On the morning of April 15, 1865, the day Abraham Lincoln died, someone emptied his pockets. These contents were put in a box which was then wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string. The box was then handed to Abraham’s oldest son Robert Lincoln who was at his father’s deathbed. Robert Lincoln then passed the box on to his daughter, Mary Lincoln Isham, who donated the box to the Library of Congress in 1937. Labeled “Do Not Open,” the mystery box was tucked away in a vault in the Librarian’s office and forgotten for almost four decades.
Finally, in 1975, then Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin decided to open the box. With staff looking on in eager anticipation, Boorstin untied the string, tore off the brown paper, and opened the box.
The night Lincoln was murdered at Ford’s Theatre, he was carrying:
These artifacts were put on display at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C, in 1976, the year of our nation’s 200th birthday and are still on view today. Though only everyday items, the contents of Lincoln’s pockets are among the items visitors to the Library most often ask to see.
Here’s a close-up of Lincoln’s reading glasses, broken at the left hinge and mended with a bit of string. Frugal Abe wore rickety reading glasses while, in contrast, extravagant Mary had a collection of 300 pairs of gloves.
(1) Freedman, Russell. Lincoln: A Photobiography. (New York: Clarion Books, 1987)
(2) Fleming, Candace. The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary. (New York: Random House, Inc., 2008)