PRESS RELEASE: Benjamin Franklin’s Suit Joins Smithsonian Collections

August 30, 2012

Barry Cauchon.

As many of you know, I have been privileged to work in the museum exhibit industry since 1996 as well as work independently with museums when doing my own research. These endeavors have given me a steady diet of what I love best; that of being involved with members of these institutions who are dedicated to sharing their unique stories and collections with the public. And although I have a fondness for working with small regional museums, the larger and more established institutions are where I spend most of my time. Earlier this year, the wonderful folks at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History allowed me and a few other research colleagues to go behind the scenes to view the hoods worn by some of the Lincoln Conspirator during their early incarceration aboard the Union Navy monitors USS Saugus and USS Montauk. The generosity of the Smithsonian management and their staff cannot be properly acknowledged here, but I do thank them all very much and will continue to each and every time I am invited behind the scenes to see, or talk, to experts.

So in turn, when an opportunity arises, I wish to do the same for you and share some of the cool information that I am privy to. For instance, on occasion, I receive Press Releases from the Smithsonian and other institutions which I think would really interest my readers.

Today, I received one from the Smithsonian announcing that they have now added  to their collection, a suit worn by Ben Franklin in 1778. To me, that is just such a cool thing. As I hear more from the Smithsonian or other museums, I’ll post them here.

Enjoy the article and as always, please support your local museums.




Press Release

August 29, 2012

Benjamin Franklin’s Suit Joins Smithsonian Collections

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is adding Benjamin Franklin’s three-piece silk suit, worn on his diplomatic trip to France in 1778 that resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Alliance, to its permanent collection. The suit had been on loan to the museum for conservation and research purposes from the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.

The Society agreed to allow the museum to purchase the suit in order to ensure its long-term care as a national treasure. The purchase was made possible through the donation of Marilyn L. Brown and Douglas N. Morton and matching funds from the Charles Bremner Hogg Jackson Fund.

The suit, including a coat, waistcoat and breeches, is more than 230 years old and although it is structurally sound, the fabric’s dye is extremely fragile. The dye, originally a plum color, is turning into more of a light brown and conservators can see that it is puckering and flaking in places. The museum is developing a conservation plan based on research on these areas to determine how best to continue to preserve the suit.

A document accompanies the suit, written by Elkanah Watson, the man who donated it to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1803. This letter, half printed and half written in Watson’s own hand, describes the night he acquired the suit. The letter relates a story that in 1781, Watson commissioned a Mrs. Wright, a sculptor and somewhat eccentric character, to create a wax likeness of Franklin. When Watson and Wright dined with the diplomat in Paris, Wright suggested that the likeness needed a suit, to which Franklin responded by ringing for his servant and directing him to bring the one he had worn in 1778.

“There is no doubt this is a very important, iconic piece of clothing,” said Nancy Davis, a museum curator in the Division of Home and Community Life. “During a time of opulence at the French court, Franklin’s choice of clothing represented how he wanted to present America to the French: portraying honesty, directness and simple elegance. And this symbolizes the way Americans continue to represent themselves.”

The Treaty of Alliance, signed Feb. 6, 1778, was a defensive alliance between the United States and France against Great Britain during the American Revolutionary war. Franklin, along with several other diplomats, negotiated this relationship in a way that it would be influential in the war against the British. The French provided the newly formed United States with supplies, arms, ammunition, uniforms and navy and troop support.

In a collection of Watson’s memoirs, Franklin is described as having the full respect of the French people and of being “treated with an esteem similar to the French nobility.” He was recognized and revered across France, and Watson held him in high regard as well.

The Franklin suit has been on limited display in the museum due to its fragility. It was first shown in an exhibition called “Growth of the U.S.” that closed in 1974. It did not go on view again until the tricentennial of Franklin’s birth in 2006. And its most recent display was as part of the opening of “American Stories” in April 2012. There are no immediate plans for future display.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To learn more about the museum, visit For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.




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September 15, 2008: Barry Cauchon

Hi all: With so many fantastic exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the world, it’s sometimes hard to keep on top of what is going on out there. The article below covers an event that occurred late last year. It did not happen in a museum or a gallery but rather in a tomb. If you missed this one now’s a good time to catch up.


King Tut's mummy on public display in the Valley of the Kings.

King Tut's mummy on public display at the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

In the 85 years since the tomb of King Tut was discovered, the body has never gone on public display. Although all the treasures from the tomb have been removed, the mummy itself has been kept in it’s original sarcophagus in the burial chamber. In late 2007, the boy king was finally brought out of hiding and put on public display for all to see.


