A New Image of Phineas Gage

After we identified the subject of our daguerreotype as Phineas Gage we were asked if we believed that it is the only surviving portrait of Gage. We have always said that it is very likely that other photographs were made and it is possible that they have survived in the possession of collectors who, like us, did not know that the portrait was of Phineas. We were partially correct.

Within weeks of the July 2009 announcement of our identification we learned that a descendent of Phineas Gage's brother had emailed Malcolm Macmillian a scan of a paper photograph that had come down in her family. It was clearly a photograph of Phineas in a different pose and, we feel confident, taken at a different time and by a different photographer. We were excited to learn that Tara Gage Miller who owned the photograph lived in Texas. We were about to leave for a visit to Texas and were able to meet with her and examine the photograph. We found her very helpful and open to sharing information about her family and the photograph. From our study of the image we felt it was a recent copy of an albumen print, likely a cabinet card, that was a copy of an original daguerreotype. We were correct since Tara has since received the actual cabinet card from a member of her family. With her permission we post it here. The fact that it is a mirror image tells us that the original was a daguerreotype. It seems that the original daguerreotype has been lost but perhaps it still exists and will someday surface.

After the publication of an article about our daguerreotype in the January Smithsonian Magazine a descendent of another branch of the Gage family sent a scan of a trimmed cabinet card that came down in her family. The image is the same as Tara's on a different mount and it appears that this copy was made in the 1880s or 90s. The owner of this photograph wrote to "correct" the Smithsonian for printing the image of our daguerreotype backwards. This has been mentioned elsewhere on the internet and in letters to the magazine although the article states in a caption that the decision was to show Gage as he appeared in life since the daguerreotype is a mirror image.

We were wrong in one of the assumptions we made about further discoveries. Both of the families who owned the newly published photograph knew that the photograph was of Phineas Gage. To them he was an interesting family member but they did not think that the world at large would be especially interested in him.


This is a cabinet card owned by the family of Tara Gage Miller. We show it as the card appears. Here it seems that the right eye is closed since it is a faithful copy of an earlier daguerreotype which was a mirror image.

Phineas wears the same waistcoat as in our photograph. but the shirt and tie are different and it is not possible to tell if the jacket is the same. The pose is more casual than in our photograph.

Below is a detail from the cabinet card on the left and the daguerreotype on the right. The cabinet card copy is not as sharp as the daguerreotype but the flower clusters appear in the same position on both lapels.

Cabinet cards, 4 1/4" by 6 1/2" were introduced in the 1860s and became the dominate style of photographs from the 1870s thought the 1890s.

Thanks to Tara Gage Miller for allowing us to post her family cabinet card.