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Wevertown-born Civil War photographer recognized with marker

Erika Bornn cuts a cake baked by Café Sarah for the dedication. It's baked and frosted to look like the sign at the Wevertown Community Center.

Erika Bornn cuts a cake baked by Café Sarah for the dedication. It's baked and frosted to look like the sign at the Wevertown Community Center. Photo by John Grybos.

— Every time you look at a five dollar bill there’s a little bit of Johnsburg in its history.

The iconic portrait of President Abraham Lincoln was taken by famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, who it turns out came from Wevertown near The Glen.

Brady is honored with a new sign at the Wevertown Community Center, dedicated Nov. 10 in a ceremony hosted by the Johnsburg Historical Society.

“If you look and at image of Lincoln from history class, 99 percent of the time it’s a Brady,” said Jessica Rubin, an educator for the Adirondack Museum who spoke at the event.

Brady was an entrepreneur who built a brand around photographing the celebrities of his day, like Lincoln, Edgar Allen Poe and famous midget Tom Thumb and his wife.

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Johnsburg Historical Society President Michelle SanAntonio, Adirondack Museum educator Jessica Rubin, Adirondack Community Trust representative Wes Dingman and Mathew Brady enthusiast Milda Burns at the dedication Nov. 10.

With that brand, he launched a series of studios staffed by camera operators where customers could get their portraits taken like those famous subjects.

Brady’s most famous for his Civil War photography, though much of that was also taken by camera operators who worked with him. Brady thought the war should be carefully documented, but after it ended most Americans wanted it to fade into the past. He couldn’t find a market for his images.

Eventually, he was paid $25,000 by the U.S. Congress for his body of work on the Civil War, but the sum wasn’t enough to cover his extensive debts. Despite his important cultural and historical work, Brady died a poor man.

The project was set in motion by Milda Burns, who’d read that Brady was born in Lake George. Knowing that wasn’t accurate, she worked diligently to collect information on the man, pinning down his birthplace in Wevertown.

She’s compiled a portfolio featuring all of Brady’s work, including his gory Civil War images. It’s often noted that Brady and his assistants moved corpses for photographs.

“I read that, so I assume it’s true,” said Burns. “But I don’t know.”

The sign’s placement is less than perfect, said Burns. “I’m heartbroken that it can’t go down by the Glen.”

The sign is easy to find for the curious. It’s just to the left of the front doors at the Wevertown Community Center.

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