Yes, you read that right; a Booth saved a Lincoln’s life. As I put the finishing touches on my forthcoming e-book, Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate, I’ve been amazed at how many interesting connections there are between the two men. There are two that relate Tesla to Lincoln through Robert Todd Lincoln.
In a 1909 letter to Richard Watson Gilder, editor of The Century Magazine (the same magazine that had first published the Nicolay and Hay’s series on Abraham Lincoln’s life), Robert Todd Lincoln recalled an incident that occurred in late 1864 or early 1865. John Wilkes Booth had assassinated Robert’s father only months before.
“The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.”
Several months after the incident, Robert mentioned it to Adam Badeau, a fellow officer on General Ulysses S. Grant’s staff. That officer just happened to be a friend of Edwin Booth’s and sent off a letter to Booth complimenting him on his heroism. Up until that point, Edwin Booth hadn’t been aware that the man he had saved was the son of the man his brother had assassinated.
After a successful acting career, most notably for his signature role as Hamlet (Abraham Lincoln was also a big fan of Shakespeare), Edwin Booth went on to start The Player’s, a social club in New York City. Nikola Tesla often hung out at The Player’s with friends Mark Twain and various actors of the day.
By the way, it was this same Adam Badeau who edited the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, and it was Mark Twain, friends with Nikola Tesla, who published them.
I’ll save the other connection through Robert for later, but it’s a big one you won’t want to miss.
The e-book is scheduled to come out this summer on Amazon. Already online is my previous e-book, Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. I”ll be having a contest shortly for those who want to help select the cover design, so stay tuned.
David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently working on a book about Thomas Edison for Fall River Press, due out in 2016.