Americas,  ER,  United States

The Strange Life of Robert Todd Lincoln

13118981_267844796890943_5744730692186199342_nEveryone knows about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but what is not very well known is the strange coincidences that plagued the life of his son, Robert Todd Lincoln.  For one thing, he would not have been alive except for a member of the Booth family.

In 1863 or 1864, Robert Lincoln was on a break from college at Harvard and was travelling home to Washington DC by train.  He had gotten off the train at Jersey City, and found himself on a crowded platform.  Lincoln moved back to make room for the other passengers and was leaning against a train car at the back of the platform.  Suddenly, the train car began to move and Lincoln found himself between the platform and the train.  He would have been killed if a stranger had not yanked him out of the hole by his collar.  It turned out to be Edwin Booth, one of the most famous actors of the 19th century.  To put it in perspective, it would be like Robert Downey Jr yanked you out of the way of a speeding car.  Lincoln thanked Booth profusely for saving his life, and Booth did not realize who he had saved until he received a letter of thanks from the president.  Ironically, that same president was murdered by Booth’s brother, John Wilkes Booth.

Robert Lincoln was not clear of assassinations after his father’s.  Rising through the ranks, Lincoln and became the Secretary of War for President James Garfield in 1881.  The new President Garfield and Lincoln were scheduled to make a railroad trip to Elberon, New Jersey.  However, before their train could leave the station, Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau. Lincoln was walking towards the president and saw him get shot.   By Lincoln’s own recollection, “I think I reached him in fifteen seconds.”  He mirrored the actions of Secretary Stanton the night his father died and mounted a guard at the train station and transported Garfield back to the White House.  Garfield died of complications from his wound two months later.

Twenty years later, a new president had taken office, William McKinley.  Lincoln had moved out of politics and was the president of the Pullman Palace Car Company.  Stopping in Buffalo, NY to see the Pan-American Exposition, the Lincolns were met with the news the President had been shot hours before by Leon Czolgosz.  Lincoln visited the president and thought he was on the mend, but a week later McKinley was dead of infection.

A myth grew up, that Lincoln was convinced he was cursed and refused to go to any events where the president would be there.  When he got an invitation to the White House, Lincoln is reported to have said, “If only they knew, they wouldn’t want me there. There is a certain fatality about presidential functions when I am present.”  His last appearance was May 30,1922 at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial by President Warren G. Harding.  Harding wasn’t assassinated, but he did die of a heart attack fourteen months later.  

Sources available on request