Earliest known photograph of an American President sells for $360,500 in New York

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Earliest known photograph of an American President sells for $360,500 in New York
Philip Haas, John Quincy Adams, half-plate daguerreotype, 1843. Estimate $150/250,000. Sold for $360,500. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

NEW YORK, NY.- Moments ago in Sotheby’s auction of Photographs in New York, Philip Haas’s remarkable portrait of John Quincy Adams sold for $360,500, after 4 bidders competed for the work. Taken in the spring of 1843 and held privately for nearly 175 years, this recently-rediscovered daguerreotype portrait is the earliest known photograph of an American president to appear at auction and the earliest extant photograph of Adams himself.

This commanding daguerreotype of President, Secretary of State, Senator, Congressman and diplomat John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) was taken when Adams was 76 years old and had completed his term as the sixth President of the United States (1825–29) but was still serving his country as a congressman from Massachusetts. Adams documented the sitting in entries for 8 and 16 March 1843, when he twice visited the Washington, D.C. studio of daguerreotypist and lithographer Philip Haas.

Having remained in the same collection for nearly 175 years, it is believed to have been given by Adams to Horace Everett (1779-1851), a colleague who served with Adams in the House of Representatives as a congressman from Vermont from 1829 to 1843. As detailed in Adams’s diary entry for 16 March 1843, Everett was present during the second sitting at Haas’s studio. On the reverse of the framed daguerreotype, an address leaf is signed 'J. Q. Adams' and inscribed 'Hon Horace Everett / Windsor / Vermont' by Adams.

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