The Washington Post

Pocket watch research may connect 1864 owner with Lincoln’s dying moments

A scan of Alexander H. Ritchie’s painting "The Death of Abraham Lincoln," produced in 1868. The scene is meant to depict the moment of President Abraham Lincoln’s death. (Alexander H. Ritchie/Yale University Press)

A Duxbury, Mass., man who purchased an engraved gold pocket watch on eBay says his research connects its original owner, Maj. Jonathan Ladd of Lowell, Mass., as among the men who witnessed President Lincoln’s slow, agonizing death at the Petersen boarding house across from Ford’s Theatre.

Those moments are depicted in the current Stephen Spielberg hit movie “Lincoln,” which closes with the death of the 16th president in a small bedroom crowded with men. According to an article by Lowell Sun reporter David Pevear, pocket watch collector Paul Mellen bought the watch this year. With it came documentation that it had been saved from the melting pot 40 years ago by a scrap dealer who also researched its history.

Mellen said Ladd was a well-connected paymaster assigned to the War Department’s Washington office and that his research indicates that a man by the name of Ladd was among those who were with or near Lincoln when he died.


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