One of the wildest coincidences in History, Robert Todd Lincoln was saved by Edwin T. Booth, the brother of his father’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Where I read about this first, the book had two facts wrong—one, the incident occurred during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency—the book misstated the date to well after the Civil War, which was when Robert Lincoln first publicly wrote about it. Secondly, the incident took place in Jersey City, at Exchange Place. That was left out.
Robert Lincoln wrote: “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.”
I found out about the Jersey City angle in an article in the New York Times about Andrew Carroll, 39, an amateur historian intent on finding historical spots throughout the U.S. that have not been recognized. The inspiration for this endeavor, “Here is Where,” was inspired by the Lincoln & Booth at Exchange Place incident. According to the Times, “Mr. Carroll hopes to install a marker at the site, now a PATH station.”
The marker sounds fantastic.
So, it might have been cooler if this happened after the assassination, but it is pretty cool that it happened in Jersey City. The Sleeper Cars might be gone (our local winos & junkies not withstanding), Exchange Place with the Path and the Light Rail is still a rail hub of sorts, but with safer platforms. One of the things I contemplate is if Life is Fate or Chance. Neither seems to dispute or prove a Supreme Being (AKA God), but whether things are determined or random should be thought about it because let’s face it, life seems to be both (but it must be either or, right?) The Lincoln & Booth in Jersey City coincidence—indicates that whether it is random or it is fate, irony always has the last word.