Historical Notes: A Compendium of Curious Coincidences

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Wherever collectors of odd facts congregate these days, the conversation almost invariably turns to the uncanny parallels in the lives—and deaths—of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. How ever it started, it has added up to a compendium of curious coincidences. Last week even the G.O.P. Congressional Committee Newsletter, with a circulation among 15,000 Republicans, joined in the game with its own list. There were no political motives, explained Newsletter Editor Edward Neff. "We just thought of them as interesting." Among the fascinating facts:

Lincoln was elected in 1860, Kennedy in 1960. Both were deeply involved in the civil rights struggle. The names of each contain seven letters. The wife of each President lost a son when she was First Lady. Both Presidents were shot on a Friday. Both were shot in the head, from behind, and in the presence of their wives. Both presidential assassins were shot to death before they could be brought to trial. The names John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald each contain 15 letters. Lincoln and Kennedy were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson. Tennessee's Andrew Johnson, who followed Lincoln, was born in 1808; Texan Lyndon Johnson was born in 1908.

As these coincidences have been circulated, the facts have been embellished more than a little to fit. Many of the lists have it that Booth was born in 1839 and Oswald in 1939. Booth, in fact, was born in 1838. Some accounts point out that Lee Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and ran to a theater, while Booth shot Lincoln in a theater and ran to a warehouse. But Booth's refuge, where he was killed twelve days after shooting Lincoln, was in fact a tobacco-curing barn. Beyond this the twists have gotten ridiculous. It has been noted that Kennedy was shot while riding in a Lincoln made by Ford. Lincoln of course was shot in Ford's Theater. In the end there is one fillip that has caused some political eyebrows to swivel: Andrew Johnson, after he filled out the remainder of Lincoln's second term, was followed in the White House by a Republican whose last name began with G.