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Faking It Symposium: Constructed Truths

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Lewis Powell [alias Lewis Payne]

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821–1882 Washington, D.C.)

Date:
April 27, 1865
Medium:
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Dimensions:
22.4 × 17.4 cm (8 13/16 × 6 7/8 in.)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.100.97
  • Description

    At roughly the same time that John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln, Lewis Paine attempted unsuccessfully to murder Secretary of State William Seward. The son of a Baptist minister from Alabama, Paine (alias Wood, alias Hall, alias Powell) was one of at least five conspirators who planned with Booth the simultaneous assassinations of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Seward. A tall, powerful man, Paine broke into the secretary's house, struck his son Frederick with the butt of his jammed pistol, brutally stabbed the bedridden politician, and then escaped after stabbing Seward's other son, Augustus.

    Four days later, Paine was caught in a sophisticated police dragnet and arrested at the H Street boarding house of fellow conspirator Mary Surratt. Detained aboard two iron-clad monitors docked together on the Potomac, Paine and seven other presumed conspirators were photographed by Alexander Gardner on April 27. Gardner made full-length, profile, and full-face portraits of each of the men, presaging the pictorial formula later adopted by law-enforcement photographers. Of the ten known photographs of Paine, six show him against a canvas awning on the monitor's deck, the others against the dented gun turret. In this portrait, Paine, towering more than a head above the deck officer, appears menacingly free of handcuffs. He was twenty years old.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed in ink, verso: "#7776 // Lewis Payne, (Powell) // Lincoln conspirator, // Hanged July 7, 1865. // Payne made the assault on Sec. Seward, // was the son of Rev. George C. Powell (Baptist). Lewis and two // brothers in confederate Army. Both brothers were killed. // Lewis was wounded at Gettysburg and made a prisoner. Afterwards // deserted from Confed. Army and returned to Balto. and dropped his // last name of Powell. // Photographed by Gardener 1865."

  • Provenance

    Lloyd Ostendorf; [Rinhart Galleries]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, January 24, 1986

  • See also
283201

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