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Lincoln’s pockets

Donated to the Library of Congress in 1937 and labeled “Do Not Open,” the box sat in the office of the Librarian of Congress for almost 40 years. Finally, in 1975, Librarian Daniel Boorstein untied the string and pulled off the brown wrapping paper.

abes pocketInside?

Twelve items – including several pairs of glasses, newspaper clippings, a pocketknife and a handkerchief.

On April 15, 1865, the day Abraham Lincoln died, someone went through his pockets and placed the contents into a box and tied it with string. The box found its way Robert Lincoln and eventually to Robert’s daughter, Mary Lincoln Isham. She never opened the box and in 1937, dropped it off at the Library of Congress. This was the box Boorstein opened.

Yeah . . . so?

So . . . the contents of Lincoln’s pockets gives us a engaging tool for teaching kids about the historical process. Use a great lesson plan like this one from the Library of Congress to hook kids into asking questions and solving problems. Watch a short video of an archivist describing the contents or simply lead your kids in a discussion of how what we carry help define who we are.

Whichever activity you use, lessons like this give kids a chance to actually mess with the stuff of history, not just the facts.

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