April 16, 2018

How Whiskey Saved Lincoln's Body

Timothy Birdnow

In honor of the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

Here's a fun little tale; the story of how some down on their luck counterfeiters tried to steal Abraham Lincoln's body and hold it for ransom - and how too much booze thwarted their plans.

From the article:

"The incredulous plot was hatched by Midwestern counterfeiters who had been shut down when their expert bill engraver was jailed. Benjamin Boyd’s bills were the best in the Midwest, possibly the country. In 1875, he was captured in Fulton, found guilty, and sent to the Joliet penitentiary for 10 years. Without his plates, the criminals who made and passed the counterfeit bills were out of business. They had to spring their money man. "Big Jim” Kennally, a St. Louis Irishman who led Midwestern counterfeiters, according to Thomas J. Craughwell’s book, "Stealing Lincoln’s Body,” brainstormed a solution. They would snatch Lincoln’s body, bury it in the Indiana Dunes, then ransom it for $200,000 and Boyd’s pardon and freedom.

His minions in Lincoln moved to Springfield to implement the plan. As a front, they opened a saloon and dance hall — just a block west of the current Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. When the criminals weren’t running the saloon, they posed as tourists to case Lincoln’s tomb.

With their preparations finished around the middle of June, the Logan County boys relaxed. They spent the night at a Springfield brothel and toasted their upcoming riches. In his well-oiled state, the gang’s leader boasted to one of the ladies that they were going to steal "old Lincoln’s bones” and ransom them. He even told her when.

She told the chief of police, who warned John Carroll Power, the tomb’s custodian. He told the Lincoln Monument Association, local friends and peers of Lincoln’s who were in charge of the tomb. They did nothing. In a book he wrote about the crime ("History of an Attempt … ”), Power explains: "It seemed to them so incredible that no attention was given to it.”

When the Logan County leader sobered and realized what he’d done, he and his gang fled. "Whisky alone is entitled to the credit of having thwarted this well laid scheme,” wrote Power.

A few months later, Kennally headed for Chicago to find new partners for his plot. He was part owner of a bar there called "The Hub,” which had little to offer except booze and boodle (counterfeit) carriers. Here, Kennally proposed his idea to co-proprietor, Terrence Mullen and Jack Hughes. They liked what they heard."

End excerpt.

There's more to the story; it's a fun read.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 08:31 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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