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Robert Todd Lincoln was an American lawyer and secretary of war best known as the first-born son of President Abraham Lincoln.
A short biography of Mary Todd Lincoln, a Southern aristocrat who married Abraham Lincoln. A fervent Unionist, she supported her husband through many hardships and fell into a deep depression after his assassination.
Abraham Lincoln grew up in a log cabin in rural Kentucky and went on to become the 16th President of the United States. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery. He was assassinated on April 15, 1865.
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In 1889 President Benjamin Harrison assigned Lincoln as minister to Great Britain, the most prestigious foreign appointment in the State Department. During his tenure, Lincoln faced no international crises or scandals. He remained in this, his last government position, until 1893.
Over the decades the Republican Party repeatedly brought up Lincoln’s name as a potential candidate for president or vice president, pushing him to run in 1884,
1888, 1892 and 1912. However, the boy who often felt lost in his father’s shadow had no interest in following in his father’s presidential footsteps. Robert Lincoln’s close friend, Nicholas Murray Butler, wrote that younger Lincoln often said he was just known as Abraham Lincoln's son and would say, "No one wanted me for secretary of war, they wanted Abraham Lincoln's son. No one wanted me for minister to England, they wanted Abraham Lincoln's son. No one wanted me for president of the Pullman Company, they wanted Abraham Lincoln's son.”
Lincoln returned to law in 1893, acting as general counsel at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago. When owner George Pullman died in 1897, Lincoln filled in as the acting president. His role transformed into a permanent one in 1901. He resigned in 1911, citing health concerns. Lincoln remained involved as the chairman of the board, a position he held until 1922.
That same year, Lincoln made his last public appearance when he honored his father’s memory during the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A newspaper dubbed Lincoln the “Prince of Rails” because his father had campaigned as "The Railsplitter." Lincoln did not like the nickname, nor did he enjoy being in the public eye. He strove to make his own name regardless of his father’s fame.
Lincoln married Mary Harlan in 1868, a union that produced three children: Mary (born on October 15, 1869), Abraham "Jack" (born on August 14, 1873) and Jessie (born on November 6, 1875). While Lincoln was serving as minister to Great Britain, his only son died at age 16 due to blood poisoning after a surgical infection.
Ten years after the death of his father, in 1875 Lincoln had his mother committed to a mental institution for her eccentric behavior, upon the advice of physicians. A Chicago court held an insanity trial and declared her insane. Many believed his mother never had recovered from the loss of her husband and three sons. His mother resented her forcible commitment and worked with her lawyer and a friend to leak a story to a Chicago newspaper casting doubt on her insanity proclamation. With negative publicity mounting, a Chicago court overturned the past ruling and declared her sane. A strained mother-son relationship existed thereafter.
Lincoln believed he brought bad luck, a conclusion made after his connection to three shootings: He was at his father’s bedside when he died from a gunshot wound; he was present at the Washington, D.C. railroad station when President James Garfield was shot; and he was at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition when President William McKinley was shot.
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