On the night of his assassination, the legislation that created the United States Secret Service lay on President Lincoln’s desk. You may be surprised to learn that the history between Abraham Lincoln and the Secret Service did not end there. It followed the slain president and his family in death.
The Secret Service was founded as a law enforcement agency attached to the Department of the Treasury in July, 1865. Its remit was to combat the counterfeiting of US currency which was prolific at that time. It had no role to play in presidential protection until 1894, except for a single event — an attempt to steal the body of President Abraham Lincoln.
The Night They Tried to Steal Lincoln's Corpse (2.08 minutes)
Lewis Segles, a Secret Service informant, had infiltrated a gang of counterfeiters and learned of a plot to steal the body of President Lincoln and hold it for ransom. He reported the details to Patrick D. Tyrrell, Chief of the Chicago District Office of the Secret Service.
On the night of 7th November, 1896, Swegles accompanied Terence Mullen, a saloonkeeper and Jack Hughes, a counterfeiter to Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. Tyrrell and his Secret Service agents lay in wait close to The Abraham Lincoln Burial Site.
Mullen and Hughes used a file to open the padlock securing Lincoln’s burial chamber and easily broke into the white marble sarcophagus containing the president’s remains, but the would-be graverobbers were unable to move his coffin very far. They had given little thought to how they would exhume and escape with a 500-pound cedar-and-lead coffin.
Mullens and Hughes abandoned the coffin and raced back to Chicago after a hidden detective accidentally discharged his pistol. They were arrested by Tyrell a few days later in the salon in which they’d hatched their conspiracy.