Last December, as he searched through the Library of Congress' digital archives, the Hanover man found what he thought was an image of the 16th president at Gettysburg in a stereoscope photograph of the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery on Nov. 19, 1863.
After examining another stereoscope, a type of early 3-D photograph popular during the Civil War, Richter believed he had found a second new image of Lincoln.
Once he saw the enhanced 3-D digital scannings in February, Richter was sure he was viewing Lincoln just before he delivered the Gettysburg Address.
“I've been looking at pictures of Lincoln for so long, I just knew,” Richter said.
Until now, there has been only one known image of Lincoln at Gettysburg. That was discovered by Josephine Cobb in 1952, when she found Lincoln in a dense crowd of soldiers at the dedication ceremony.
Word of the discovery spread on Friday, a day before Richter, a director for the Center for Civil War Photography, was set to present the images publicly for the first time at the Lincoln Forum in Gettysburg.
The few people Richter had told since February had been interested, but the flood of questions still surprised Richter.
“I guess I looked at it for so long, I'm surprised by the response, but I guess I shouldn't be,” Richter said.
During registration for the forum at the Holiday Inn, conversations like this happened over and over again.
Tina Grim: “I always wondered why there weren't more pictures of Lincoln at Gettysburg.”
Harold Holzer: “There were, they just haven't been found yet.”
For reference, Grim is the program manager of the Civil
War Institute at Gettysburg College, and Holzer is the co-chairman of the United States Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
“In the days before cell-phone cameras and digital photography, this is a glimpse of such an important moment,” said Holzer, who noted that Lincoln appeared in fewer than 130 photographs during his lifetime.
Of course, Holzer said, historians will never will be able no know for sure if this is Lincoln, because the image does not offer a clear view of the man's face.
The discovery opens up a whole new frontier for Civil War studies, according to David Walker, who came to the forum from Ohio.
“You can start counting buttons (on clothing) and say how many were there,” Walker said. “How does that vest look?”
If it weren't for digital technology, Richter said he wouldn't have found what he believes to be Lincoln.
Most of the time when we view these images, he said, we see them in two dimensions instead of the 3-D format for which they were designed.
Looking at the flat picture, Richter said, it's hard to distinguish Lincoln from the line of soldiers separating the procession from the crowd. But in 3-D, Richter said, you can see the space cleared by the soldiers.
“I'd have been surprised if I hadn't seen him in the picture,” Richter said.
He hopes others use the Library of Congress' archives to look for other pieces of history.
Richter and Bob Zeller, the president of the Center for Civil War Photography, will present the images in 3-D, along with other stereoviews featuring Lincoln at today's forum, which is sold out.
“The experts can look at it, and we'll see where they come down,” Richter said. “Some will probably agree with it, some probably won't.”
Reach Jeff Frantz at 771-2062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
· The fifth annual Remembrance Illumination will be 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg. More than 3,500 candles will be lit on Civil War soldiers' graves. Parking is available at the National Park Service Visitor Center and Cyclorama Center lots. The cemetery is accessible from Baltimore Street or Taneytown Road. Visit http://www.friendsofgettysburg.org.
· Remembrance Day Parade, held in conjunction with the Gettysburg Address anniversary, begins at 1 p.m. in Gettysburg. For details, call 533-5392.