The Library Of Congress Has The Final Possessions Of This Popular President

The Library of Congress is (probably) the largest library in the world. It contains all sorts of fascinating and rare historical artifacts that would be equally at home in the most prestigious of museums. One of its more surprising holdings are the final possessions of President Abraham Lincoln — the items found in his coat pockets after he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. Per Biography, the pockets in question were those of the president's Brooks Brothers overcoat. The still-prestigious and well-known brand had given the president the coat as a gift, celebrating his second term as president, which had begun just six weeks before.

After Lincoln was pronounced dead the morning of April 15, his coat and the possessions within were given to his oldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln. The items included two different pairs of glasses, as the president had several different vision problems which required him to use different prescription glasses. One of them was "slightly broken" and partially repaired with a piece of string, a surprising and touching detail. 

Other items included a pocket knife, a gold watch fob, a white handkerchief with the letter "A" embroidered on it in red thread, and a cuff link engraved with the letter "L." Amid the mundane and run-of-the-mill items that one might have found in the pockets of many an American man living in the 1860s, Lincoln had a truly surprising item in his coat: Confederate currency.

Why was Lincoln carrying Confederate cash?

The only cash Lincoln had in his brown leather wallet lined with purple silk was a $5 Confederate bill, featuring a portrait of his rival, Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Per Biography, Lincoln had probably obtained the money just a few weeks before. Lincoln had visited the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia with his son Tad on April 4, just two days after Confederate forces had abandoned the city. He visited the Confederate White House, also featured on the Confederate $5 bill found in his pocket. On April 11, Lincoln gave his last public speech from a White House window, during which he detailed "his plans for the post-war nation, including the introduction of limited Black suffrage." John Wilkes Booth heard the speech and moved forward with conspirators with their plan to kill Lincoln

Images of the items from Lincoln's pockets are available on the Library of Congress website. Lincoln's granddaughter Mary "Mamie" Lincoln Isham inherited them from her father, Robert Todd Lincoln, and donated them to the library in 1937. The box containing the items remained closed until February 1976, when then-Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin opened it up and revealed the contents to the public on what would have been Lincoln's 167th birthday. They are a part of the The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana, which also includes a bronze life mask of Lincoln cast in 1857 and Lincoln's own scrapbook of his 1858 campaign against Stephen A. Douglas.