On November 4, 1922, Howard Carter and his team were excavating the tomb of Ramses VI in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, Egypt. The plan was to excavate the ground beneath some ancient huts, found near the base of the tomb. While digging the ground beneath these huts they came upon the first of twelve steps that would eventually lead into the undiscovered tomb of King Tut.

Unlike most of other tombs in the Valley, which had been robbed of all their treasures, the tomb of Tutankhamun was almost completely intact. Evidence showed that it had only been broken into twice in it’s 3300 year existence. Very little had been removed (although definitely some treasures were taken). However, the golden treasures within the burial chamber, such as the Golden Mask and other jewelry which covered the body, could not be reached by tomb raiders due to the construction of the burial tomb itself. Carter was ecstatic when he reached the walls of the chamber and discovered that the seals had not been broken meaning the mummy and it’s contents were still 100% inside. This proved to be true.


Carter and his financial backers had far more interest in the golden treasure rather than the mummy itself. When they first started examining the contents of the sarcophagus, they noted that the entire mummy was encased in a hardened resin which had been poured over the body during embalming. To remove the jewelry and other treasures buried with the body, they had to dismember it. The mummy was cut in half at the pelvis and then separated into 18 pieces.

If this initial damage was not bad enough, years of tourists entering the tomb created high levels of trapped humidity and heat. This created an ideal environment for mummy-damaging bacteria and mold to grow.

1968 & 1978 X-RAYS

The mummy has been X-rayed twice. Once in 1968 and again in 1978. Other than these two events, the mummy had remained undisturbed until 2005. It is estimated that only about 60 people have viewed the body since the time of it’s discovery.

2005 – CT SCAN

Move ahead in time to 2005. As part of an initiative to bring King Tut back into the public eye, and to prepare for the upcoming US tour of the Tutankhamun exhibit, the Egyptian government and National Geographic planned to take a CT scan of the mummy to determine if the king had been murdered or not. The scanner was brought to the tomb and the body scanned. During the operation, the Egyptian specialists noticed that Tutankhamun’s mummy had decayed far faster than anyone had expected. At the rate it was deteriorating, they believed it would be completely consumed within the next 50 years.

The Egyptian government not only wanted to save the mummy from further damage but also wished to find a better way to bring in the critical tourist dollars. So they decided to put the mummy on public display, within an environmentally controlled showcase, inside the tomb.


On November 4, 2007, exactly 85 years to the day that Carter’s men found the first step, a team of Egyptian specialists from several institutions removed the body of Tutankhamun from his sarcophagus and carefully transferred him to his new home in an adjacent antechamber.

The mummy was placed inside a high-tech display glass case made by Glasbau Hahn of Frankfurt, Germany. I had the pleasure of working for Glasbau Hahn for twelve months in 2005-6 and they are one of the leaders in museum showcase fabrication in the world. This showcase is airtight, with humidity and temperature control. It is also filled with a nitrogen-rich mixture that is lethal to bacteria and mold. These features will protect the mummy from further decay and allow the public to get it’s first look at the boy king since his discovery so many years ago.

If you get over to Egypt and get a chance to visit the tomb of King Tut, please let us know what you thought.



Published in: on Monday, September 15, 2008 at '12:55 pm'  Comments (22)  
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UPDATED: July 29, 2013: Hi all: Thanks to some great comments and observations from my readers, I’ve made a couple of changes to the article.

TO MY READERS: If you know the location of any artifacts related to the assassination, conspirators and trial, execution, etc. that are not on this list, then please let me know and I will be happy to include your submittal, once confirmed.

Best. Barry

NOTE: The new listings are preceded by the designations (NEW-KSHS) Original Posting: August 3, 2008 – Barry Cauchon

Here is a list of locations where Lincoln Assassination / Aftermath Artifacts can be found in public institutions. Many more remain in private collections which are not listed here. If you know of any items that I’ve missed, please let me know and I’ll gladly add them to the list.

1. Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana

  • Carriage that the Lincoln’s took to Ford’s Theatre on the night of the assassination

2. National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, DC

The bullet, the probe and skull fragments from Lincoln's autopsy

The bullet, the probe and skull fragments from Lincoln’s autopsy

  • The ball (bullet) that killed President Lincoln recovered during the autopsy.
  • Skull fragments from Lincoln recovered during the autopsy.
  • The probe used by Dr. Barnes to remove the ball and skull fragments from Lincoln’s injury during the autopsy.
Path of bullet through John Wilkes Booth upper vertibrae

Path of bullet through John Wilkes Booth upper vertibrae

  • John Wilkes Booth’s 3rd, 4th and 5th Cervical (Neck) Vertebrae (showing the path of the bullet that killed him)
  • (NEW RN) – Blood stained cuffs from the lab coat worn by Dr. Edward Curtis (assistant surgeon who, along with Dr. Woodward, performed the autopsy on President Lincoln).

3. Smithsonian Institute – National Museum of American History

Although not assassination artifacts, here are a pair of cast hands and two plaster Life Masks made from 1st generation molds taken from Lincoln during his life. The original molds were made by two different artists, Leonard Volk and Clark Mills.

Cast hands by Leonard Volk

  • A pair of cast hands and the first Life Mask made in 1860 by Leonard Volk just prior to Lincoln’s nomination for president at the Republican convention.

  • The second was made by Clark Mills on February 11, 1865 just two months prior to Lincoln’s assassination.
Lincoln's Top Hat worn to Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865

Lincoln’s Top Hat worn to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865

  • Lincoln’s Top Hat that he wore to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.
Drum and drumsticks used at Lincoln's funeral

Drum and drumsticks used at Lincoln’s funeral

  • Drum and drumsticks used during the funeral parades for President Lincoln in late April, 1865

Canvas hood worn by male conspirators during captivity for the Lincoln assassination

  • Canvas hood used to cover the head of one of the seven male conspirators during captivity. On April 25, 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered that the heads of all the conspirator prisoners be convered with a canvas hood. Only an opening in the area of the mouth and nose allowed breathing and eating. The hoods were worn 24 hours a day until June 6, 1865 when Major General John Hartranft, Special Provost Marshal in charge of the prisoners and execution had them removed. He felt that the prisoners were suffering too much because of the hoods. Mary Surratt was not required to wear the hood for fear that public indignation would be strong.

4. Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Contents of Lincoln's pockets at time of his assassination

Contents of Lincoln’s pockets at time of his assassination (with the exception of the newspaper which was published after the assassination).

  • The contents of Lincoln’s pockets from the night of the assassination. Some of these items include: nine newspaper clippings, a pair of spectacles and a pair of reading glasses and their cases, a lens polisher, a watch fob, a pocket knife, a brown leather wallet containing a Confederate $5.00 note and a linen hankerchief.

  • The playbill from the April 14, 1865 performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre

5. Chicago History Museum

Lincoln's Deathbed from the Peterson Home

  • Lincoln’s deathbed originally from the Peterson House located across the street from Ford’s Theatre. Lincoln was so tall, he had to be laid diagnally across this bed to fit
  • Other furniture from the Peterson house includes a rocking chair, bureau, candlestick, engraving, and gas jet
  • Mary Todd Lincoln’s blood-stained cape that she wore on April 14, 1865
  • Padded hood used by one of the male conpirators while in captivity after the assassination

6. Ford’s Theatre, Washington, DC or

Ford's Theatre circa 1860s

Ford’s Theatre circa 1860s

Derringer used to assassinate President Lincoln

  • John Wilkes Booth’s derringer used to shoot President Lincoln
Booth's knife and sheath

Booth’s knife and sheath

  • Booth’s knife and sheath used to stab Major Rathbone on the night of the assassination
John Wilkes Booth's boot

John Wilkes Booth’s boot

  • Booth’s boot and spur
  • Inner door where Booth had carved a small peep hole to see the President prior to assassinating him.
  • Wooden stick used by Booth to wedge the outer door shut to the Presidential Box.
  • The dress coat that Lincoln wore to the theatre that night.
Chair from Presidential Box at Ford's Theatre April 14, 1865

Chair from Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre April 14, 1865

Dr. Samuel Mudd's medical kit

Dr. Samuel Mudd’s medical kit

  • Dr. Mudd’s medical kit
Booth's compass found on him after his death

Booth’s compass found on him after his death

Booth's Diary written during his 12 days on the run after the assassination

Booth’s Diary written during his 12 days on the run after the assassination

  • John Wilkes Booth Compass and Diary

Wanted Poster

  • Wanted Poster
  •  US Treaury Guards Flag from Presidential Box which Booth’s spur caught on when he jumped to the stage.
U.S Treasury Flag which Booth caught his spur on when jumping from the Presidential box

U.S Treasury Flag on which Booth caught his spur when he jumped from the Presidential box

