Top Hat Belonging to Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln's Top Hat Worn to Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865

Abraham Lincoln's Top Hat Worn to Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865

Abraham Lincoln’s top hat is on display at the Smithsonian Institution Museum of American History. The following information is from the museum’s signs accompanying the display.

Lincoln’s Top Hat

Transfer from the War Department with permission from Mary Lincoln, 1867

At six feet four inches tall, Lincoln towered over most of his contemporaries. He chose to stand out even more by wearing high top hats. He acquired this hat from J. Y. Davis, a Washington hat maker. Lincoln had the black silk mourning band added in remembrance of his son Willie. The last time he wore this top hat was to go to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.

The Hat at the Smithsonian

After Lincoln’s assassination, the War Department preserved his hat and other material left at Ford’s Theatre. With permission from Mary Lincoln, the department gave the hat to the Patent Office, which, in 1867, transferred it to the Smithsonian Institution. Joseph Henry, the Secretary of the Smithsonian, ordered his staff not to exhibit the hat “under any circumstance, and not to mention the matter to any one, on account of there being so much excitement at the time.” It was immediately placed in a basement storage room.

The American public did not see the hat again until 1893, when the Smithsonian lent it to an exhibition hosted by the Lincoln Memorial Association. Today it is one of the Institution’s most treasured objects.

This top hat belonging to Abraham Lincoln is located in the Smithsonian Institution Museum of American History. Click Museum of American History to see the StationStart.com entry about the museum and its location. Exhibits in the various Smithsonian Institution Museums do change from time to time, so that any specific item may not be on display at all times.

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Closest Metro Station: The Federal Triangle Metro Station on the Blue and Orange Lines is nearest to the Constitution Avenue NW entrance to the Smithsonian Institution Museum of American History.

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