Mathew Brady’s portraits in the halls of the United States Capitol

Mathew Brady presenter, Wayne Ritchie, and his wife visit Brady's portrait of Senator John C. Calhoun.

Mathew Brady presenter, Wayne Ritchie, and his wife visit Brady’s portrait of Senator John C. Calhoun.

One of the most important halls of the United States Capitol is on the second floor directly outside of the Senate Chambers.  Senators rush down the  hall to get to the chambers to speak or vote.  Reporters and photographers use the hall for the senate stake out position.Calhoun Visitors usually stop by the Ohio Clock, and icon of Washington history.  If these visitors would turn around or look to their left, they would see see portraits of Senators Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun.  This was the work of Mathew Brady.  Brady created the portrait using the daguerreotype process and then hired artists to create and oil painting. Webster LLR The portraits of Senators Clay and Calhoun were painted by Henry Darby in New York.

The portrait of Senator Webster is believed to be painted by Richard Francis Nagle. for more information about these paintings:

Like almost everyone I had walked past these portraits for decades.  I have stopped  at and admired the portrait of Senator John C. Calhoun.  I thought it was an excellent work, but never realized that it was the work of Mathew Brady.   I invited Wayne Ritchie, and Mathew Brady historical and presenter, to Washington to celebrate the 193rd birthday of Brady, and Mr. Wayne requested a visit to the Capitol to see Brady’s portraits.  Since these portraits are in a section of the U.S. Capitol which is generally not available to tourists, I asked Jeff Kent, the director of the Senate Press Photographers Gallery for his assistance. Wayne Ritchie, his wife, and their two grandchildren arrived  dressed as Mathew Brady would have looked if he were viewing his work.  Everything worked perfectly and we all learned about a little know piece of American history.

Set upLLRAfter the Capitol we went to the Congressional Cemetery and to Mathew Brady’s grave. The Congressional Cemetery is a great story.  For decades it had been in ruin.  Besides the  final resting place the area for members of congress and Washingtonians it was used as an open air drug market and one of the most dangerous places in the city.  With creative and innovative management the cemetery was restored to become an “in” place on Capitol Hill.  Great history, a great story, for more:

Brady and Hanley

Mr. Ritchie, helped by his grandson who reenacts the role of  Brady’s assistant Levin Handy, set up their gear.


Usher and Domke bag



Chris Usher brought his 8×10 studio camera to make photographs using the paper negative process, (


The Group photograph by Pablo Martinez Monsivals

The Group photograph by Pablo Martinez Monsivals

The gathering  was for a champagne toast to Mathew Brady by the members of the White House News Photographers Association.  The guests were a who’s who of famous journalists: Susan Biddle,Darr Beiser,John McDonnell, Bill O’Leary, Joshua Roberts, Aude Guerrucci,Marty Katz,David Kleber.   While waiting for a brief  rain to pass we got a call from Jonathan Ernst, one of the Air Force One pool, asking if we were still there—sure.  The President had just landed at Joint Base Andrews and the Air Force One crew,  Martinez Monsivals AP, Jonathan Ernst, and Nicholas Kamm.

Other friends and my son, Dennis, joined for a group photograph.  Some stunning paper negatives images by Chris Usher  which Mathew Brady would recognize and then a quick view with a digital camera by Martinez Monsivals which I am certain would baffle old Brady.  It was a fun afternoon and a fine tribute to Mathew Brady who was truly the first news photographer in Washington, DC.Photogs


  • May 18th 5:30 Mathew Brady Celebration on his 193rd birthday

    Mathew Brrady

    Lets gather for a champagne toast  to Mathew Brady,  the first Washington news photographer, on his  193 rd birthday.  May 18th 5—5:30.  Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill. 1801 E Street SE, Washington, DC. Wayne Ritchie, a Mathew Brady presenter, will be there.  Hopefully, Chris Usher will bring his 8×10 Paper Negative Camera.  Lincoln has promised to try wedge it into his busy schedule, (he is running for office again in Fairfax County).  Dolly Madison, a temporary resident of Congressional Cemetery, will attend carrying a small version of the Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington that she saved before the British set fire to the White House.

