1865, Booth made his way into Lincoln’s box during a theater production and shot him in the head. He fled on horseback to Maryland, where he was eventually shot and killed by a Union soldier.

A tiny photograph of John Wilkes Booth, the man who shot Lincoln

Several other high-profile figures appear in the album, such as John Surratt, the husband of Mary Surratt. There’s also a photo that appears to be of George Atzerodt, whose original role was to murder Vice President Andrew Johnson, though he got cold feet at the last minute.

And finally, the album contains what looks to be a very tiny photograph of Robert E. Lee, who surrendered to US forces on April 9, 1865, five days before Lincoln’s assassination. John Wilkes Booth attended Lincoln’s speech on April 11 in which the President addressed Lee’s surrender and spoke of enfranchising former slaves. It was apparently this notion of black citizenship that infuriated Booth and served as the final straw for the assassination.

A tiny photo of Robert E. Lee

It’s a strange little object from a fascinating time in American history, and it’s on sale on Etsy if you’re so inclined. If you like the idea of mini antique photo albums, but prefer less weird subject matter, check out these cool non-assassination-related mini albums:

  • photo album of a 1960s family from New York
  • An album and photos of a family in Boston (I think their address is even written on it)
  • An album that’s rather damaged but contains well-preserved photos

And also, any of these gem tintype photos, by themselves, would look great in dollhouse picture frames. I’m thinking of buying some for my own collection.


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