This post probably should have been entitled oldest surviving presidential photograph as William Henry Harrison had his daguerreotype taken when he was inaugurated but it is lost to history. The oldest surviving photograph of a president was taken of former president John Quincy Adams on August 1, 1843. Because Adams was a copious diary keeper of his daily activities we have his reaction to what perhaps we would have assumed he would have regarded as a revolutionary event:
At ten o clock the reception took place on a stage erected in front of the Bleeker House, where Mr. Bacon addressed and welcomed me in the name of the citizens of Utica. I answered him in a speech of about half an hour, sufficiently cheered for my hopes or wishes, but of mortifying inanity to myself. The shaking of some hundred hands then followed and on my way returning to Mr. Johnson’s, I stopped and four daguerreotype likenesses of my head were taken, two of them jointly with the head of Mr. Bacon — all hideous. Then a visit to the dwarf C.F. Stratton, called General Tom Thumb, eleven years old, twenty-five inches high, weighing fifteen pounds, dressed in military uniform mimicking Napoleon.
Yep, that’s it! He thinks the likenesses were bad and goes on immediately to describe a meeting with Tom Thumb. A good demonstration that what we, from our future vantage point, might view as an important event, a participant in the event might well have regarded as completely unimportant.