A visitor to the Library of Congress can choose to examine any of over 123,000,000 books, newspapers, maps, photographs, prints, pieces of sheet music, sound recordings, and manuscripts. Out of these vast holdings, some of the things visitors most want to see seem decidedly quirky: the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets the night he was assassinated, April 14, 1865.
When the Library decided to first display these objects in 1976, it was to humanize a towering mythic figure. But after 147 years, some of the things Lincoln was carrying—a watch fob, $5 in Confederate money—are now completely foreign to us. So why the continued fascination? The alternative rock band Rainer Maria even set the list of what Lincoln had with him to music; it became one of their most popular songs. Take a listen.
For more on the contents of Lincoln’s pockets, see Artifacts of Assassination.
Erin McLeary is an exhibit developer at the National Constitution Center, where she is working on an exhibition about the Civil War.