    This should be a fun event. After the toast, a short walk over to Wisdom, a cocktail parlour, to continue visiting with members and friends.  Wisdom is located at 1432 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

    Congressional Cemetery is near the Potomac Avenue Metro stop.Congessional Cemetery map

  • The Speed Graphic,the favorite tool of White House Photographers for Sixty Years


    The Speed Graphic is the camera of choice.  Photo: US Signal Corps

    The Speed Graphic is the camera of choice. Photo: US Signal Corps

    George Eastman purchased Folmer and Schwing Manufacturing, a bicycle company that also made cameras, in 1905. Such a combination of products was not uncommon at that time. The 4×5 Speed Graphic camera was introduced in 1912. The camera contained a cloth curtain focal plane shutter and rail-based bellows mounted on a carriage that could be folded into a tight box. 4x5 cameraImprovements, such as a front leaf shutter and a sports finder, were added over the years, but the basic camera design never changed. In 1947 the company came out with the Pacemaker Graphic, which was the same camera without the focal plane shutter.

    The 4×5 Speed Graphic was the sweetheart of press photographers for sixty years.

    At one time sixteen of the twenty Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs were made with this bulky but durable picture-making machine.  The Speed Graphic became the identifying symbol of the news photographer.

    Graphic 5100The film was put into the back of the Speed Graphic with film holders and a slide would be pulled, much like the film holders in the Wet Plate Process.    A photographer started the day with about ten film holders, each containing two sheets of film. Usually a photographer carried the holder in the camera and perhaps one holder in each coat pocket. Every exposure was important. The first thing that a press photographer would look for in a news situation was one good picture that would tell the story. It was called “making one for the bag.”

    Once the photographer had that one picture, he could relax, look for something new, perhaps a feature picture, but he had to have that “one for the bag” before he did anything.

    Times changed. The Rolleiflexs, Nikons, and Leicas became news photographers’ symbols and sweethearts. In 1966 the Graflex division of Eastman Kodak was sold to the Singer Corporation, which had no interest in continuing to make cameras.

  • An Interesting story about the press pool on Air Force One

    Pablo Martinez Monsivals, Associated Press, photo by Hank Disselkamp ABC

    Hank Disselkamp has been a video journalist for ABC for sometime.  For many years Hank was a sound man.  Later he used a 16mm film camera to cover the White House and other news stories.   Today Hank uses the traditional video news camera, but for this story he used an IPhone.  He recorded and edited the entire story on the I Phone. Take a look.

  • You can always count on Vice President Biden for a good story

    photo by Dennis Brack

    photo by Dennis Brack

    While Vice President Biden was shaking hands in the rope line on the South Lawn, Elizabeth Welke asks if Biden would talk to her husband back in Iowa. She called and her husband answered thinking it was Elizabeth with a greeting. “How ya doing beautiful?” You can imagine his thoughts when the answer came from the Vice President of the United States.

  • President Abraham Lincoln April 15th 1865. From first to last of the Lincoln Presidency Mathew Brady was there.

    Lincoln by Brady



    Mathew Brady’s photograph and the Cooper Union speech made me President of the United States—a quote often used by President Lincoln—Please click on the photograph to the right for the entire story.



    After Lincoln became president, Mathew Brady opened a studio in Washington.  The building with the large skylights for Brady’s portraits is still on Pennsylvania Avenue.

    Brady's studio


    Cabinet members, congressional leaders, and soldiers came to the studio to pose for Brady’s important record of Civil War history.


    lincoln troops copy  Brady and his teams photographed the many major battles of the  Civil War.  Unfortunately, the slow speed of the film at that time made it impossible to photograph the actual combat during the war.

    Ford's TheaterApril 14th, one hundred and fifty years ago, John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln in Ford’s Theater. Fords Theater The President was carried across 10th Street to the Petersen House where he died on April 15th.   The theater closed.  The government purchased the Theater and it was used for storage and War Department offices.  It was never to be used for entertainment purposes.

    In 1968, the Theater was completely restored and the restoration was based on Mathew Brady’s photographsFords Theater

  • The White House Easter Egg Roll: A Rite of Spring for everyone at the White House

    The center position at the Easter Egg Roll.   Photographs by Dennis Brack

    The center position at the Easter Egg Roll. Photographs by Dennis Brack

    The Easter Egg Roll brings out the photographers.  Usually all of the hard pass holders who are not on other assignments come to enjoy a nice morning on a beautiful day.Obama 4 6 15 Just about every “strap-hanger” who can manage to get admitted is there.  The open coverage on the South Lawn is large and can handle a big crowd.  The open coverage is to the side and this year did very well in covering the President and First Lady watching the egg roll.

