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Mar 11, 2009

Al Capone's Vault and Abe Lincoln's Watch

I am from Chicago. That means I grew up with tv that consisted of such greats like Jerry Springer and Geraldo Rivera (both of whom happen to be Jewish) with all their theatrics such as full blown brawls (including chair throwing on Springer, and I remember once Geraldo got his nose broken on tv) on the set.

I remember Geraldo had this big scoop on Al Capone. They located his safe underground. Rivera was going to open the safe, on live tv, and expose what Capone had hidden. He expected it to contain all the evidence the cops and feds had always been looking for proving the various crimes Capone had been involved in. Either that or bodies or hidden money and gold.

It turned out, after an excruciatingly long program, they eventually got to the safe and opened it. The end is famous, as the safe held nothing but debris and some old cans.

In what could have been a similar fiasco, but on a much smaller scale, the curators of the Smithsonian opened and inspected Abe Lincoln's pocketwatch.

Legend had it that there was an inscription inside the watch, but it had never been opened and nobody had ever seen it except for the watchmaker who spoke about it.
So they opened it up and inspected it, on video but only being watched by meuseum workers.

Some excerpts:

"The moment of truth has come. Is there or is there not an inscription?" Thomas said, teasing the audience, which gasped when he confirmed it was there. He called Stiles up to read his ancestor's words, drawing smiles and a few sighs of relief.

"Like Pearl Harbor or 9/11, this was the reaction he had (to the Civil War,)" Stiles said of the inscription.

Later, Stiles said he felt closer to the 16th president.

"My gosh, that was Lincoln's watch," he said, "and my ancestor put graffiti on it!"

"Jonathan Dillon April 13 - 1861," part of the inscription reads, "Fort Sumpter (sic) was attacked by the rebels on the above date." Another part reads, "Thank God we have a government."

Dillon had a fuzzy recollection of what he had engraved. He told the newspaper he had written: "The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a president who at least will try."

Fascinating.

1 comment:

  1. I saw that story about Lincoln's watch. It is very cool.

    ReplyDelete

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