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March 10, 2009


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I saw this story originally on the Smithsonian website.
Wow.. what an amazing find for Abraham Lincoln buffs and all who study American History! Still can't believe they uncovered a secret message over 100 years old :)

Peta Lennon

Thank you for such a well written and presented video blog. This affirms why the Smithsonian is so important in keeping American history alive and interesting.

Thom Noble

very cool on the Jeff Davis inscriptions it could just be a coincidence

Fahmi Raazali

what a beautiful craftsmanship... is it really a secret message. Perhaps it just the trademark of the watch maker...

On the inside of watch... are my eyes playing a trick or does it say 'Jef Davis' ? Abv. for Jefferson Davis??? Confederate Pres. during Civil War..... I didn't see any make mention of this in article.... just a curious... amazing find... and interesting article... my dad would have really enjoyed this article... he was a US Civil War Historian. Thanks

Jam Tangan

Great watch, anyway what letters had written on the white dial? thanks


Stories like these add a bit of buzz to history.After the inscription by Jonathan Dillon April 13- 1861 "Fort Sumpter was attacked by the rebels on the above date J Dillon April 13-1861 Washington thank God we have a government Jonth Dillon"
The story I have heard is that three years later, it was likely another jeweller had also etched his name while servicing the watch and also someone had added "Jeff Davis," an apparent reference to the Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Kris Dupont

The watch will be indeed a priceless piece of history in the future generations to come. It such a blessing that we have people who safeguard this kind of treasure.


This is a very inspiring story that describes to us how Americans at that time were inspired by Lincoln's leadership. The inscription in the watch is a very interesting discovery as well. Although it appears that this discovery sparked a lot of intrigues, it will somehow unravel the hidden secrets of American history.


Cool,i thought it was just one more story but it turned out to be true.Very interesting discovery indeed.


interesting, wonder if there are any other secret messages in anyone else's belongings.


That was interesting how stories change over the years, in the telling. I think it would have been cool to know but never have confirmation like that.

Mike Kendra

How would Lincoln have reacted if he ever learned that this message was left inside his pocket watch? This is a most interesting discovery!


After reading this and recently watching the movie National Treasure, it certainly makes you wonder how many more significant but little things will surface in the future that unlocks so much of our past.


PS - American history is a bit of a hobby of mine.

Nico Roos

I just stumbled upon this, this is truly amazing, I myself wonder how many other discoveries will be made in the future...


interesting, wonder if there are any other secret messages in anyone else's belongings.


Beautiful watch, what a joy it must have been to work inside that one.


Lincoln truly was the most magnificent man who ever lived, he was "to the manor born", I am in such awe of this man, all of his person, historical and everything about him, just overwhelms me. And I also believe that he was assassinated because he was such a great man, and that evil truly was the cause of his death, as he could have been so much more if he had remained alive. He is one of the greatest tragedies ever, I believe that, and I deplore the fact that we lost him, he was indeed such a treasure, but he lives on today in so many ways, I pray this country he loved so much and did so much for and died for shall not perish from this earth. His memory shall keep us alive. Bless him and what he did for us, so many things, so much wisdom, he was the most awesome and greatest man who will ever live, surely one whom God gave to us, and hopefully we will continue to treasure and honor him always.

Watch Winder

Extremely interesting. This is one of those finds that can make everyone think of how close everyone is connected. To think that a time piece has connections to both the Confederate President and Union President.

Laurie Stiles Daynes

I am Laurie Stiles Daynes, a great-great-granddaughter of Jonathan Dillon's and a first cousin of Doug Stiles. Our family has been inspired all of these years with the story of Jonathan and of his repairing Abraham Lincoln's watch and leaving a special note of support within it. I am so grateful to Doug and the Smithsonian Museum of American History for bringing to light this special and moving moment in our great country's history and in our family as well. I was given a bracelet made by "Grandpa Dillon" from my father (his great-grandson) many years ago which has always made me feel connected to Jonathan and my great-grandmother (his daughter) Isabella. All of his children's names are inscribed upon it. Interestingly, my son is completing his Eagle Scout project which involves raising funds for the flag pole, the Civil War period flag and landscaping inside a historical veterans' cemetery where over 50 Civil War Cavalry and Infantry Soldiers, discovered in Tucson while building a courthouse there, will be buried next month. How wonderful for him to be helping provide a beautiful, and final resting place for these noble veterans who were living at the same time his 3rd great-grandfather's message in their President's pocket watch was being inscribed and has now been revealed and shared. This teaches us that special family stories which have been passed down through the generations, should continue on to inspire and teach us of those who came before us...


This is really cool.

David Upton

I posted this on the Smithsonian blogs, from my research....

L. E. Gross is very probably Louis Edward Gross, age 22 or 23 when he inscribed his name and “Jeff Davis” in Lincoln’s watch. He worked for Joseph M. Walter a jeweler in 1860, listed at 58 N. Howard St., Baltimore, Maryland in 1857 and later at 85 N. Eutaw St. in 1879. L. E. Gross died around 1870. He may have had several brothers in the Confederate military service. Mr. Dillon is listed on the 1870 New York census and may have moved by 1864 from the Washington area.

Dana Allen-Greil

Over 100 years (!) after its interview with Mr. Dillon, the New York Times printed a correction to their 1906 article last week stating that it "misstated part of the inscription, using information from Mr. Dillon (who the article noted had, at 84, “a remarkable memory.”)" Check it out: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/pageoneplus/corrections.html?ref=todayspaper

Japanese words

Seriously, how cool is that. It's like a real life national treasure discovery. Very nicely written as well.

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