Kentucky Historical Society


Moments in Kentucky
Legislative History

24. Death of Lincoln (1865)

In a resolution approved by the General Assembly on May 26, 1865, the assassination of Lincoln was called "a great crime" which was also "a great national calamity." "It is proper," the resolution continued, "that all people should condemn without reserve this tragic and terrible occurrence." Abraham Lincoln served as president "during a time of great national difficulty, embarrassment, and danger." During his administration, he demonstrated the qualities of "honesty, clemency, patriotism, and ability." "The judgment of mankind," the resolution concluded, "will accord to him eminent place amongst the patriots and statesmen of this nation and the world."

Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch.

Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch with chain and fob. Provenance is crucial to establishing the authenticity of objects associated with iconic figures like Lincoln. Fortunately, the ownership history of this watch is well established. Following Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theater in 1865, Robert Todd Lincoln inherited the watch. He gave it to his cousin, Benjamin Hardin Helm, Jr. In 1943, Helm presented the watch as a birthday gift to William H. Townsend, one of America's leading authorities on the life of Lincoln. Upon Townsend's death, the watch passed to his daughter Mary Townsend Murphy. The Murphy family believed that the pocket watch was carried by Lincoln on the night of his assassination, but there is no evidence to support this. In fact, the contents of Lincoln's pockets that night are in storage at the Smithsonian. Donated by Mr. & Mrs. Joseph H. Murphy, Kentucky Historical Society Collections.

Kentucky Unbridled Spirit

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