[James Buchanan, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front]
James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States (1857-1861), served immediately prior to the American Civil War. He remains the only President to remain a lifelong bachelor. He represented Pennsylvania in the United States House of Representatives and later the Senate, then served as Minister to Russia under President Andrew Jackson. He was named Secretary of State under President James K. Polk. President Franklin Pierce appointed him Ambassador to the United Kingdom. "I like the noise of democracy."
In 1844, Mathew Brady opened a photography studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street in New York. By 1845, he began to exhibit his portraits of famous Americans, including the likes of Senator Daniel Webster and poet Edgar Allan Poe. In 1849, he opened a studio at 625 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Brady's early images were daguerreotypes, and he won many awards for his work. In 1850, Brady produced The Gallery of Illustrious Americans, a portrait collection of prominent contemporary figures. The album, which featured noteworthy images including the elderly Andrew Jackson at the Hermitage, was not financially rewarding but invited increased attention to Brady's work. When the Civil War started, he used a mobile studio and darkroom enabled vivid battlefield photographs. Thousands of war scenes were captured, as well as portraits of generals and politicians on both sides of the conflict, though most of these were taken by his assistants, rather than by Brady himself. After the war, these pictures went out of fashion, and the government did not purchase the master-copies as he had anticipated. Brady's fortunes declined sharply, and he died in debt.