Fact Check

Is This a Real Photo of Abraham Lincoln With a Cat in his Lap?

It is unlikely the two creatures inhabiting this photo lived in the same century.

Published Feb 21, 2023

Updated Feb 22, 2023
A photograph authentically shows Abraham Lincoln with a cat on his lap.

This is a composite image that mixes prolific civil war photographer William Brady's January 1864 portrait of the U.S. president with a stock photograph of a cat.

A picture of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln seated with a cat has been shared online since at least as early as 2018

The photograph is manipulated, though. The Lincoln portion comes from a Jan. 8, 1864, photo-portrait session with noted Civil War photographer Mathew Brady:

The cat portion, meanwhile, comes from a stock photograph on the website Shutterstock that was contributed by Steve Heap and described as "bengal cat in light brown and cream looking with pleading stare at the viewer with space for advertizing and text."

Because the photograph is a composite image of people or animals that lived well over a century apart, we rate this claim as "False."


"Bengal Cat Light Brown Cream Looking Stock Photo 70533907." Shutterstock, https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/bengal-cat-light-brown-cream-looking-70533907. Accessed 21 Feb. 2023.

"Featured Document Display: Mathew Brady: A Pioneering Photographer." National Archives Museum, http://museum.archives.gov/featured-document-display-mathew-brady-pioneering-photographer. Accessed 21 Feb. 2023.

National Archives NextGen Catalog. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/529412?objectPage=2. Accessed 21 Feb. 2023.


Correction [Feb. 22, 2023]: The photograph in question was taken by Mathew Brady, not William Brady.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

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