Before he was President: Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865
inventor, ferry boat captain
Abraham Lincoln is the only president to receive a patent. Known for
his ability with an axe and cutting wood, the 21 year old Abraham
Lincoln was hired to split logs and build a flatboat that could
carry barrels of produce New Orleans. He would be paid $12 a month
for building and navigating the boat.
During one of his journeys he
became stuck on a dam where he stayed for 24 hours until he figured
out how drilling a strategically place hole in the craft would help
drain water and flip is boat over the dam. That experience led him
to draw a design for a new flatboat. His patent was for a system of
chambers designed to refloat boats that had run aground. He thought
of the idea during a journey from Niagara to his home in Springfield
Illinois. He received Patent 6469 on May 22, 1849.
He also received a saloon license to dispense liquor in Springfield,
Illinois, but he never used it. When Lincoln moved to New Salem,
Illinois in 1831, he ran into a local bully named Jack Armstrong.
Armstrong challenged Lincoln to a wrestling match outside of Denton
Offutt's store, where Lincoln was a clerk, and townspeople gathered
to watch and wager on it. Lincoln won.
Andrew Johnson, 1865-1869 tailor
Andrew Johnson was a tailor, something he really loved. At the age
of 14 Andrew went to work for Mr. James Selby in Raleigh, North
Carolina. The small amount of money he was paid saved him and his
mother from starving. He moved West believing he would make more
money, married Eliza McCardle, and started his own tailoring shop.
His shop was became a favorite gathering place for townspeople to
talk about what was going on and they enjoyed Johnson's strong
speaking ability. It was his speaking ability that got him elected
to his first government position as town's alderman. Even when he
started to rise in the world of politics, Johnson still had a soft
spot for a spool of thread. When he was governor of Tennessee, he
made a suit for the governor of Kentucky, just for fun.
Ulysses Simpson Grant, 1869-1877
sold firewood in the streets
Ulysses Grant's first lesson in business negotiations didn't go
exactly as planned by his father. Ulysses' father, Jesse, told 10
year old Ulysses to go to the neighbor's farm and buy the horse that
was for sale. Partly looking for a better deal and also trying to
teach his young son new business skills, Jesse's instructions were,
"Offer Mr. Ralston $50 for the horse he has for sale. However, if he
doesn't take $50 then offer him $55.00. If he will not take the
$55.00 then you may pay him the full $60.00."
Ulysses went to the neighbor's home with $60.00 in his pocket. He
certainly didn't want to disappoint his father considering the trust
he had put in him so he rehearsed in his mind what his father had
told him to say. When he arrived at Mr. Ralston's farm he was
surprised by the first question he was asked. "How much did your
father tell you to pay for my horse?", asked Mr. Ralston." Ulysses
answer not only demonstrated his honesty and integrity, but also his
newness at negotiations. "Father told me to offer you $50.00, and if
you don't take that then I should offer you $55.00. However, if you
still don't accept that price I should offer you the $60.00 he gave
me." Of course, Mr. Ralston sold the horse to Ulysses for $60.00,
but Ulysses learned a valuable lesson when he got home with the new
horse and discussed his day with his father.