Saturday, May 7, 2011

Model looks

Many people have remarked that 21-year-old Lewis Powell was a "hottie." Unfortunately, he was also a felon. Can you pick him out from the contemporary fashion models above? (Hint: He's the one in the 19th c. handcuffs.) Powell a.k.a. Paine or Payne (1844-1865) was one of the 4 Americans convicted of conspiring in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The photograph in question (2nd image) was one of several taken by Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner 3 months before Powell's execution by hanging. But as with today's photographers, Gardner seems to have had a knack for capturing his subject at the most flattering angle. You can judge from the 6th image on this page, but Powell may not have been "model material." In particular, his face was slightly disfigured as the result of being kicked by a mule at the age of 12. The accident knocked out a molar and broke his jaw, causing it to protrude on the left side.

Oddly enough, historians didn't know what happened to Powell's remains until about 8 years ago. His body - unclaimed by his family - was buried in 1869, but the cemetery was defunct by the mid-1870's, with no record of Powell's reinterment elsewhere. In 1992, his skull (13th image here) resurfaced at the Smithsonian Institution. After it was authenticated by the FBI, the skull was buried next to his mother's grave in Florida.

A shout-out to Shorpy for the amazing number of inspiring quality images on that site!

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