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Abraham Lincoln's Final Carry

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

Bernard Capulong

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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 seemignly 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

#abraham-lincoln #misc #lincolns-edc #abraham-lincolns-pocketknife #abraham-lincoln-pocket-knife #lincoln-pocket-knife #abraham-lincolns-pocket-knife #abraham-lincoln-personal-effects #abe-lincolns-knife see all

Who Likes This (376)

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Discussion (79 total)

Jambon ·
This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom,and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Awesome.
John Gleich ·
I find the $5 Confederate bill the most interesting part.
Frank Martin ·
As do I. As the president of the Union, one can't help but wonder how that got there. I doubt anyone in Union territory accepted Confederate currency.
James Wilkerson ·
Maybe it was a trophy of sorts? I wonder if it had anything to do with the choice to put him on the US $5 bill?
Nate H ·
/\/\/\ this and \/\/\/ that - combined I figure. a trophy, or souvenir from someone who was more boots-level in the Civil War, kept as a reminder of war and hard decisions.
Maybe he carried as a reminder...of why he does what he does?
Jim McMurry ·
Cool peek into history. It's funny to think that he carried a $5 bill that he was not pictured on. The picture is of Christopher Memminger (initial Confederate Secr. of Treasury).
I'd still be impressed if this was someone's EDC today... What an absolute champ.
Stupendous Walrus ·
So damn cool!!
Very cool. Thanks for sharing. :-)
Pratip Sen Gupta ·
Wonder which was the edc knife.
David Dornblaser ·
That looks like a Congress pattern. It is a nice looking knife, I would have liked to see a close up of it.
Kevin Potter ·
I just took my sons to Monticello in Charlottesville VA, Thomas Jeffersons home. In the museum there was an enclosed display of his EDC items! It was fascinating to see what a true genius and renaissance man carried over 200 years ago! Maps, slide rule, knife, writing and drawing paper. Very interesting to see what a founding father and writer of the constitution carried.

Jefferson's clothes, according to his granddaughter, were "simple and adapted to his ideas of neatness and comfort . . . and sometimes blending the fashions of several periods." In his pockets, Jefferson carried such a variety of portable instruments for making observations and measurements that he's been dubbed a "traveling calculator." Among his collection of pocket-sized devices were scales, drawing instruments, a thermometer, a surveying compass, a level, and even a globe. To record all these measurements, Jefferson carried a small ivory notebook on which he could write in pencil. Back in his Cabinet, or office, he later copied the information into any of seven books in which he kept records about his garden, farms, finances, and other concerns; he then erased the writing in the ivory notebook.
Bernard Capulong ·
Wow, that's awesome! I'd love to see that.
1 more comments
J Kay ·
Cool. I like seeing what people carried in the past
J Kay ·
Love to see more famous people and there edc
Goran ·
That is really great idea... come on people of EDC, do you`r magic! Give it a try and contact a few celebs.
Great story! The similarities to modern carry are cool!
billyboy4873 ·
I read recently that when he congress pattern was introduced to the U.S., it was sold, almost exclusively, in the south.That, along with the confederate currency, goes to show just how connected the two sides were even during the worst of times. Can I get a Yehaa! from my Yankee brothers and sisters up there.
Chris Szaroleta ·
As I said in the forums, if anyone wants to go on a Nicholas Cage style National Treasure heist with me, I would really love to get my hands on Abe's pocket knife... ;-)
billyboy4873 ·
Sounds good. The hanky wood make a great ice breaker at social events.
count me in, I'm a sucker for a good heist. If Nick Cage can pull it off, I think we can too
Naw, I'd rather have a replica, keep the originals in place for future generations to see.
Montana Actual ·
You can do like most museums have done, and replace the original with a replica because some saudi king bought the original on the black market.

Armando Arriaga ·
If that knife was auctioned, I´m sure it would reach the 7 digits easily
Was thinking the same thing haha!
Rob Hamilton ·
just FYI the watch fob was not used to wind a watch (I mean, look at it, that's not a key!). It was simply a decorative item which attached to the other end of a chain or strap from the pocket watch, and would then hang outside the jacket or vest pocket.
Bernard Capulong ·
Thanks for the catch — descriptions from the collection on the LOC's site described it one way, other places described it just as something ornamental. Whether it was for maintenance or for looks, it still shows he probably took pride in his gear enough to EDC one!
Rob Hamilton ·
I've emailed the LOC as well. You'd think they should know these things...
Rene Orozco ·
Hewitt Jeep ·
Excellent analysis
shawn ·
More historical EDCs please!
Sakamoto Mio ·
~ I wouldn't mind seeing what some of the WWII military leaders carried . . .
would be awesome to see if he had, and what, Patton's EDC ws
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