Segments in this Video

Lifelong Obsession with Lincoln (03:37)


Abraham Lincoln was the most photographed American in the 19th century. Fredrick Hill Meserve, son of Civil War veteran William Meserve, hunted down all the photographs of Lincoln and the Civil War.

Civil War Collection (02:24)

Filmmaker Peter W. Kunhardt Jr. works with his sons to piece together Lincoln's story before it vanishes with time. After Fredrick enhanced his father's Civil War diary, he was hooked on collecting, surrounding himself with over 100,000 images.

The Man Who Knew Lincoln's Face (01:49)

In 1903, Fredrick discovered a lost glass negative of Lincoln in a New Jersey warehouse, spurring on a lifelong pursuit. His first publication was 100 photographs of Lincoln, and Dorothy, his daughter, began writing about Lincoln when she was eight-years-old.

Fear of Abandonment (02:22)

Fredrick's wife, Edith Meserve, ran the household and Dorothy described her mother as cold and strict. Dorothy or "Dot" explains how the women in Lincoln's early years deserted him. Dot's uncle committed suicide in front of her family home.

Opposites Attract (04:09)

Over the years, Fredrick and Dot became a team. Early on, she wrote about the darkness that surrounded Lincoln's engagement to Mary Todd. After long periods of depression, Lincoln taught himself how to rejoin the world, and live again.

Focused Thoughts and Research (01:57)

When Dorothy and Phil Kunhardt announced their intentions to marry, Phil's parents objected and ordered them to end the engagement. Dorothy and Phil were married in 1925, with Fredrick's blessings. Dorothy kept notes on her three children.

Dagger of Money (01:25)

Dorothy became distracted from her Lincoln work, and began crafting a children's book. The crash on Wall Street and the Great Depression left her family in bankruptcy. Phil looked to Dorothy to support the family.

Junket is Nice (03:00)

Writing for children was Dot's best chance to make money, and she experimented with new ways to talk with children. Scribner's Publishing rejected her first book because of the amount of color Dorothy used.

Getting Back to Lincoln (03:08)

Dorothy discovered hundreds of old books sold by the retired care-taker of the old Lincoln home. Dorothy visits Lincoln's great-grandniece, Mary Edwards Brown, who sells Dot her entire collection of photographs.

Choked by Research (02:47)

Fleetwood Lindley gives Dorothy a first-hand account of Lincoln's final burial in 1901. During his life, Lincoln was detached and withdrawn, and disliked conflict.

Lincoln's Premonitions (01:46)

As a young father, Lincoln was sarcastic and mean-spirited towards his first child, Robert Lincoln. Eddie Lincoln, their second son, died of tuberculosis at a young age. When Dorothy returned from Springfield, she went straight to her books.

Fighting to Survive (02:29)

Throughout the 1930s, Phil was concerned that Dorothy was working too hard. At the height of the depression, Dorothy panicked when she became pregnant, and intentionally induced a miscarriage. Later, she suffers a complete mental and physical breakdown.

Lincoln's Sons (03:04)

Dorothy recuperated at her childhood home and her father Franklin nurtured her back to health. Mary gave birth to a second son, Willie Lincoln, an exact replica of his father. Lincoln called their third son Tadpole, because of his big head.

Stop Procrastinating (01:53)

Fredrick chose Carl Sandburg as a co-author to construct another rendition of "The Photographs of Abraham Lincoln." Sandburg tried to settle Dorothy's feelings of jealousy. Lincoln had a habit of speaking to animals as if they could understand him.

Lincoln's Presidency (01:55)

Dorothy began constructing a Lincoln book from the perspective of Tad. Lincoln assumed the role of president at the age of 52. A month after he took office, war broke out. His greatest relief was seeing his two sons play in the White House.

Trixie Boy and Gettysburg (03:27)

A year into office, Lincoln's favorite son, Willie, died of typhoid fever at the age of 12, leaving Tad as his closest companion. Dorothy believed this father-son love story was the key to Lincoln's heart. Dorothy's personal life and work clashed.

Importance of Children (01:55)

Lincoln thought his speech at Gettysburg was a failure, but news arrived that Tad's fever had dissipated, and that was all that mattered to him. Children were significant in both Dorothy and Lincoln's lives.

Renewed Strength (02:22)

In 1864, a worn-out Lincoln was running for a second term. He suffered from chronic constipation, and his hands and feet were always cold. On Fredrick's 96th birthday, Dorothy and her son, Philip, promised to take care of his Lincoln collection.

Beginning of the Collection (02:46)

After the war, William Meserve abandoned his family and headed west to spread the gospel as a religious fundamentalist. His son, Fredrick, was forced to drop out of school and support his mother. Thirty years later, Fredrick proposed that he and William work on a project together.

A New Sense of Purpose (03:12)

Within a month of the death of her father, Dorothy was told that her husband, Phil, was dying of kidney failure. In January 1963, for the first time in her life, Dorothy was alone. Philip pleaded with her to work on the Lincoln book, but she refused. Kennedy's assassination jolted Dorothy back to life.

Lincoln's Assassination (02:10)

Dorothy and Philip began work on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Dorothy discovered a picture of Lincoln's second inauguration showing John Wilkes Booth in attendance.

Death and Hangings (02:16)

Dorothy uncovers a photograph that was taken of the bed where Lincoln lay unconscious for nine hours before he stopped breathing. After 12 days, soldiers tracked down Booth and shot him dead. Booth's co-conspirators were sentenced to hang.

We Must Live (02:47)

After the assassination, Mary Lincoln refused to leave her bed. A funeral train carried Lincoln home to be buried in Springfield. Thirty-million Americans watched the train pass by. Dorothy and Phillip named their finished Lincoln book, "Twenty-Days."

A Peaceful Death (02:28)

Dorothy was diagnosed with terminal lung disease from years of inhaling dust and mold in her fortress of old books. Phillip took over the Lincoln collection, and over time he developed the same lung disease as his mother.

Mystic Chords of Memory (03:47)

In April 2005, Philip, struggling to breathe, presents all of Dorothy's unfinished manuscripts. At the end of his life, Phillip's last words were to tell his wife just how much he was going to miss her. His son, Peter, visits his grave site.

Credits: Living with Lincoln (02:10)

Credits: Living with Lincoln

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Living with Lincoln

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This feature documentary chronicles how five generations of one American family have shared the “glorious burden” of collecting, preserving and documenting a treasure trove of photographs, rare books and artifacts relating to Abraham Lincoln. In the years following the Civil War, Peter Kunhardt’s ancestors – in particular, his great- grandfather, Frederick Hill Meserve – collected photographs that might have been lost forever, including now-iconic portraits used on the penny, the 5 dollar bill, and even the image of Lincoln used to create his likeness on Mount Rushmore. Through photos, home movies and the words of Peter’s ancestors (voiced by several of his living relatives), the film profiles several key family members whose stewardship of the Lincoln collection became an obsession, including Peter’s grandmother, Dorothy Kunhardt, author of the classic children’s book Pat the Bunny, and his father, Philip Kunhardt, Jr., a former managing editor of Life magazine. Juxtaposing the challenges and humanity of the Lincoln revealed in the Meserve-Kunhardt Collection with those of his ancestors, Kunhardt sheds light on the rewards and, in some cases, pitfalls involved in helping to preserve an important part of America’s past. An HBO Production. 

Length: 68 minutes

Item#: EDP115016

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.