Abraham Lincoln's Top Hat

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. No one knows when he obtained the hat, or how often he wore it. The last time he put it on was to go to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.
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.
Transfer from the War Department with permission from Mary Lincoln, 1867
Object Name
top hat
Object Type
date made
mid 19th century
Lincoln, Abraham
Davis, J. Y.
Physical Description
silk (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 10 3/8 in x 12 in; 17.78 cm x 26.35504 cm x 30.48 cm
place made
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
worn at
United States: District of Columbia, Ford's Theater
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Clothing & Accessories
Government, Politics, and Reform
National Treasures exhibit
Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
See more items in
Political History: Political History, Presidential History Collection
National Treasures exhibit
Changing America
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Related Publication
Kendrick, Kathleen M. and Peter C. Liebhold. Smithsonian Treasures of American History
Rubenstein, Harry R.. Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life
Publication title
Treasures of American History online exhibition
Publication author
National Museum of American History
Publication URL

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