Nat Geo's 'Killing Lincoln': Little-known facts about Honest Abe

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The National Geographic Channel is preparing for its first-ever docudrama "Killing Lincoln," a two-hour TV event hosted by Tom Hanks, and directed by Ridley Scott and Tony Scott, who died in August 2012. The special is based on the bestselling book by Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly. The 16th president of the United States is one of the most studied presidents in American history, yet there are many little-known facts about the man who helped abolish slavery in 1863.


Lincoln was the first president born outside of the original 13 colonies. Although Illinois is known as the "Land of Lincoln," the president was actually born in a log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky, in 1809. He was the middle of three children, one of whom died at birth. President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis, ironically, was also born in Kentucky.


Lincoln's business failures are legendary. U.S. News & World Report lists at least 11 major life failures for the president before he was elected to the highest office in the land in 1860. However, Lincoln's failures weren't totaled before his nationwide election. At one point during the 1830s, a young Abe ran a tavern in New Salem, Ill., before the temperance movement slowed down his business. For a time, Lincoln was a successful business owner despite assertions to the contrary.

Lincoln's pockets

The contents of Lincoln's pockets on the night he was assassinated weren't revealed until decades after his death. There were nine items total that were kept in the Lincoln family until they were donated to the Library of Congress in 1937. A watch fob, button, ivory pocketknife, handkerchief, wallet, Confederate $5 bill, glass lens cleaner, glasses case, and eyeglasses were on the president's person the night he was shot. The Confederate money is thought to have been a souvenir Lincoln got in Virginia a month before his assassination.


Lincoln is the only president to ever apply for and earn a patent. Patent number 6,469 -- issued May 22, 1849 -- is for a device used for buoying vessels over shoals. Smithsonian Magazine reveals wooden slats and cloth waterproof fabric combined to make an inflatable structure designed to lift riverboats stuck on sandbars.

Robert Todd Lincoln was witness to assassinations

The president's oldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, had planned to attend "Our American Cousin" with his parents at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865, but he was too tired after a long carriage ride earlier in the day. Upon hearing of his father's fate, he rushed to his bedside until the president died. Tragically, the only surviving son of Lincoln was in close proximity to two subsequent presidents when they were shot. Robert Lincoln was James Garfield's Secretary of War and was walking with the president when Charles Guiteau shot Garfield at the 6th Street train station July 2, 1881.

Thirty years later, the son of the 16th president was pulling into a train station in Buffalo, N.Y., to attend the Pan-American Exposition. Moments before the surviving Lincoln got off his train car, Leon F. Czolgosz had shot William McKinley. Robert Lincoln visited the mortally wounded president before he died six days after being shot.

"Killing Lincoln" premieres Sunday, 2/17, at 8 PM ET on the National Geographic Channel.

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