Lincoln’s Cane

January 21, 2016Hollis BoweArtifact

When you think of national parks, you probably think of scenic landscapes, historic structures, battlefields, and monuments. With more than 400 national parks under its purview, it’s no wonder America’s most iconic landmarks come to mind first when thinking about the National Park System.

But did you know the National Park Service also manages a vast collection of historic artifacts that greatly outnumbers its park units?

It’s true!  Each park unit collects objects specific to its mission, with collections ranging in size from fewer than 100 to over 6 million items. 

Like the national parks, these artifacts tell the story of America, its people, cultures, and events that shaped our history. Imagine what you can find and learn when you search the National Park Service’s online database of its museum collections!

There are over 5,000 records uploaded to the database and search options allow you to sort by park unit, theme, people, and more. It’s safe to bet you can lose an afternoon in the database as you uncover new morsels of our collective history.

One artifact (FRDO 1898) featured in the database is President Abraham Lincoln’s favorite walking cane.

When you look closely, you’ll notice the cane is part of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site museum collection. How did a cane once owned by the President end up with Frederick Douglass, gifted orator and prominent abolitionist?

Full length picture of Lincoln's cane

Close up of walking cane handle

The artifact’s provenance reveals the story:

“Mr. Douglass at his residence in Rochester, New York wrote a thank you letter to Mrs. Abraham Lincoln on August 17, 1865. In the letter he thanked Mrs. Lincoln for giving him the late president Abraham Lincoln's favorite walking stick.”

While the relationship between Lincoln and Douglass is well known, this cane provides a more personal perspective on the warmth and respect between these two individuals who shared a vision of freedom. It is a deeply moving show of thanks by Mrs. Lincoln to Mr. Douglass for his support of her husband as he led the nation through the Civil War.

Discover for yourself what artifacts and objects are in the National Park Service’s museum collections! Remember: every one, every place, and every thing has a story. So get out there and find them, and share what you learn with us with the hashtag #FindYourPark and #EncuentraTuParque.

Photos courtesy of the National Park Service (NPS) museum collections. 

Comments

In the mid 1960's I was a young lad attending Franklin Elementary school in Redlands California. Our school crossing guard, who was elderly then brought to my 'show and tell' two boxed canes he said were handed down in his family. Both were said too be Lincolns walking canes. I wonder whatever happened to these?
Eric
Bimingham

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