Much has been written about our 16th President Abraham Lincoln. Here are some facts and theories you might not know.
Abraham Lincoln’s mother Nancy died from “milk sickness” in 1818. Abraham Lincoln was only nine years old when his mother died. “Milk sickness” was caused by the consumption of milk contaminated by the toxin Tremetol. This toxin is found in the White Snakeroot plant. Cows would often graze on the White Snakeroot plant passing the toxin to humans. “Milk sickness” killed thousands of settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries. In many cases over half the population of a community died.
Abraham Lincoln is the only American President to hold a patent. Abraham Lincoln had a fascination with machines and often took them apart to study. Patent number 6469 was issued on May 22, 1849. Lincoln’s invention was for “A Device for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals” according to his patent application. It proved impractical and was never used.
The Gettysburg Address was not Abraham Lincoln’s best speech. On May 29, 1856 Abraham Lincoln spoke in front of the Illinois Republican Convention in Bloomington, IL. Present were over 40 reporters and at least a thousand people. Those in attendance were so memorized no one took notes during his 90 minute speech and no exact account of this “Lost Speech” exists! Another theory is Abraham Lincoln’s speech was so inflammatory that despite its brilliance the newspapers refused to print it.
John Wilkes Booth’s older brother saved the life of Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert! In a strange coincidence, Edwin Booth around 1863 or 1864 in Jersey City, NJ saved Robert Lincoln’s life. A crowd of people were waiting for a sleeping car late at night when Robert was pressed against the train. When the train began to move he lost his footing and fell into the space between the train and the platform. Edwin Booth quickly pulled him to safety. Edwin Booth was considered the finest actor of his generation and was very well known. Historians doubt Robert Lincoln ever told his parents of this incident.
Abraham Lincoln’s death masks were made before he was killed. Abraham Lincoln sat for casts of his face in both 1860 while a member of the US Senate and again in 1865. The first cast was created by Leonard Volk in Chicago in April of 1860. A month later Volk traveled to Springfield,IL to cast Abraham Lincoln’s hands as well when Lincoln was nominated for President by the Republican Party. Volk noticed Abraham Lincoln’s right hand was swollen the result of much handshaking the night before. The second cast of Lincoln’s face was made by Clark Mills in Washington DC in February 1865, two months before Lincoln’s assassination.
Abraham Lincoln’s body was almost stolen. In the 1870s, Ben Boyd a very important member of the country’s biggest counterfeiting rings was arrested. Ben Boyd had been the master engraver and was vital to the success of his gang. “Big Jim” Kinealy leader of this illicit operation planed to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body and hold it ransom. He wanted $200,000 in gold and the release of Boyd. The gang had to flee Springfield,IL. when one of the gang’s members told a woman of the plan while drunk and the story quickly spread. Forced back to Chicago the gang was soon infiltrated by Secret Service Agent Lewis G. Swegles. The gang now planned to steal the body November 7, 1876 which was Election Day in Springfield and hide the body under the Indiana sand dunes. The grave robbers broke into his tomb and were attempting to move Abraham Lincoln’s coffin when Swegles alerted eight detectives who had been hiding. The tomb robbers escaped but were captured in Chicago ten days later and sentenced to one year in jail.
Abraham Lincoln has no living descendants. His great-grandson Robert Lincoln Beckwith died in 1984. He left no heirs.