Constitution Daily

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10 little-known factoids about Abraham Lincoln

February 11, 2013 by NCC Staff


It’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Tuesday, and the 16th president has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity with the award-winning movie sharing his name. Can’t get enough Lincoln? Here are a few more-obscure facts about him.


Abraham_Lincoln_head_on_shoulders_photo_portrait1. Hey, don’t call me “Abe.” Lincoln was called a lot of things in his lifetime, especially from down South, but the one thing he didn’t like to be called was “Abe.” “Mr. President” or just plain “Lincoln” would be the preferred terms while he was in office.


2. Lincoln was one of the skinniest presidents. Yes, there is a website that lists the known body mass indexes of the presidents (conveniently discovered while researching William Howard Taft). And Lincoln came in at a BMI of 21.7, which makes him sixth lowest on the BMI list. Madison was the slightest president.


3. Lincoln had really big shoes to fill. According to Johnston & Murphy, which has made shoes for presidents since 1850, Lincoln had a size 14 shoe, the biggest in presidential history. It was one size bigger than Bill Clinton. Currently, President Obama wears a size 12.


4. Lincoln was almost involved in a duel. In 1842, Lincoln and a state attorney in Illinois got in an argument that was precipitated by Lincoln’s future wife, Mary Todd. Satisfaction was demanded. Lincoln chose the odd weapon of broad swords, instead of pistols. His opponent, sizing up Lincoln, decided that dueling maybe wasn’t the best idea. The two men later became friends.


5. Lincoln didn’t have a college degree. The president was a great speaker and by all accounts, an outstanding attorney. But he had less than one year of formal education—not unlike one of his heroes, George Washington.


6. Lincoln was obsessed with cats. As an adult, Lincoln would have probably preferred to be the head of the SPCA, if it had existed back them. The president loved all animals, and was especially obsessed with cats. The official White House cat was named Tabby.


7. Lincoln was the first president with a beard. He grew the beard in 1860 after an 11-year-old girl wrote the presidential candidate a letter. Lincoln was one of five presidents who had beards, including Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield and Benjamin Harrison. All five were Republicans.


8. Lincoln may not have inspired Lincoln Logs. John Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, invented Lincoln Logs, the beloved log cabin toy. The controversy is whether Wright named the logs after President Lincoln or his father. In turns out, Lincoln was Frank Lloyd Wright’s original middle name, which he changed to Lloyd after his parents’ divorce.


9. A teenager discovered the only photograph of Lincoln’s body. Young Ron Reitveld was a 14-year-old student of Lincoln history and wrote a letter asking to be invited a Lincoln collection dedication ceremony at a library in 1952. Reitveld stumbled on the photo of Lincoln in his coffin when he was allowed to examine some papers.


10. Abraham Lincoln was (kind of) drafted to fight in the Civil War. In 1864 Noble D. Larner, the president of the 3rd Ward Draft Club, was asked to obtain a substitute to fight for Abraham Lincoln in the Union Army. John Summerfield Staples was paid $500 and met Lincoln on October 1, 1864. The act was a symbolic gesture, since Lincoln was actually too old to serve.


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