CHARLOTTE, NC, September 7, 2016 – On September 6, 1901, William McKinley became the third of four American presidents who were assassinated in office.
McKinley, the last president who served in the American Civil War, was in the sixth month of his second term when he was gunned down in Buffalo, NY by Polish-American anarchist, Leon Czolgosz.
Early on McKinley showed signs of improvement, but eventually he succumbed to gangrene on September 14th. He was succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt.
With the 115th anniversary of William McKinley’s death as a backdrop, our trivia today looks at an unusual event involving the first president to be assassinated, Abraham Lincoln.
1 – An act of fate: Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln had a son named Robert who is related to a little known incident that took place in either 1853 or 1864 as he was traveling from New York to Washington.
In 1909, Lincoln recounted the story which occurred at the railroad station in Jersey City, NJ while he was standing on the platform to purchase sleeping car accommodations.
It was late at night and the platform was crowded with passengers attempting to secure a place to sleep on the train from the conductor.
Many American train stations have a gap between the platform and the railway coaches which can be dangerous if passengers are not careful.
Robert Lincoln described the incident saying “There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed 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 gaining his composure, Lincoln turned to his rescuer to thank him for saving him from serious injury or possibly death. Lincoln immediately recognized the brave man who had come to his rescue because he was a well known actor of the day.
The actor’s name was Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth who later assassinated Robert’s father, Abraham Lincoln, at Ford’s Theater in Washington in 1865.
Some analysts believe that Edwin Booth’s heroic act may have provided him some element of solace later in his life.
2 – A rose by any other name….: In 1939, a young man and his mother left Germany at the invitation of well known publisher William Randolph Hearst to do a lecture tour in the United States. When World War II broke out, the mother and son were stranded in the United States and, though he was not an American, William Patrick Stuart-Houston was eventually granted a special clearance to join the United States Navy in 1944.
Stuart-Houston served admirably as a Pharmacist’s Mate, though the designation was later changed to Hospital Corpsman. After being wounded in action during the war and receiving the Purple Heart, Stuart-Houston was honorably discharged in 1947.
To his uncle, Stuart-Houston was known as “my loathsome nephew” Willy. You see, Stuart-Houston’s name when he departed Germany was William Patrick Hitler, the son of Adolf Hitler’s half-brother Alois Hitler, Jr.
The Navy kept the relationship a secret and young Hitler changed his name to Stuart-Houston in order to avoid a “furor.”
3 – All in the family: After the war, “Willy” Stuart-Houston returned to New York and moved to Long Island. Stuart-Houston had four sons before dying at the age of 76 in 1987: Alexander, Louis, Howard and Brian.
Of the quartet of siblings, Howard was only one to marry, and he was killed in an automobile accident in 1989.
The surviving siblings live on Long Island where Alexander is a social worker and Louis and Brian own a landscaping business.
One popular urban legend is that the four brothers signed a pact never to marry or have children in order to end their bloodline since they are the last members of Adolf Hitler’s paternal heritage. According to David Gardner, the author of the “Last of the Hitlers”, that story is only partially true.
As Gardner explains, the brothers did not sign a pact, but they did discuss the idea amongst themselves and determined that, considering their family legacy, there could be problems for any offspring in the future. Thus, the brothers agreed never to marry or have children but as Alexander expressed there was no intentional agreement to end the Hitler ancestry.
Two other interesting rumors have also evolved from the story. One is that one of “Willy’s” sons actually had the middle name Adolf.
The other, which is far more fascinating, is that Hitler’s little brat nephew “Willy” once blackmailed his Uncle Adolf with the idea that the Fuhrer might be half-Jewish.
We’ll save those investigations for another day. After all, everything is “relative.”
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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