Old people often tell hilariously exaggerated stories of their youthful adventures. My grandfather, for example, insists he served in something called “the Army” during World War II and spent time on a boat big enough to land planes on! Can you imagine?!!!
Anyway, it appears that one old guy at least was telling the truth when he told the New York Times in 1906 that he’d carved a pro-Union message on the inside of Abraham Lincoln’s pocketwatch. A scant 103 years later, the Times was able to confirm the man’s tale:
In the article Mr. Dillon, then 84, recounted that he was working at M. W. Galt & Company, a watch shop on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, in April 1861 when the shop’s owner, Mr. Galt, hurried upstairs to tell him, “War has begun; the first shot has been fired.”
“At that moment I had in my hand Abraham Lincoln’s watch, which I had been repairing,” Dillon told The Times, adding that he later learned it was the first watch that Lincoln ever owned.
So Dillon carved the below message in between the tiny gears of the watch and returned it to the president, who never found out about its existence:
“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 inscription was uncovered this week at the Smithsonian museum after Douglas Stiles, a great-great-grandson of Dillon’s, told the museum of the 1906 Times article and his own family’s legend about the inscription.
In an intriguing twist, it appears Lincoln himself had carved a message into the same watch:
OMG ur amrican cuzzin f-ing rulez… ROTFL LOL!!!11! OWCHH!!!
Smithsonian scholars have yet been unable to deduce the meaning of Lincoln’s message, if any.
Timeless Lincoln Memento Is Revealed [NY Times]