It is said that Presiden't Lincoln's watch was being repaired around the time that Fort Sumter was first attacked. The jeweler repairing the watch, unknown to President Lincoln, engraved a secret message on the inside of the watch. It said:
“Jonathan Dillon April 13-1861 Fort Sumpter [sic] was attacked by the rebels on the above date J Dillon April 13-1861 Washington thank God we have a government Jonth Dillon.”
According to the jeweler's family legend, the inscription was supposed to have been:
“The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a President who at least will try.”
Interesting how the message changed with each retelling, sort of like the old game of telephone where you whisper a message to one person and they pass it on to the next and by the time you get to the end of the line, the message has totally changed.
With the celebration of Lincoln's 200th birthday, one of Mr. Dillon's family related this family lore to the Smithsonian, probably via toll free telephone :), and the museum agreed to open the watch to see if the lore was true.
I love how one of the family put it: “Hey, that’s Lincoln’s watch and my ancestor put graffiti on it.”
Check out the full article on The Secret Message Found in Lincoln's Watch.