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The Artifact Collection holds more than 2,000 objects that represent several centuries of American history. Highlights include the pen Abraham Lincoln used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation; a windowsill from a Harvard detention house, signed by students confined for bad behavior in the early 19th century; the swords of William Prescott and John Linzee who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill; George Washington’s epaulettes; and a silver urn made by Paul Revere in the neoclassical style he adopted toward the end of the American Revolution. A late-17th-century chest of drawers later became known as the “the Witch Bureau” when an 1861 description recorded that “from the middle drawer…one of the Witches jumped out who was hung on Gallows Hill, in Salem.” The full range of artifacts at the Society encompasses examples of armor, canes, china, clocks and pocket watches, firearms, furniture, jewelry, powder horns, political ephemera, silver, and textiles.
The MHS numismatic collection consists of approximately 7,000 medals and tokens, 30 coins, 400 buttons and ribbons, and 3,000 examples of paper money. The strengths of the collection are early colonial Massachusetts coinage, paper money circulating in Massachusetts in the colonial period, paper money and fiscal paper issued by the Continental Congress, obsolete bank notes and scrip issued in Massachusetts, and medals and tokens related to Massachusetts and to the Society's manuscript collections. Most of the coins and medals in the collection are described in Malcolm Storer's Numismatics of Massachusetts (Boston, 1923), published as volume 76 of the MHS Collections.
With the exception of Revolutionary-era artifacts that are cataloged in ABIGAIL, information about the artifact collection is available only at the MHS. Contact the Curator of Art for more information.
View artifacts online, experience the collections in person, or visit the online Gallery to view highlights of the collection. Artifacts not on display are available by appointment only. Contact the Curator of Art for more information.