Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. Dates: 1809-1865; Term: 1861-1865; Party: Republican; Collected: Technology and arms. [Photo courtesy of Shutterstock].

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The White House had grown shabby by the time the Lincolns arrived and the First Lady undertook a project of improvements almost at once. However this quickly ran over budget by nearly 30%.

“It would stink in the land to have it said that an appropriation for $20,000 for furnishing … had been overrun by the president when the poor freezing soldiers could not have blankets,” Lincoln said, in an effort to curb his wife’s continuing efforts to purchase “flub dubs for that damned old house”.

Lincoln, who oversaw the Union during the Civil War, was far more interested in new military machinery. His term in office saw the largest ever build-up of military technology in the world, as well as doubling the overall number of patents issued between 1861 and 1865.

While a member of Congress, Lincoln had filed for a patent of his own, for a model to lift boats over shoals. Though a full-size version of the model was never created, Lincoln remains the only president to ever file a patent. The model remains on display along with a gold-mounted repeating Henry rifle – faster if heavier than single shot muskets – presented to Lincoln by a New Hampshire gunsmith. 

Thanks to the president’s open-door policy, he was frequently presented with weapons for his inspection (a clerk complained that the accumulating piles of weapons made the White House resemble a gunshop) and Lincoln was known to test-fire rifles on the lawn of the presidential mansion.