Oldest Photo of a Serving US President

James K. Polk, in a restored 1849 daguerrotype that is the oldest image of a serving American president
James K. Polk, in a restored 1849 daguerrotype that is the oldest image of a serving American president

Historical Context

On February 14, 1849, a photographer named Matthew B. Brady took a photo of US President James K. Polk in the White House. He was not the first person to photograph the president, as it is believed William Henry Harrison had been photographed in 1841. However Harrison died only 31 days into his term and the photo has been lost.

A photo was recently unearthed of John Quincy Adams in 1843, but Adams had by this point been out of office for almost twenty years. This would count as the earliest photograph of an American president.

Polk left office in 1849 and died shortly after.

Photo Info


Photographer: Matthew B. Brady
Date taken: February 14, 1849
Location taken: Washington D.C., USA

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1849-02-14 In New York City, James Knox Polk becomes first serving US President to have his photograph taken (by Matthew Brady).


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