Stealing Lincoln's Body

Stealing Lincoln's Body

Book - 2007
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Harvard University Press

On the night of the presidential election in 1876, a gang of counterfeiters out of Chicago attempted to steal the entombed embalmed body of Abraham Lincoln and hold it for ransom. The custodian of the tomb was so shaken by the incident that he willingly dedicated the rest of his life to protecting the president's corpse.

In a lively and dramatic narrative, Thomas J. Craughwell returns to this bizarre, and largely forgotten, event with the first book to place the grave robbery in historical context. He takes us through the planning and execution of the crime and the outcome of the investigation. He describes the reactions of Mary Todd Lincoln and Robert Todd Lincoln to the theft—and the peculiar silence of a nation. He follows the unlikely tale of what happened to Lincoln's remains after the attempted robbery, and details the plan devised by the Lincoln Guard of Honor to prevent a similar abominable recurrence.

Along the way, Craughwell offers entertaining sidelights on the rise of counterfeiting in America and the establishment of the Secret Service to combat it; the prevalence of grave robberies; the art of nineteenth-century embalming; and the emergence among Irish immigrants of an ambitious middle class—and a criminal underclass.

This rousing story of hapless con men, intrepid federal agents, and ordinary Springfield citizens who honored their native son by keeping a valuable, burdensome secret for decades offers a riveting glimpse into late-nineteenth-century America, and underscores that truth really is sometimes stranger than fiction.



Baker & Taylor
Details a bizarre, little-known historical event in which a gang of Chicago counterfeiters attempted to steal the entombed, embalmed body of Abraham Lincoln on the night of the 1876 presidential election, discussing the planning and execution of the crime, the resulting investigation, the reaction of Lincoln's family, and the aftermath.

Baker
& Taylor

Details a little-known historical event in which a gang of Chicago counterfeiters attempted to steal the entombed, embalmed body of Abraham Lincoln discussing the planning and execution of the crime, the resulting investigation, the reaction of Lincoln'sfamily, and the aftermath.

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007
ISBN: 9780674024588
0674024583
Characteristics: ix, 250 p., [22] p. of plates : ill. ; 22 cm

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DorisWaggoner
Nov 07, 2011

While it took me a while to figure out what counterfeiting was going to have to do with the plot to steal Lincoln's body, this book was well done. The subject may seem narrow, but the historical context opened up many aspects of the time, and ours, unknown to me. Who would have thought the Secret Service started because of counterfeiting? Or that the plot to steal Lincoln's body was connected to counterfeiting? Or that his was the first of many body-snatching attempts to involve ransom? While the topics appear to skip around, they come together to make a real page turner for the history or the Lincoln buff.

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