Special Report

Civil War Artifacts in the Smithsonian

The museum collections house many items from the Civil War, including photographs, uniforms and personal diaries

Lincoln's Top Hat (National Museum of American History)

Lincoln’s Top Hat, National Museum of American History

Abraham Lincolns top hat
(National Museum of American History)

A survey of Civil War artifacts in the Smithsonian’s collections would not be complete without one of the most cherished pieces at the National Museum of American History—a top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln, who, in all but six weeks of his term as the 16th president of the United States led a country at war. The president wore this hat, made by Washington, D.C. hat maker J. Y. Davis and adorned with a black silk mourning band in honor of his deceased son Willie, to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, the night he was assassinated. “He sets it next to his chair where, days later, the military recovers it, trying to preserve the scene of the crime, and transfers it to the Department of the Interior, which transfers it to the Smithsonian Institution,” says curator Harry Rubenstein. The top hat is on display in “Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life” at the American History Museum through May 30, 2011.

by Megan Gambino


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