Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day 77/365 Graffiti

What a week for history - first Shakespeare's portrait is revealed, and now the Smithsonian has confirmed a rumor about an inscription on Abraham Lincoln's watch.

It seems in April 1861, the President's watch was in the repair shop - the first watch he had ever owned. While the watch was in hand, a co-worker ran in with the news that Fort Sumter had been fired on, and Jonathan Dillan decided to write down his reaction, not on paper, but by scratching it into the interior of the President's watch.

Even though he recalled doing this 45 days later, in a 1906 New York Times article no less, there was no rush to actually check the watch. His recollection of what he wrote was a little more prosaic, and shows the benefit of hindsight (as any of us would recall exactly what we said on 9-11).

Finally, after decades of rumors, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History decided to open the watch this last Tuesday. And there is was, a mini time-capsule:

"Jonathan Dillon April 13-1861 Fort Sumter was attacked by the rebels on the above date. J Dillon"
and below it: April 13-1861 Washington thank God we have a government Jonth Dillon"

Due to the slower communications of the time, the inscription actual marks the date Mr. Dillon learned of the event at Fort Sumter, a day after the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Mr. Dillon also mentioned in the interview that he was the only Union sympathizer in the shop, a fact that became apparent when the watch movement was turned over and another inscription appeared:

"LE Gorfs Sept 1864 Wash D.C. Jeff Davis"

Read the whole story and see their other photos at
or better yet, if you live close enough, go and visit.

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