Thursday, March 19, 2009


Inscription in Lincoln WatchDo you examine every new piece you buy? Old desks often have secret compartments; lockets and memorial jewelry sometimes have space to put a note. But imagine finding an inscription that had been hidden for almost 150 years inside a watch that belonged to Abraham Lincoln. Doug Stiles knew that his great-great-grandfather had been a watchmaker who worked on President Lincoln's watch. Stiles found a 1906 newspaper article in which his grandfather told about putting a message in the watch. The watch was given to the Smithsonian in 1958 by Lincoln's great-grandson. When Stiles told the Smithsonian about the newspaper article, the museum decided to have a watchmaker open the watch. In front of an audience and TV cameras, he found the inscription engraved so long ago: "Jonathan Dillon, April 13- 1861 Fort Sumpter was attacked by the rebels on the above date." (Fort Sumter was named for Revolutionary War General Thomas Sumter, but the name of the fort was often misspelled; the first date of the attack was actually April 12.) Dillon's other inscription includes the phrase, "thank God we have a government." There was also an engraving by another watchmaker who repaired the watch in September 1864. His engraving included the name "Jeff Davis." Was that a pro-Confederate statement? We are amazed that the inscription remained secret for so long and that two watchmakers "scribbled" on the president's watch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder how common that is for watchmakers to write comments on the inside of watches? I was surprised last year when a jeweler was inspecting my grandfather's railroad watch and he pointed out several dates etched in that he said were dates it had been cleaned. I can't imagine there was even room for all those comments on the Lincoln watch!I bet there will be lots of people now inspecting their old watches.