    The  in town travel pool starts in the center and then proceeds the President to the egg roll. Obama 4 6 15 On to the Storytime Stage, where the President  once again read Where The Wild Things are.  Great facial expressions of the President gritting his teeth.Obama 4 6 15





    Obama 4 6 15Of course, Basketball was next with several players from the Washington Wizards guiding youngsters.  The President seemed to liked his role as a coach and even shot and made a few baskets.

    The final stop was  the White House Tennis courts. Made for some funny pictures.Obama 4 6 15

    One of the perks in covering the White House is a sign up sheet for reporters and photographers to bring their children.  It is a fun day for everyone.

  • Pope John Paul II and Presidents

    President Jimmy Carter helps Pope John Paul II during his visit to the South Lawn of the  White House in 1979. Photo by Dennis Brack

    President Jimmy Carter helps Pope John Paul II during his visit to the South Lawn of the White House in 1979. Photo by Dennis Brack

    John Paul II died on April 2nd in 2005. He traveled more than any Pope and on many of his travels he met presidents of the United States.  John Paul II’s first trip to the United States began in Boston in the midst of rain.  A storm during a ticker tape parade in New York made the photographer’s coverage difficult.  Pope John  Paul II

    Most of the photographers covering the Papal visit had to request new cameras because their rain soaked cameras just didn’t work.  The Pope landed to a clear sunny day in Iowa.  Perfect for magazine covers. Neil Leifer took the picture that made the over of TIME.

    John Paul II met President Jimmy Carter at the White House.  The president attempted to help the Pope when a wind blew part of the papal garment close to the Pope’s face.  John Paul II did not need help.

    A part of any papal visit is how it touches people’s lives.  On the papal visit to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, NBC electrician, Marvin Purbaugh was in charge of the lighting of the Basilica.

    Marvin Purbaugh  Marvin, a devout Catholic, was extremely proud of this honor and  the success of his work.  He considered it one of the great achievements of his life. Just think of how many other people like Marvin that have been touched by their efforts on John Paul II’s  journeys.

    cropped-expanded-pool.jpgOn another visit of John Paul II he was greeted by President Reagan in Miami.  One of the largest press pools in the history of the White House covered this greeting

  • Presidential candidate Senator Edward Kennedy

    Kennedy and Patrick KennedyAfter a day trip to Illinois to campaign in the Illinois primary, Senator Kennedy plays cards with his on Patrick on a charter flight.

  • First lady Lou Henry Hoover

    Mrs. Hoover poses a group of Girl Scouts on the South Lawn. Photograph by National Photo Company, LOC

    Mrs. Hoover poses a group of Girl Scouts on the South Lawn. Photograph by National Photo Company, LOC

    The photographers needed all the help that they could find during the Hoover administration. President Herbert Hoover was a tough subject, harboring a nervous dislike of the cameras. “He had a rather square face with small features,” photographer George Harris remembered, “and he was not sufficiently interested in showing to good advantage to be helpful to the man behind the lens.” To some photographers, Hoover seemed as if he was afraid he was going to say something he was not supposed to say.

    First Lady Lou Henry Hoover.  Photograph by George Harris.  Harris & Ewing LOC

    First Lady Lou Henry Hoover. Photograph by George Harris. Harris & Ewing LOC

    To photographer Johnny Di Joseph, the problem at the White House was not the president. “He was okay,” Di Joseph recalled. “It was his wife.” First lady Lou Henry Hoover was made an honorary member of the White House Press Photographers Association, too, but that did not make her the photographers’ friend. Di Joseph remembered that Mrs. Hoover had a rule that no photographer could come within fifteen feet of her husband to make a picture.

    President Hoover wearing a "horse Collar" shirt  Photograph by George Harris.  Harris & Ewing LOC

    President Hoover wearing a “horse Collar” shirt Photograph by George Harris. Harris & Ewing LOC



    The president wore two-inch high collars with his shirts—Di Joseph called them “horse collars.” Mrs. Hoover did not like the way the president’s double chins fell over his collar, and she thought that keeping the photographers at a distance would prevent them from making closeup photographs emphasizing his weight.

    P226 hoover wait