This nation celebrated Presidents’ Day on Feb. 16, as Abraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12 and George Washington on Feb. 22. However, the tales of presidents past could fill a day — or more.
I just finished reading a book, “A Treasury of White House Tales,” and wanted to share a few of the tales that I thought were unusual.
• President John Tyler, age 54, married a lady who was only 24 years of age. His 15th child, Pearl, was born after the ex-president was older than 70.
• In 1876, a group of counterfeiters took an axe and broke the padlock of an iron gate to President Lincoln’s vault. They pried off the slab of marble and seized the lead-lined casket and began pulling it out, but stopped to rest. An informant was in the group and they were stopped and arrested. Lincoln’s body now lies beneath 10 feet of solid cement.
• President Theodore Roosevelt was shot, by an insane man, in the chest before he was to make a speech. The bullet went through a 100-page speech that was double-folded in his shirt pocket. Roosevelt is the only U.S. president whose life was saved because he never learned when to quit when he had a chance to speak. He still had the bullet in his chest when he died in 1919.
• In 1791, President Washington set out on a journey of 1,887 miles without taking one guard. Lincoln permitted anyone who wished to enter the White House grounds in April 1865 to celebrate Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Four days later, on Good Friday, Lincoln and his wife went to see “Our American Cousin.” When Lincoln’s sole body guard, a policeman said to have been thoroughly drunk, stepped from the box to go to the alley for another drink, John Wilkes Booth had a clear shot at close range. Lincoln had told of a dream that he was going to die a few nights before. This still did not bring tight security for a president. Three years later, an aide found Annie O’Neal lurking in a White House corridor with a double-barreled pistol. She said she was sent by God to kill Andrew Johnson.
• Mrs. Grover Cleveland, age 21, became the youngest first lady. The Clevelands’ 2-year-old daughter, Ruth, drew so much attention that makers of candy were alleged to cash in on her name by introducing the Baby Ruth candy bar. Esther, their second daughter, was the first child born in the White House to a president.
• Lincoln suffered from severe depression. When the White House stables caught fire and his deceased son Willie’s pony burned to death, he was in a deep depression for many days.
• Many presidents and their wives had séances held at the White House and dabbled in occults and consulted with astrologers. Nettie Colburn, a trance medium, gave Lincoln a detailed message from Daniel Webster. As a result, Lincoln stopped hesitating and issued the long-delayed Emancipation Proclamation.