This April (2003) marks the 138th anniversary
of the assassination of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. Here are some
random facts and figures in the life of this great American guaranteed to tell
you something about him you didn’t know before.
Lincoln, six feet, four inches tall,
weighed 180 pounds – much taller and slightly heavier wearing his
stovepipe hat. His hat size was seven and one eighth - his shoe size,
He did not like the names Abraham, Abe or
Old Abe, preferring simply to be called “Lincoln.”
He had an older sister, Sarah, and a
younger brother, Thomas, who died in infancy. Sarah died at age 19.
The first town named after him was the
capital of Logan County in Illinois in 1853. He warned the townspeople
that, “Nothing named Lincoln ever amounted to much.” (This may be why
Ford doesn’t use Lincoln as a spokesman in its ads.)
Lawyer Lincoln made 300 appearances before
the Illinois Supreme Court.
He was once challenged to a duel but the
challenger accepted his apology when the much taller and smarter Lincoln
chose broad swords as the weapons for the duel.
Lincoln first spoke out against slavery in
a speech to the Illinois State Legislature in Vandalia in 1837. In his
second inaugural, he said that slavery was the cause of the war. He was
Molly, Puss, Little Woman, Child Wife and
Mother were pet names Lincoln had for his wife Mary.
He was born in 1809 and she in 1818,
marrying him November 4, 1842 – inside her wedding band were the words,
“Love is eternal.”
Lincoln’s secretaries called Mary “The
Hellcat.” They affectionately called him, “The Tycoon” and “The
In their days as lawyers, Secretary of War
Stanton once called the president, “A long armed ape.”
The Lincolns had four children: Robert,
Edward (Eddie) who died at age 4, William (Willie) who died at age 12 and
Thomas (Tad) who died at age 17.
Robert was a lawyer, a Secretary of War, a minister to England and president
of the Pullman Railroad Car Company. (More on
Robert Todd Lincoln)
|Robert Todd Lincoln
Robert had three children, Abraham, Mary
and Jessie. He died in 1926, his wife, Mary, in 1937. Robert’s
son, Abraham, died at age 17 of blood poisoning. His grandson Robert Lincoln
Beckwith, the last direct descendant of the president, died in 1985.
It took 233 votes to win the Republican
nomination in 1860. Lincoln was second to William H. Seward on the first
and second ballots. He pulled ahead on the third ballot with 231 votes and
then won the nomination when D.K Cartter switched four Ohio votes from
Ohio’s Salmon Chase to Lincoln.
He earned $25,000 a year as president. His
secretary, Nicolay earned $900 a year.
Lincoln rarely used profane language
although he would occasionally use it in a joke. He used humor to cope with melancholia and
depression – he called these afflictions, ‘The Hypo,” for
He is the only president to hold a patent
– no. 6649 – for a device to lift boats over shoals.
Nicolay and Hay are the best known Lincoln
secretaries but he had four more - but never more than two or three at one
time (no West Wing).
Lincoln was well-versed on the bible and
Robert said he never named a favorite song
but he was known to have liked “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “The
Marseillaise,” “Your Mission” and “The Soldier’s Chorus. The
president also said that “Dixie,” was one of the best tunes he ever
The famous “Bixby Letter,” in which
Lincoln is said to have written his condolences to the widow Bixby who
lost five sons in the war, may have been written by Hay. The letter,
despite the copies you may have seen or bought on crinkly brown paper,
does not exist today – you may want to request a refund. It may be just as well it doesn’t exist.
Of her five sons, Mrs. Bixby actually had two die in combat, one was
dishonorable discharged, one was a deserter and one was unaccounted for.
The president was ill with “varoloid”
a mild form of small pox when he delivered the Gettysburg Address and
would spend three weeks in quarantine when he returned to the White House.
His favorite recreations as president were
taking carriage rides with Mary and attending the theater. As a congressman in Washington, Lincoln
enjoyed bowling – no record as to whether he wore a bowling shirt or
bought beers for the boys.
The last written words of Lincoln exactly
as he wrote them were, “Allow Mr. Ashum & friend to come in at 9. A.
|Mary Todd Lincoln
The president told Mary he considered
April 14th to be the day the war ended. That night he was shot in the
back of his head, above and behind his left ear, at Ford’s Theater with
a single shot derringer between 10:15 and 10:20 PM. Unfortunately, his
assassin, John Wilkes Booth, broke his ankle and not his neck in making
“Wilkes”, as he preferred to be called,
was shot the morning of April 26th by cavalryman Thomas Corbitt.
Initially crippled from the neck down, he soon died. Corbitt was later
committed to an insane asylum.
Booth was first buried at the Washington
Arsenal and later at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore – where I like to
think his grave attracts dogs in need of relief.
Fourteen doctors attended Lincoln before
he died April 15th at 7:22 AM lying diagonally across a bed in a back
bedroom of the Peterson House across from the theater. He never
regained consciousness – “He is gone,” said a Dr. Barnes.
Stanton asked the Reverend Gurly to say a
prayer which was not recorded. Stanton then spoke the words that were
later slightly edited to, “Now he belongs to the ages.” He was right.
The contents of Lincoln’s pockets the
night he was shot were two pairs of spectacles and cases, a lens polisher,
a cuff button, a pocketknife, a watch fob, a linen handkerchief, a brown
leather wallet containing a five dollar Confederate note and nine
Lincoln died without a will. Supreme Court
Justice David Davis, who took no money for his work, handled his estate. Judge Davis did his work well, raising the value of Lincoln’s estate
from $83,343.70 to $110,974.62 in two years before it was divided equally
between Mary, Robert and Tad.
Mary did not drive her husband to the poor
house – his net worth increased by some $66,000 while he was president.
She did overspend some public money.
Congress appropriated $20,000 to be spent over four years to refurbish the
Lincoln White House. Mary spent $26,700 the first year. Congress covered
The first Lincoln penny was issued August
2, 1909. It was controversial because it was the first coin to have the
likeness of an American on it - some thought that to be a monarchial
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.
was dedicated on May 30, 1922 – it cost three million dollars or three
hundred million Lincoln pennies. It’s 36 columns represent the 36
states in the union at the time of Lincoln’s death.
Lincoln is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in
Springfield, Illinois. His remains were buried six times before being
permanently entombed – ultimately in concrete to prevent further
attempts to steal his body.
May he rest in peace.
The above is based on many sources with particular attention paid to two
Abraham Lincoln: The Complete Book of Facts, Quizzes, and Trivia
by Gordon Leidner
A. Lincoln: His Last 24 Hours
by Emerson Reck