Abraham Lincoln's Watch, around 1858
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- associated person
- Lincoln, Abraham
- Lincoln’s English gold watch was purchased in the 1850s from George Chatterton, a Springfield, Illinois, jeweler. Lincoln was not considered to be outwardly vain, but the fine gold watch was a conspicuous symbol of his success as a lawyer.
- The watch movement and case, as was often typical of the time, were produced separately. The movement was made in Liverpool, where a large watch industry manufactured watches of all grades. An unidentified American shop made the case. The Lincoln watch has one of the best grade movements made in England and can, if in good order, keep time to within a few seconds a day. The 18K case is of the best quality made in the US.
- A Hidden Message
- Just as news reached Washington that Confederate forces had fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, watchmaker Jonathan Dillon was repairing Abraham Lincoln's timepiece. Caught up in the moment, Dillon unscrewed the dial and engraved: "April 13, 1861 Fort Sumpter was attacked by the rebels on the above date J Dillon April 13, 1861 Washington" and "thank God we have a government Jonth Dillon."
- In 1864 a second watchmaker, L. E. Gross, signed his name. Also, at some point someone etched "Jeff Davis" inside the watch, either as a joke or a statement of support for the Confederacy.
- Lincoln never knew about the messages he carried in his watch. The inscription remained hidden behind the dial for over a century. After hearing from Jonathan Dillon's great-great-grandson, the Museum removed the dial on March 10, 2009, to reveal the watchmakers' declarations.
- Gift of Lincoln Isham, great-grandson of Abraham Lincoln, 1958
- Currently not on view
- Credit Line
- gift of Lincoln Isham
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Object Name
- watch, pocket
- Physical Description
- gold; glass (watch material)
- metal (key material)
- gold (watch chain material)
- wood; metal; fabric (box material)
- watch: 2 in x 3 in x 1/2 in; 5.08 cm x 7.62 cm x 1.27 cm
- watch chain: 13 in; 33.02 cm
- Related Publication
- Rubenstein, Harry R.. Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life
- See more items in
- Political and Military History: Political History, Presidential History Collection
- Government, Politics, and Reform
- Clothing & Accessories
- Selections from the Abraham Lincoln Collection
- National Museum of American History
- related event
- Battle of Fort Sumter, 1861
- Record ID
- Metadata Usage (text)
- GUID (Link to Original Record)
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