Edwin Booth, perhaps unfairly known today as the brother of assassin John Wilkes Booth, was once upon a time known as the greatest actor in American history. In fact, certain theater historians and steampunk enthusiasts would probably argue that he still is today. His reputation as an actor was described as "mythic," and a statue of him stands in Manhattan's Gramercy Park to this very day.
That's what having a brother who killed the freaking president gets you -- in his day, Edwin was as famous as George Clooney, as classy as Clive Owen, as lusted after as Johnny Depp and as awesome as Josh Brolin. Hell, he even looked suspiciously like Robert De Niro ...
... and we bet that most of you have never heard his name before today.
But there's something else ... Where it Gets Weird:
Booth performed a heroic act, one that would have gotten him into the history books. It took place during the last months of the Civil War at a crowded train station in Jersey City.
That's right. Even back then Jersey was known as a death-trap.
According to the young man that John Wilkes (sorry) Edwin Booth saved: The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform. ... There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it 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 turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.
Imagine if you, as a kid, fell off a ledge and were caught by Chuck Norris. Not the wacky Internet meme Chuck Norris, but the actor you've seen on TV a million times. That's what it was like for the kid.
Mike Huckabee knows that feeling well.
Where it Gets Even Weirder:
Since Edwin Booth was the kind of guy who did good deeds even when there were no cameras present, he genuinely had no idea who he'd just saved. He simply accepted the lad's gratitude, probably signed him an autograph, and spent the rest of his afternoon on a train reading a terrible fan-script the kid "happened to have on him" about William Shakespeare fighting zombies.
A few days later, Booth received a letter of commendation from Adam Badeau, an officer to the staff of General Ulysses S. Grant. It turned out that this young man Edwin had saved was actually Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of President Abraham Lincoln.
And father of Sean Connery's beard.
Keep in mind, it's not like the Booth family and the Lincoln family were neighbors, always running into each other. They weren't. They didn't travel in the same political circles -- the Booths were famous theater actors; they toured the country. This incident happened on a random train platform in New Jersey. It could have been any stranger and any random kid.
That act of heroism would have gone down as the only, unlikely interaction between the Booth family and the Lincoln family, if Edwin's brother John hadn't gone off the deep end and assassinated the kid's father only a few months later, nearly killing the country.