Robert Lincoln was the oldest of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln's four sons. Edwin Booth was the brother of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. The Booths were a family of actors; father Junius was considered to be one of the top Shakespearean actors of the day. Although John Wilkes was a decent actor, his brother Edwin was far more well known and highly acclaimed. Edwin was famous for playing Hamlet, a role he played in more performances than any other actor since.
Edwin (with his daughter in the photo at left) and John Wilkes were estranged, as they did not see eye-to-eye, especially on political matters. Edwin was a Unionist who supported president Lincoln, and John was an extremist in favor of secession.
In 1864, Edwin Booth and Robert Lincoln were both at a train station in Jersey City, New Jersey. Robert, on break from Harvard University, was traveling to Washington, D.C. The following is Lincoln's account of an incident that occurred at the train station:
"A group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body.
There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name."
Thus, that day at the train station, Edwin Booth saved Robert Lincoln from bodily harm or possibly death. A year later, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre.
Read about eight additional incredible historical coincidences here.