August 22, 2000 Visitor Favorites Featured in "American Treasures" Exhibition This Summer

Contents of Lincoln's Pockets Is Top Choice

Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

The first major continuing exhibition in the history of the Library of Congress, "American Treasures of the Library of Congress," has been visited by nearly 800,000 people since it opened three years ago. Funded by a generous grant of $1.1 million from the Xerox Foundation, the exhibition has provided a showcase for almost 1,000 different objects from the Library's vast and wide-ranging collections and has involved some 1,400 changes.

This summer, drawing on the comments that visitors have made since the exhibition opened, many of the most popular items that were previously on display have been reinstalled and will remain on view through Oct. 7.

The top choice among visitors is the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets the night he was assassinated, April 14, 1865; the president was carrying two pairs of eyeglasses and a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a linen handkerchief, a watch fob and a brown leather wallet that contained a five-dollar Confederate note. He also had nine newspaper clippings in his wallet that night, but they are too fragile to include in the exhibition. Given to Lincoln's son Robert Todd Lincoln upon his death, the items were kept by the Lincoln family for more than 70 years. They were given to the Library in 1937 as part of the generous bequest of Lincoln's granddaughter, Mary Lincoln Isham.

Other popular items that are on view again this summer include (with visitor comments):

  • The Bay Psalm Book, the earliest extant book printed in what is now the United States ("I was awed by the first book of psalms printed in America.")
  • Lincoln's copy of the media coverage of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, with emendations ("Treasures are not just precious metals & gems.")
  • Theodore Roosevelt's pictograph letter to his children from his pocket diary ("Really, I can't find the right words...much of this nearly moved me to tears.")
  • John Beckley's copy of the Bill of Rights in the Top Treasures case ("I love the rough drafts showing sharpening and clarification of thought as well as evolution toward rhythm and poetry.")
  • Rotogravures picturing the unfolding events of World War I ("I'm a graduate student of American Studies at Doshnisha University, Japan. I've studied American historical development through books and lectures. But this exhibition is the best textbook for me.")
  • Orville Wright's diary recording the first flight
  • Appalachian Spring music manuscript and rehearsal photographs; West Side Story music manuscript; John Phillip Sousa's Stars & Stripes Forever; Fred Astaire in a film clip from "Top Hat" ("An excellent tribute to the people and the creative genius of this country.")
  • Drawings for early "Peanuts" cartoons by Charles Schulz
  • Pierre L'Enfant's plan for Washington, D.C. ("This is like nothing I have ever seen before...It's indeed history come alive.")

A free audio tour, featuring selections from the audio-visual holdings of the Library, enriches and expands the visitor's experience of the exhibition. The "American Treasures" exhibition will close for a month on Oct. 8 so that the exhibition can be refurbished; it will reopen Nov. 7 with a special installation in three cases featuring items related to presidential inaugurations. Among the items on display will be inaugural addresses by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant in their own hands; inaugural photographs, invitations and programs; and inaugural ball booklets and dance cards.


PR 00-102
ISSN 0731-3527