MADISON, Wis. - Read through today's lens, the seemingly salacious headline would seem to come from The National Enquirer or another supermarket tabloid rather than from the capital city's leading newspaper.
"Lincoln Was Poor Bed Partner, Says Man Who Tried To Sleep With Him," read the Wisconsin State Journal from Feb. 11, 1923.
The story recounts Abraham Lincoln's final visit to Wisconsin 164 years ago today, Oct. 1, 1859.
Lucien S. Hanks was 21 years old at the time and visiting his uncle, William Tallman, who had just completed a beautiful mansion, "built in the manner of an Italian villa," according to the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper on Feb. 12, 1935. Tallman, a prominent Republican in Wisconsin at that time, invited Lincoln to stay at his house after a speech in Beloit that first Saturday in October.
Tallman whispered to his nephew that he'd have to sleep on the lounge in the sitting room since the only spare bed was set aside for Lincoln. The future president overheard the remark and said, "He's not a big fellow and won't take up much room. Let him sleep with me. I think we will get along famously, don't you?" he reportedly asked Hanks.
Hanks would later tell The Madison Democrat newspaper for its Aug. 25, 1918, issue that he didn't sleep at all that night and it had nothing to do with his bunkmate's political fame.
"Lincoln gave vocal evidence of slumber, yet he was restless, jerking about violently," Hanks said. "He would hitch up his arms one instant, then shift a long leg the next."
It's not exactly Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but Lucien S. Hanks, who would later become the president of the State bank in Madison, loved sharing this story for decades after it happened. Who knew the nation's 16th president snored so loudly during his last trip to Wisconsin?
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