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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Historical Tidbit: Robert Lincoln and Edward Booth

Robert Lincoln (Source)
Did you know...that a year before Abraham Lincoln's assassination, his son was saved by the brother of John Wilkes Booth?

It's true. The exact date of the incident hasn't survived, but it's believed to have happened in late 1863 or early 1864, roughly 1-1.5 years before Lincoln's assassination. Robert Lincoln was the eldest son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and the only one to survive into adulthood.

As he recalled in a letter:

The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name. (Source)
Edwin Booth (Source)
he reason he knew Edwin's face was that Edwin Booth was a famous actor at the time. He was renowned for his work on the stage, especially in Shakespearean plays. As the Lincoln family obviously favored the theater, they would have known Edwin Booth. Of course, Booth's accomplishments have been overshadowed throughout history by the deeds of his sinister brother.

At the time, Robert Lincoln was just pleased to have not only met someone famous whom he admired, but to have been saved by him.

This is such a strange twist in the Lincoln story. I'm not sure you'd exactly call it serendipity, but maybe just a strange twist of fate, as though something was trying to forewarn the Lincolns that their family would soon be inseparably intertwined with that of the Booths.

It would make a terribly interesting story, don't you think?

What's your take on this strange historical occurrence? How would you handle it in literature?


  1. That is fascinating and I'll bet it would make an awesome time travel story too Liesel.

    1. Ooh yeah, that'd be a great angle, Maurice! :D