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    Edwin M. Stanton's Coin Silver Hunting Case Pocket Watch. Key wound and set, lids with machine-turned lathework, inscribed on inner back cover "E.M. Stanton - 1861 - Lewis H. Stanton". Face marked "American Watch Co.", inner works marked "Appleton Tracy Co., Waltham, Mass., Stratton's Patent No. 140,034"; four hallmarks and "2510" inside lid. The evident giver of this watch was Stanton's son Lewis, and conceivably it was presented to memorialize his father's appointment to Lincoln's cabinet. After Stanton's death the watch passed back to Lewis. A particularly fine personal possession from Lincoln's bulldog secretary of war, one that he must have carried nearly every day from the beginning to the end of the rebellion. If so, it is impossible not to imagine him somberly consulting it as he sat by the bedside of his dying commander-in-chief. The Rev. Phineas D. Gurley, who was also present, recalled that when the president was pronounced dead there fell a silence so profound that "the watches in all the men's pockets" seemed to him to be "ticking loudly". As Gurley then delivered a prayer, Stanton -- who had once snubbed Lincoln as co-counsel in a lawsuit, but come to cherish him while president -- sobbed into the bedclothes, finally raising his head, with "tears streaming down his cheeks", to deliver an immortal tribute: "Now he belongs to the ages." Accompanied by a notarized affidavit signed by Edwin M. Stanton (a great, great grand-nephew of the secretary), 25 April 1978, thoroughly describing the watch and its ownership down to himself.

    Upon examination of the watch an anomaly appeared, which must be dealt with. The works of the watch are dated 1864, which would seem to conflict with the engraved 1861 date on the case. However, consultation with Heritage timepiece specialist James Wolf quickly cleared this up. This watch is a fairly scarce model introduced by Waltham in 1860, and only Waltham works would fit this case, which definitely dates to the 1860-61 period.

    However, in 1864 Waltham engineers made a significant improvement to the works of this model. Had the watch been broken in 1864 or shortly thereafter, the original works might well have been replaced, rather than repaired, with the updated version. Indeed it is also possible that Stanton may even have chosen to have the works replaced, as the new model was considerably more accurate than the 1860 version.

    Based on forensic examination and the impeccable family provenance, it seems all but certain that one of these hypotheses would apply.

    This watch is one of the truly iconic relics of the assassination night, as many prints and engravings of the death scene depict Stanton consulting it as he noted the time of Lincoln's death and made his immortal pronouncement.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2008
    20th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,723

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