Most folks know President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, but did you know that Lincoln authorized the creation of the Secret Service on April 14, 1865 — the same day he was assassinated? Pretty freaky, huh?
The Web site for the Secret Service doesn’t mention this fact, but instead notes that the agency was created on July 5, 1865. That’s the day the Secret Service began operating.
Even if the Secret Service had been in place on the day of Lincoln’s assassination, it would not have made a difference. Lincoln created the agency on the advice of Treasury Secretary Hugh McCulloch to combat rampant counterfeiting. By the end of the Civil War as much as 50 percent of U.S. paper currency was counterfeit.
It would take another 36 years and the assassination of two more Presidents — James A. Garfield and William McKinley — before the Congress added protection of the President to the list of duties performed by the Secret Service.
Did you know?
- As John Wilkes Booth jumped from Lincoln’s balcony, his spur caught a Treasury Guard flag. He landed awkwardly on the stage and broke his leg. [The Treasury Guard was a regiment of male Treasury employees who formed a militia to protect the Treasury Building should the Confederates attack Washington, DC.]
- After being sworn in on April 15, President Andrew Johnson used the Treasury Department building as his de facto White House until May 24 to allow Mrs. Lincoln time to grieve.
- Until 2003, the Secret Service was a part of the Treasury Department. In that year the agency was established as a separate entity under the Department of Homeland Security.