Who would have thought counterfeiters would want Lincoln’s body? His dead body that is. What would they stand to gain by robbing Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, IL in 1876? Turns out, a lot. A lot of money, real and fake. Did you know that during the Civil War, half of all money in circulation was fake? Some people were really good at making counterfeit money, and others not so good. So the government, realizing if people couldn’t trust the money in their pockets, there would be no economy, created the Secret Service. Yes, the Secret Service was first created to root out counterfeiters, or coney men, as they were known.
Turns out, good counterfeiters were hard to come by. A man named “Big Jim” (an alias I’m sure you figured out!) was very good at keeping his hands clean by finding good engravers and having them make the fake money, then giving it to others who passed it around. You needed good engravers because the longer the fake money was in circulation, the more real money you could make. If you don’t know how this could be possible, read the book, it explains it really well.
So who was the best engraver around? A guy named Ben Boyd. But the Secret Service guys do their job and they nab him and put him away for 10 years! This means Big Jim is without his best engraver. It also means he’ll try just about anything to get him back. And in this case, anything includes…you guessed it, grabbing Lincoln’s corpse and holding it for ransom!
Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin is a fast paced look at the world of counterfeit money and how desperate times called for desperate measures.
Great read and recommended for grades 6th and up.