February 12, 2014
Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln both made their marks on American history, so much so that every year Americans celebrate their birth and influence with Presidents’ Day.
Washington may have been the country’s first president, but Lincoln is perhaps more frequently celebrated for his profound efforts to abolish slavery. He is best known for presiding over the United States during the Civil War and signing the Emancipation Proclamation, which liberated slaves across the country. While much is widely known about Lincoln and his life, there are some lesser-known tidbits that only historians or history buffs seem to know. In honor of his birthday, here are 13 facts about the man that aren’t as widely known.
1. Towering over others at a height of 6 feet 4 inches tall, Lincoln remains the tallest president to hold office. It is likely his stature helped to present an air of authority during his presidency.
2. Lincoln had two romantic interests before he married Mary Todd in 1842. Lincoln was in a relationship with Ann Rutledge, who died of typhoid fever. He also courted Mary Owens for some time before they ended their relationship.
3. Lincoln was notoriously messy. His law office was often cluttered, much to the chagrin of his partner William Herndon. It is said Lincoln kept an envelope on his desk marked, “When you can’t find it anywhere else, look into this.”
4. Lincoln was the first president to be photographed at his inauguration. His future assassin, John Wilkes Booth, can be seen in a photo standing close to the president.
5. In 1849, Lincoln obtained Patent No. 6,469 for a device that was designed to lift and keep boats afloat when they passed over a sandbar or entered shallow water. Lincoln served as a ferry operator and flatboat pilot prior to entering politics.
6. Lincoln took his dreams seriously and was purported to be interested in psychic research and activities. Before his election to the presidency, Lincoln said he was startled by a vision of a double image of himself. The second image was pale, according to accounts. His wife was led to believe the vision meant Lincoln would be elected to two terms as president and die during the second.
7. Lincoln’s beard is almost as famous as the man. He was urged by advisors to grow a beard during his first term to soften some of his harsh features.
8. Lincoln was born to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks. Actor Tom Hanks is a distant relative of the former president.
9. Despite his stature, Lincoln apparently had a high-pitched voice and not a deep timbre.
10. Lincoln wore a size 14 shoe.
11. According to reports by his personal secretary John Hay, Lincoln would sometimes pace the White House because of insomnia. He would keep Hay up with funny stories or with readings of Shakespeare.
12. Lincoln accepted a challenge to a duel with James Shields, a state auditor. Lincoln chose a broadsword as the weapon, but Shields decided to work through his differences with Lincoln amicably rather than face him in the duel.
13. The contents of Lincoln’s pockets on the night he was killed were not revealed until Feb. 12, 1976.