By David J. Kent
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Mathew Brady once took the photograph that made Abraham Lincoln president. He also photographed Frederick Douglass. In the 200th anniversary year of his birth, a new Brady memorial celebrates all three at Congressional Cemetery. The Lincoln Group of DC played a key role in inspiring the project.
It all started back in November 2018. Lincoln Group board member and eminent DC tour guide Craig Howell was giving a tour to group members. Among the stops was the gravestone of Mathew Brady, most known for his Civil War-era photographs. While the tour moved on to other notable dignitaries such as Benjamin Brown French and DC Mayor Marion Barry, one member of the group peeled off with an idea. Larry West, a noted photo historian specializing in African American and Mathew Brady daguerreotypes, headed straight to Congressional Cemetery's main office to query about the space next to Brady's plot. Finding it available, he immediately bought it and started planning a final resting place for himself and other photo historians. But that wasn't all - he wanted to create a fitting memorial to Brady and two other giants of the time, Lincoln and Douglass.
Four years later, on September 17, 2022, the memorial was unveiled. It is a wonderful tribute to Brady, Lincoln, and Douglass and a work of art in itself. The new site features a nearly 8-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide granite columbarium about a foot and a half deep. The wide sides of the columbarium feature quotes and nearly a hundred engraved photos by Mathew Brady. A smaller granite slab features a full-length etched photo of Brady on one side and a half-length engraved photo of Frederick Douglass's wife Anna on the other. Anna's photo faces directly to a full-sized bronze statue of Douglass himself. Standing next to him is a full-sized bronze of Abraham Lincoln. A bronze Brady camera stands ready to be placed into service. The effect is mesmerizing. This will be a must-see stop in Congressional forever.
The dedication ceremony kicked off with Larry West giving the history of the idea and its design. Clifford Krainik and Grant Romer, each a photo historian and researcher, extolled the importance of Mathew Brady to the era. Lincoln Group president David J. Kent finished the short speeches by discussing how Abraham Lincoln embraced new technology, including that of photography. And of course, the Brady photo that made him president. Food, cakes, music, and old-time photography made the day a celebrated event.
All started by a Lincoln Group of DC tour by Craig Howell.
[Photos courtesy of Congressional Cemetery]