  • Original Framed portrait of George Washington from the Presidential Box

7. Peterson Home, Washington, DC.  (Note: This is a National Parks Service site across the street from Ford’s Theatre. The Peterson Home does not have it’s own website but here is the NPS site)

Peterson House across the street from Ford\'s Theatre, Washington DC

  • The house itself is a protected landmark by the National Park Service. It is the place where Lincoln was taken after being shot at Ford’s Theatre (just across the street). Lincoln died at 7:22am on April 15 in the first floor bedroom

10. Kansas State Historical Society &

 The following two artifacts are currently on display at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, KS in an exhibit called Lincoln in Kansas. The show is currently on and runs until July 26, 2009. These two artifacts are normally not on display and have been brought out for this specific exhibition.

Blood-stained playbill from night of the assassination

Blood-stained playbill from night of the assassination. Courtesy of Kansas State Historical Society.

  • Blood splattered playbill fragment picked up by patron at Ford’s Theatre on the night of the assassination.
Gallows section from Lincoln Conspirators

Gallows crossbeam from the Lincoln Conspirators executions. Courtesy of Kansas State Historical Society

  • Section of the gallows crossbeam used to hang the four condemned Lincoln conspirators (Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold and George Atzerodt).
 11. Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan
Rocking Chair (prior to restoration) used by Lincoln on night of the assassination

Rocking Chair (prior to restoration) used by Lincoln on night of the assassination

 12. Historical Society of Quincy and Adams Counties, Illinois

Note: These items are not on public display (see video news story link below)

  • Padded hood worn by one of the male Lincoln conspirators during their 2 months in captivity

  • Manicles worn by Lincoln conspirators

  • Keys to the conspirators’ jail cells

13. Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

  • (NEW-RN) Tissue from John Wilkes Booth cervical vertebrae (originally labeled as part of his thorax)


14. Lincoln Room Museum in the Wills House, Gettysburg, PA.

  • (NEW-RN) Hair sample from Abraham Lincoln’s autopsy.

15. Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana

  • (NEW-RN) Hair sample from Abraham Lincoln’s autopsy (Note: This item was part of the Lincoln collection obtained from the Lincoln Museum, Ft. Wayne, IN which closed in June/08).

16. Weldon Petz Abraham Lincoln Collection, Plymouth Historical Society & Museum, Plymouth, Michigan

  • (NEW-RN & Dan Parker Plymouth Historical Museum) – Hair sample donated by Surgeon General Barnes family. Hair was culled from Abraham Lincoln’s during the initial exploration of the president’s wound after being shot.

  • Additional assassination artifacts (tbd) 

17. Huntington Library, San Marino, California

  • (NEW-BH) – Lewis Powell’s knife used in the attack on Secretary of State William Seward on April 14, 1865.





Here are three stories in the news from the Museum world. Enjoy.


July 30, 2008 – The National Museum of American History, which has been closed for a two year, $85 million renovation, confirmed that it will reopen its doors on November 21, 2008. Highlights in the rejuvenated museum will include a brand new gallery for the almost 200 year old Star-Spangled Banner and will display the White House copy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

To read the press release, go to:


July 30, 2008 – The Augusta Museum of History has announced a wonderful promotion called Dollar Dog Days of Summer. From August 1 – 31 admission to the museum will cost just $1.00. Since May, the museum has presented the popular exhibit “The Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown”. Recently they opened a second major exhibit entitled “From Ty to Cal: A Century of Baseball in Augusta.”

Dollar Dog Days
Augusta Museum of History
Tue.-Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday 1-5 p.m.
Ezekiel Harris House
Sat., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
By appointment Tue.-Fri.
$1 dollar admission, Aug. 1-31

To read the press release, go to:


Occasionally a story comes out that is both strange and funny at the same time. A small museum called the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in Decatur, Georgia is displaying the “Monkey from Mars”, which was part of a UFO hoax in 1953. According to the story, on July 8, 1953 three guys (two barbers and a butcher) took a monkey (dead I assume), shaved it’s hair and dyed the body green. Oh yes, they also cut off it’s tail. It was left on the side of a Georgia road with torch burn marks around the body.

