31 Days of History: 16 July

16 July is a particularly bad day for the Lincoln family. Here's why:

On this day in 1871, Thomas "Tad" Lincoln passed away at the age of 18.

Tad Lincoln

On this day in 1882, Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham's wife and former First Lady of the United States, passed away. The trials and tribulations of Mary Todd Lincoln have been detailed elsewhere, so I'd like to concentrate on two of their children.

Mary Todd Lincoln

Thomas Lincoln known as "Tad" (1853-1871) was the youngest son. During the time in the White House, Tad was impulsive, unrestrained, and did not attend school--driving off several private tutors with his incorrigible behavior. Tad had free run of the White House, and there are stories of him interrupting Presidential meetings, collecting animals, charging visitors to see his father, and more.

Tad & Abraham Lincoln; 5 Feb 1865

On 14 April 1865, Tad went to Grover's Theater to see "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp" while his parents attended "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater. He never saw his father again.

Ford's Theater

After the assassination, the surviving Lincolns (Mary, Tad, Robert) lived together in Chicago and Europe for a number of years. Although he was illiterate at age 12, Tad eventually learned how to read and write, but was a poor student and because of a speech impediment, was socially awkward. He was devoted to his mother and followed her everywhere she went. On 16 July 1871, Tad died at the age of 18. The cause of death was most likely tuberculosis, although it was never definitively proven.

Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln had four children--only two survived to adulthood. Edward Baker Lincoln (known as "Eddie") passed away when he was 4. William Wallace Lincoln (known as "Willie") died when he was twelve.

Only Robert Todd Lincoln survived past his teenage years. He went on to be a noted lawyer, diplomat and businessman and served as the 25th Secretary of War under Presidents Garfield and Arthur (1881-1885). He had the great privilege to attend the opening of the Lincoln Memorial on 30 May 1922 as the sole remaining family member.

Robert Lincoln

Although not directly related to today's date, here's some rather amazing tidbits about Robert Todd Lincoln:

In a strange coincidence, Robert Lincoln was either present or nearby when three (of the four) presidential assassinations occurred.

Lincoln was invited to accompany his parents to the Ford's Theater the night his father was shot by John Wilkes Booth on 14 April 1865. Citing fatigue, he declined, and remained behind at the White House, where he immediately went to bed. He was informed of his father's being shot just before midnight.

The Assassination of President #16, Abraham Lincoln, on 16 April 1865

At President James A. Garfield's invitation, Lincoln was at the Sixth Street Train Station in Washington, D.C., where the President was shot by Charles J. Guiteau on 2 July 1881, and was an eyewitness to the event. Lincoln was serving as Garfield's Secretary of War at the time.

The Assassination of President #20, James Garfield, on 2 July 1881

At President William McKinley's invitation, Lincoln was at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, where the President was shot by Leon F. Czolgosz on 6 September 1901.

The Assassination of President #25, William McKinley, on 6 September 1901

Lincoln himself recognized the frequency of these coincidences. He is said to have refused a later presidential invitation with the comment "No, I'm not going, and they'd better not ask me, because there is a certain fatality about presidential functions when I am present."

In a further strange coincidence, Robert Lincoln was once saved from serious injury or death by Edwin T. Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth (the man who killed hi father!). The incident took place on a train platform in Jersey City, New Jersey. The exact date of the incident is uncertain, but it is believed to have taken place in late 1864 or early 1865, shortly before John Wilkes Booth's assassination of President Lincoln.

Edwin Booth, famous 19th century actor and older brother of John Wilkes Booth

Chief Justice (and former President) William Howard Taft, President Harding, and Robert Lincoln at the 1922 dedication of the Lincoln Memorial

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