One of Samuel F.B. Morse’s students was Mathew Brady. This photographer’s work is taught in Journalism history classes at Universities as having changed the history of the occupation. Brady, born in 1822, worked in New York, studying under Morse; some consider the man one of the greatest historical photographers of all time. He was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite photographers and undertook the great task of documenting the American Civil War in photographs.
What Mathew Brady did, that was unheard of at the time, was to bring the war to the people for them to see, first hand, what was happening on the battle fields. When filmmaker Ken Burns worked on his immense documentary re-telling of the American Civil War, he said that the photographs of Mathew Brady were the backbone of his research and documentary. Like many artists, he was not appreciated while he was alive, dying broke and alone, but after his death, society understood what a great undertaking he achieved.
Mathew Brady photographed 18 of the 19 Presidents who served from John Quincy Adams up to William McKinley. He also photographed some of the greatest individuals involved in the American Civil War, including Ulysses S. Grant and George Custer. The photograph of Abraham Lincoln used on the $5 bill and penny was the work of Mathew Brady. Most war photographers owe a debt of gratitude to Mathew Brady, the man who set the table for all who followed.