Abraham Lincoln's Final Carry

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Analyzing the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets from the night he was assassinated from an EDC perspective.

After Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, his pockets were emptied and their contents were given to his family, where they were kept for over 70 years. Later, in 1937, they were gifted to the Library of Congress by Lincoln’s granddaughter. However, it wasn’t until 111 years after Lincoln’s death that the collection was finally revealed to the public. His personal effects now serve as relics of the past that give an intimate look into his life from the night of his assassination, attracting visitors as one of the LOC’s most popular exhibits. According to exhibit, Lincoln’s carry consisted of…

Items found in Lincoln's pockets on the night of his assassination and a newspaper from that time.

Photo via The Library of Congress
  • Golden watch fob

  • Gold “L” monogrammed enamel sleeve button

  • Leather wallet with pencil

  • Confederate $5 bill

  • Newspaper clippings

  • Ivory and silver pocket knife

  • Embroidered handkerchief

  • Folding eyeglasses in silver case

  • Gold-rimmed eyeglasses repaired with string

  • Pocket lens cleaner

It’s interesting to see that Lincoln’s carry actually shares several attributes with EDCs of today. Beyond his pocket knife, which is a staple in many modern American EDCs, he practices redundancy (two is one, one is none) with his pair of eyeglasses.

Each pair is interesting in their own right—one folds in half for extra portability, while the other shows some DIY work as one of the arms is held secure by string. His glasses must have been essential to Lincoln, as evidenced by his protective, lined glasses cases and the fact that he used a separate lens tool as opposed to his handkerchief to keep them clean.

Considering that in addition to all of his glasses-related items, he was also found with eight newspaper clippings about him in his pockets, suggesting reading was an important pastime for him. Personally, that’s one of my favorite aspects of looking at people’s EDCs—that something as seemingly ordinary as their daily items can help paint a better picture about the person carrying them.

Abraham Lincoln's Leather Wallet

Photo via The Library of Congress

There’s still more about this carry that makes it not so different from the ones you see submitted here. Take his wallet, for instance. The construction, attention to detail and internal organization on that wallet would be found in many products today. 

Besides keeping his notes, currency, and train tickets in order, he also used the wallet to stow away a small pencil. That’s definitely in tune with EDC philosophies of overcoming functional fixedness and finding versatility in the items you choose to carry.

Notice the ornate materials and the personalization of his items through monogramming or embroidering in the carry. He has tools like the watch winding mechanism and glasses cleaner for proper maintenance of his essentials to keep them in their best shape, even on the go.

Just looking at these qualities of his carry, I speculate that Lincoln took great pride in his belongings, something that most of us EDCers do too. The similarities in the Lincoln collection to the EDCs we keep with us today are very telling of the meaning of the word “essential.” It seems like even after 150 years, some things never change.

To learn more about this collection of artifacts, visit The Library of Congress. For even more pocket drops, browse our Staff Picks section. Thanks to our readers who sent in this tip! What’s your favorite part of Lincoln’s collection? Let us know in the comments below.

Header Image via @BeschlossDC

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