Tragically, we’ll never know the circumstances that led to Abraham Lincoln nearly committing arson by proxy, because historians tend to leave out the best parts. What we do know is that while staying at a hotel, Lincoln convinced some kids to throw an inflated pig bladder (the 19th-century version of a balloon) into the fireplace. That’s it. No one knows why, or how, or what in tarnation. The children’s motivations are a little easier to deduce: When an adult asks you to set shit on fire, you follow orders.
Joseph Wright of Derby Though kids rarely need much convincing to watch things burn.
The pig bladder predictably exploded, scattering sparks everywhere and starting a fire. Lincoln tried to put the fire out with a broom, which also caught fire, and he only barely managed to keep the entire hotel from burning down. The whole thing was essentially a Three Stooges skit, except starring the guy on the penny.
He Once Had To Smooth-Talk His Way Out Of An Accidental Marriage
Lincoln got himself into so many wacky scenarios that it’s amazing they haven’t made a sitcom based on his life. This week’s shenanigans: weaseling out of an accidental marriage. Why yes, that was the plot of a Simpsons episode.
In 1836, Lincoln was being pestered by a woman who wanted him to marry her sister. Lincoln had briefly met the sister, Mary Owens, and thought she was a total drag, so these propositions were roundly dodged. When the sister said she would personally transport Mary all the way from Kentucky if Lincoln would agree to marry her, Lincoln basically responded, “Yeah, sure, that’ll happen.” Unfortunately, in the 19th century, sarcasm was still considered a binding promise. Imagine his surprise when Mary showed up in Illinois a few months later, thinking they were engaged.
Not wanting the social stigma of breaking an engagement, Lincoln decided to do the honorable thing … and begin a letter-writing campaign to gaslight Owens into breaking up with him. Lincoln had recently moved to Springfield, and he wrote Mary to tell her that people in Springfield were too rich, and that she probably couldn’t handle being poor in such a setting.