Thomas 'Tad' Lincoln

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Thomas Lincoln

Also Known As: "Tad", "Thomas Lincoln"
Birthplace: Springfield, Sangamon, Illinois, United States
Death: July 15, 1871 (18)
Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States
Place of Burial: Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the USA and Mary Todd Lincoln, First Lady
Brother of Robert Todd Lincoln, U.S. Secretary of War; Edward Baker Lincoln and William Wallace Lincoln

Managed by: Private User
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About Thomas 'Tad' Lincoln

Death likely due to tuberculosis.

Thomas "Tad" Lincoln (April 4, 1853 – July 15, 1871) was the fourth and youngest son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. The nickname "Tad" was given to him by his father who found Thomas "as wriggly as a tadpole" when he was a baby. Tad was known to be impulsive and unrestrained, and did not attend school. He had free run of the White House, and there are stories of him interrupting Presidential meetings, collecting animals, and charging visitors to see his father. Tad outlived his father, but died of heart failure at the age of 18 on July 15, 1871, in Chicago.

Early life

Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd were married on November 4, 1842. They soon had a budding family with the birth of Robert in 1843 and "Eddie" in 1846. Eleven months after the death of Eddie in 1850 their son "Willie" was born followed by their fourth son Thomas, on April 4, 1853. Thomas was named after his grandfather Thomas Lincoln but soon nicknamed "Tad" by his father who found him to have a small body with a large head and that he wiggled like a tadpole. Tad's first name has occasionally been erroneously recorded as Thaddeus.

Tad was born with a form of cleft lip and palate causing him speech problems throughout his life. He had a lisp in his speech and also delivered his words rapidly and unintelligibly. Often only those close to Tad were able to understand him. For example he called his father's bodyguard, William H Crook, "Took" and called his father "Papa Day" instead of "Papa Dear". The cleft palate contributed to uneven teeth and he had difficulty chewing his food to the extent that his meals were specially prepared. Tad and his brother Willie were considered "notorious hellions" during the period they lived in Springfield. They're recorded by Abraham's law partner William Herndon for turning their law office upside down; pulling the books off the shelves while their father appeared oblivious to their behavior.

White House years

Upon their father's election as President both Tad and Willie moved into the White House and it became their new playground. At the request of Mrs. Lincoln, Julia Taft brought her younger brothers, 12-year-old "Bud" and 8-year-old "Holly" to the White House and they became playmates of Tad and Willie. In February 1862 both Tad and Willie contracted typhoid and both boys were bedridden. Willie died on the 21st of the month but Tad recovered. After Willie's death Abraham and Mary Lincoln became even more lenient towards Tad's behavior. During the time his father lived, Tad was impulsive, unrestrained, and did not attend school. John Hay wrote that Tad's numerous tutors in the White House usually quit in frustration. Tad had free run of the White House, and there are stories of him interrupting Presidential meetings, collecting animals, charging visitors to see his father, and more.

On April 14, 1865, Tad went to Grover's Theater to see Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp while his parents attended Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater. The same night, his father was assassinated and when the news spread to Grover's Theater the manager made an announcement to the entire audience. Tad began running and screaming, "They killed Papa! They killed Papa!" Tad was escorted back to the White House while his mother pleaded to have Tad brought to his father's deathbed at the Petersen House. "Bring Tad—he will speak to Tad—he loves him so." Late that night an inconsolable Tad was put to bed by a White House doorman. As to the death of his father Tad said: "Pa is dead. I can hardly believe that I shall never see him again. I must learn to take care of myself now. Yes, Pa is dead, and I am only Tad Lincoln now, little Tad, like other little boys. I am not a president's son now. I won't have many presents anymore. Well, I will try and be a good boy, and will hope to go someday to Pa and brother Willie, in heaven."

Later life

After the assassination, the surviving Lincolns (Mary, Tad, Robert) lived together in Chicago. Tad's older brother, Robert, moved out after a short time. After his father's assassination, Tad lived with his mother, to whom he was devoted. In 1868, they left Chicago and lived in Europe for two and a half years.

Tad's social history is poorly known; it is not clear that he ever had any good friends, although there is a report he did fancy a girl in Chicago. He was sometimes called "Stuttering Tad" because of a speech impediment (which was more of a lisp than a stutter) possibly related to a cleft lip or palate. The lisp later resolved.


On Saturday morning, July 15, 1871, Tad died at the age of 18. The cause of death was tuberculosis. Tad's death occurred at the Clifton House in Chicago. In an obituary, John Hay affectionately referred to him as "Little Tad". Funeral services were held for Tad in Robert Lincoln's home in Chicago. His remains were transported to Springfield and buried in the Lincoln Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery, alongside his father and two of his brothers. Robert accompanied the casket on the train, but Mary was too distraught to make the trip.

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Thomas 'Tad' Lincoln's Timeline

April 4, 1853
Springfield, Sangamon, Illinois, United States
July 14, 1860
Age 51
Springfield, Sangamon, Illinois
April 15, 1865
Age 56
Washington, District of Columbia, United States
July 15, 1871
Age 18
Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States
July 15, 1871
Age 18
Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, United States