Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Honest Abe, Old Bob, and the "Railsplitter"

by Pa Rock
History Detective

There is a trivia contest posted in today's edition of the Stars and Stripes.  Its official title is "Honest Abe's Civil War Trivia," and it asks readers to answer ten questions about our 16th President for a chance to win a $250 gift card to their local Post Exchange.  Being a trivia hound and collector of basically useless information, the temptation for me to try my hand at the endeavor was well nigh irresistible.  So, on those few occasions when I had a break today, I hit The Google and searched for answers.  I knew some - and was able to find most of the others, but a couple proved to be rather problematic.

Here are the ten questions and my responses:

1.  What was the name of President Lincoln's horse?  I found information in two places that it was either "Old Bob" or "Old Robin."  One listed "Old Bob" as being the favored name of the two, and the other said "Old Robin" was actually the favorite.  I am going with "Old Bob" because that sounds more Lincolnesque.  "Old Robin" sounds more like something that George W. Bush might name a horse.

2.  True or False, there are no descendants of Abraham Lincoln's alive today?  Sadly that is true.  The last line became extinct on Christmas Eve, 1985, with the death of Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith.

3.  What is the name of the newspaper Abraham Lincoln owned in 1859?  The Illinois Staats-Anzeiger, a German publication that he acquired on May 30th, 1859.  He sold the publication on December 6, 1860, shortly after being elected President.

4.  Abraham Lincoln was the only President to ever hold a patent.  What was his invention?  Lincoln invented a device to free ships that ran aground in shallow water.  He was issued Patent # 6469 in 1849.

5.  What was Abraham Lincoln's stovepipe hat "endearingly" called?  This question was a booger.  I searched high and low for the nickname of his hat.  I kept running into the term "stovepipe,"  but knew that wasn't it because the word was used in the question.  I also found a couple of references to Lincoln's "chimney barrel" hat, but that didn't seem like a true nickname.  One source said it was officially a "top hat," and they were often referred to as "toppers," but that was not Lincoln-specific.   Finally I found one solitary reference to him calling his hat "the railsplitter."  That doesn't make much sense because I doubt that he split rails in a top hat, but I am going with it.  (A bit of related trivia that I came up with while researching this question is that Lincoln used his top hat as a briefcase, a place where he kept his important lawyer papers.  One account told of a group of mischievous boys who strung a wire across his path to knock the hat off.  It worked, and legal papers went everywhere!)

6,  How did Abraham Lincoln earn his first dollar?   He earned it by ferrying passengers to a steamer on the Ohio River in 1827.

7.  Abraham Lincoln was a Captain of a voluntary company during what war?  The Black Hawk War.

8.  Who was Abraham Lincoln's Vice President at the start of the U.S. Civil War?  Hannibal Hamlin was his Vice President during his entire first term.  Andrew Johnson became Vice President when Lincoln was sworn in for his second term on March 4, 1865.  Johnson became President thirty-two days later when Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865.

9.  True or False, when Abraham Lincoln was narrowly elected President in 1860, he didn't even carry his home county.   That is true.  While he did manage to eek out a win in the city of Springfield, he lost Sangamon County, Illinois, to Stephen A. Douglas by 42 votes.

10.  Which President, other than Abraham Lincoln, was assassinated in the 19th century?  James A. Garfield.  Here is some additional trivia related to that question:  Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was either on the scene or close by for each of the first three Presidential assassinations.  As a young captain on General Grant's staff, he had been invited to attend "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater on the night his father was shot, but stayed home instead.  He rushed to the scene after the shooting and was there when President Lincoln passed away the next morning.  As James Garfield's Secretary of War, Robert Lincoln happened to be on hand when Garfield was also shot.  And then, a few years later, Robert Lincoln, a private citizen, was in President McKinley's entourage when he was gunned down.  (What would Orly Taitz, DDS, have done with those juicy morsels?)

If anyone has a better answer to any of the questions, please send the information along.  I really want to win that gift certificate!

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