JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Lewis Payne: 1865

Lewis Payne, seated and manacled, at the Washington Navy Yard about the time of his 21st birthday in April 1865, three months before he was hanged as one of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. View full size. Photograph by Alexander Gardner, probably taken aboard  the ironclad U.S.S. Montauk or Saugus.

Lewis Payne, seated and manacled, at the Washington Navy Yard about the time of his 21st birthday in April 1865, three months before he was hanged as one of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. View full size. Photograph by Alexander Gardner, probably taken aboard the ironclad U.S.S. Montauk or Saugus.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

About Lewis Payne and his muscles.

It was reported that his neck muscles were so strong, that he died solely from asphyxiation. None of the bones in his neck were out of place when they cut him down.

This has haunted me for more than 40 years

When I was 13, I read "Love is Eternal" by Irving Stone, which is a very romantic, historic novel about the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. I was a weird kid. While my friends all had crushes on Davy Jones, I fell in love with Abe Lincoln and couldn't get enough information about him. Several of the photos of the conspirators have haunted me, ever since, but none so much as this one of Lewis Payne. I think the fact that he was a very handsome young man makes it stick in one's mind more easily, but the look on his face speaks volumes. He obviously did not think of himself as a cold-blooded killer. He saw himself as a prisoner-of-war; a martyr for a noble cause.

As far as comparison with actors, I don't see Toby Maguire as much as I see actor Patrick Fugit, as an adult.

Did Not Know

I was just looking up historical pics of the D.C. Navy Yard and came across this. First reaction was an okay *shrug* because I didn't know who it was until I read the caption and now I find it slightly chilling.


Contemporary accounts note that women were "thrilled" by Lewis Payne's well-muscled form. I don't see that at all; he looks like a very lean young man.

Temporary quarters

The ironclad was selected for the conspirators until permanent arrangements could be made. A ship had limited access (gangway)and hence relative ease of security. It also facilitated movement to another venue if needed. Sec. Stanton didn't want the individuals torn apart by a crowd who, it occurs to me, might have thought to swarm the entrance to a military prison. An armed vessel was a pretty good solution.


Am I the only one who has seen THE FACE above Mr. Payne! While watching Nightwatch and hearing Nick Nolte tell Ewan who was in the picture, I had to Google. Always intrigued by the pic and movie, now more so..


Looks like a Calvin Klein ad.

As do the other pictures in the Payne series.

When I see a period film hear people say that a person doesn't look like they belong in the prescribed period, I ask them why they think so. If it has something to do with the hairdo (like Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde) then I have to agree. But if the person says that the actor's face doesn't belong in the picture, I show them this picture and ask them if they have seen this Calvin Klein ad. They ask when it was shot, say circa 1992. Then I drop the bomb and tell them that it was taken in April or May 1865. Shuts 'em up every time.


I am a photojournalist and the lighting and look in this photograph is just amazing.

Lewis Payne

It's interesting that he is wearing a U.S. Navy shirt and trousers. Obviously an ad hoc prison uniform while aboard an ironclad.

Lewis Payne

Death must have been a relief after having to be shackled in those for months. That look in his eyes, it's mesmerizing.

Cruel and Unusual

I remember the picture was also featured in Ken Burns' documentary The Civil War. Imagine being in rigid irons for months. I'd go insane.

Barthes and Camera Lucida

I *knew* I recognized this picture as soon as I saw it. It was featured in Roland Barthes' book "Camera Lucida" about photography. Sort of random, but if anyone wants to read a high falutin' book that deals with this photo, you should look it up.

He really does look like Tobey Maguire doesn't he?

The Handcuff in this picture is a "Lilly Iron"..

There are matching Leg Irons. The stories around it abound. It was invented by a Dr. Lilly, a Military Dr., for restraining insane people. He later on went insane himself, and apparently died wearing them. These were used on all the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators, they were worn throughout their trial, till they were executed. These are VERY rigid. It is rather torturous to wear them any period of time. The Leg Irons use a chain, far more "humane". The Lilly Iron (Cuffs and Leg Irons) are both considered premium items to own, for cuff collectors (I am one). They aren't what you might call "cheap". I own a pair of Cuffs and Irons :)

Can anyone tell me what that

Can anyone tell me what that backdrop is? It looks like a huge sheet of steel or lead.

[As noted in the caption, the picture was taken aboard a Navy ironclad. It's probably a gun turret. - Dave]

Then its true they had

Then its true they had mentally deranged individuals in the 1860's and/or politically deranged individual in the 1860's just like in the 1900's and 2000's

He looks like Tobey Maguire.

He looks like Tobey Maguire.

Cute Guy

too bad he's a stone cold killa.

and now the rest of the story..

Payne had been detailed to murder Secretary of State Seward as his role in the plot.

Seward had been in an accident days before and was in bed wearing a metal neck brace. Payne attacked him with a Bowie knife in the darkened bedroom, slashing him several times. But for the brace, he would have cut Seward's jugular, killing him.

My thoughts exactly.

My thoughts exactly. Mer-oww!

If you disregard the Lincoln conspirator part...

hubba hubba.

This picture was featured in

This picture was featured in the 1997 Ewan McGregor film Nightwatch.

It was hanging on the wall of the Watchman's office of a morgue and becomes the object of Ewan's obsession.

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Accessibility Statement | Site © 2024 Shorpy Inc.