A preserved monkey is shown on display in the lobby of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab Thursday July 24, 2008. in Decatur, Ga. The shaved monkey was part of a 1953 UFO hoax in rural Cobb County.  (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

A preserved monkey is shown on display in the lobby of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab Thursday July 24, 2008. in Decatur, Ga. The shaved monkey was part of a 1953 UFO hoax in rural Cobb County. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

According to article linked below,

“The barbers, Edward Watters and Tom Wilson, and the butcher, Arnold “Buddy” Payne, told the policeman they came upon a red, saucer-shaped object in the road that night. They said several 2-foot-tall creatures were scurrying about and the trio hit one with their pickup before the other creatures jumped back in the saucer and blasted skyward — leaving the highway scorched.”

The hoax was quickly discovered and poor Mr. Watters (as creative as he had been) was fined $40.00 for obstructing a highway.

In 1953, UFO hysteria was everywhere, so this allowed the hoax to be as believable as it was back then. Funny but true.




June 16, 2008 – Barry Cauchon – With the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday coming up next year, there are many good articles and books being written. I hear that there is even a new Steven Spielberg movie being made about the President.

When I come across some great information, I like to pass it on.

One article I’d like to point out to you was written in Newsweek Web by Karen Springen on May 15, 2008 called “Whole Lotta Lincoln”. It is a great summary of some of the events that are being planned around the country to celebrate Lincoln’s bicenterary. Follow this link to the article.

Happy reading.




If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln, you should read these interviews by two Lincoln experts:


“An Awesometalk With” Harold Holzer, Lincoln Scholar

(posted on November 10, 2008) 


  “An Awesometalk With” Dr. Thomas Schwartz, Illinois State Historian 

(posted on December 08, 2008) 



Published in: on Monday, June 16, 2008 at '6:23 pm'  Leave a Comment  
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May 31, 2008 – by Barry Cauchon 

Having been the original Senior Project Manager for the “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs”, the renowned King Tut touring exhibit, I’d like to do a follow up on where the exhibit presently is and headed next. The collection has been shown in Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadephia and is presently at the O2 in London, England until August 31, 2008. From there, it will travel back to the United States where it opens for a six month run at the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas. Showdates are from October 3, 2008 to May 17, 2009.

Due to the overwhelming popularity of this exhibit, the producers and their partners created a second Tut exhibit. This one is presently showing in Vienna, Austria at the Volkerkunde Museum Vienna under the name of “Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs” and runs until Sept. 28, 2008. The exhibit features 50 artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb as well as more than 70 artifacts representing other pharaohs and notables.

From Vienna, the exhibit will travel next to the Atlantic Civic Center in Atlanta, Georgia where it will be shown under the banner “Tutankhamun: The Golden King & The Great Pharaohs”. Showdates are from November 15, 2008 to May 22, 2009.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is slotted next on the tour from June 2009 to October 2009.

It’s going to be a busy year for King Tut!


Perot family member give $50 million to planned Dallas science museum

By MICHAEL GRANBERRY / The Dallas Morning News

Friday, May 30, 2008 Summary: The children of Ross Perot, Sr. and his wife Margot have donated $50 million in their honor to the building ofthe Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas, Texas. For the full story, go to:

More to come later.






Barry Cauchon is a professional speaker and Senior Project Manager working in the corporate, museum and touring exhibit industries since 1996. In 2004-2005, he was the Senior Project Manager for the touring exhibits “Diana: A Celebration” and “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs”; the renowned King Tut tour!

As a professional speaker, Barry brings his enthusiasm for history along with his own personal experiences from “behind the scenes”, to educational and professional organizations, sharing some of the ‘best practices’ from around the globe.

He is a champion of museum and corporate outreach programs and is presently developing, partly through this blog, a network of museums, schools, corporations, and other groups interested in sharing their expertise to the betterment of student education.

Barry takes this approach when speaking at high schools and colleges. His program “A Little Touch of History” is a lively, in-class presentation, where students are treated to a unique history lesson from a well known, major event and then allowed to interact with related artifacts. By allowing the students to physically ‘touch’ an actual piece of history, a personal attachment to the event is created. Barry writes:
“Thank you for joining me at AWESOMETALKS. As you can see, my career has blessed me with many amazing opportunities to ‘touch’ history and go behind the scenes where most people would never be allowed. It’s been fantastic and still continues to be. So this year I began thinking of ways to share this with others. Other than my own presentations to schools, I want to develop some teaching tools for educators that use some of the best practices from museum and corporate outreach programs around the world. I certainly don’t have all the answers so I encourage professionals and students alike to join me in building this blog and exchanging some really great ideas for our teachers to take into their classrooms. With your assistance, we can share ideas and experiences to benefit everyone.



Published in: on Thursday, May 22, 2008 at '9:56 pm'  Comments (2)  
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