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Etched in Time: Douglas Stiles and Abraham Lincoln

Posted on February 20, 2014 by in The OFI Blog


In this 1861 photo, Lincoln can be seen wearing his watch. He never knew that it carried a hidden message. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Development Intern at the Office of External Affairs at the National Museum of American History (NMAH), Kate Fuljenz, explored a story of Abraham Lincoln’s gold pocket watch, from an interview with Doug Stiles, member of the Smithsonian Council for American History. ¬†Doug’s watch repairman ancestor, Jonathan Dillon, had engraved words onto Lincoln’s pocket watch at the start of the Civil War. ¬†Over 100 years later, at the National Museum of American History, Doug and his brother had the privilege of being able to open the watch and read their ancestor’s engravings. Check out more about Doug’s family ties to Lincoln in Kate’s story.


Doug Stiles viewing the inscription on the watch


Lincoln’s English gold watch was purchased in the 1850s from George Chatterton, a Springfield, Illinois, jeweler. The watch’s movement was made in Liverpool, England, while the case was made at an unidentified American shop.


Doug Stiles’ ancestor Jonathan Dillon, far right, attends the wedding of James Stiles, Sr. and Isabelle Dillon on August 11, 1891. Photo courtesy the David Stiles family.