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Documenting the President

3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, post-secondary

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated during a presidential motorcade in Dallas, Texas. The shots were fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, an employee at the Book Depository, and charged him with the president’s assassination. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president that day. Oswald never made it to court, because Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald when they were transferring him from jail.

• Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented the daguerreotype process in France.
• American photographers quickly capitalized on the daguerreotype process, which was capable of capturing a "truthful likeness" of the subject being photographed.
• Cecil Stoughton took over 8,000 photographs of the Kennedy family from Kennedy's Inauguration until his assassination on November 22, 1963.
• Cecil Stoughton was also the presidential photographer for the first two years of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency.


1. Who was the first American President to be photographed while in office? What photographic process was used? [Answer: The first American President to be photographed in office was James K. Polk in 1849. The photographic process used was called daguerreotype.]

2. President Abraham Lincoln had a photograph taken standing with his left hand on a stack of books. Why did he do this? [Answer: He did this to portray himself to the public as scholarly and intellectual.]


3. Imagine you are the current President of the United States. What photographs would you like taken and shown to the public? [Answer: Recent American presidents have had pictures taken of them working in the Oval Office in the White House, spending time with their families, and giving speeches to the public and to Congress.]

sitting president noun
photography noun
James K. Polk noun
Abraham Lincoln noun
John F. Kennedy noun