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Early Use of the Insanity Plea in Court

The first attempted assassination of a United States President was Andrew Jackson. On January 30, 1835, Jackson had just finished attending a memorial service held in the Capitol building in Washington, DC. While walking across the rotunda, a man who seemed to come from nowhere, lurched in front of Jackson and fired a pistol at him. He was less than six feet away. Upon firing the gun, there was a loud explosion but the bullet misfired. The would-be assassin pulled out another pistiol from his coat and fired again. The gun misfired again! By this time, a matter of seconds, several aides came to Jackson's rescue and were able to subdue the man. Later, upon checking the pistols at close range they both fired properly. What are the odds of both pistols misfiring when after the fact they fired correctly?

The attempted assassin, Richard Lawrence, went to trial. The defense attorney attempted a "Not guilty by reason of insanity" viewpoint. The prosecutor objected highly to this direction of the trial and argued against the plea. By law, since Lawrence was found guility of attempted murder of a president, the sentence would have been death by hanging. The defense attorney pleaded with the jury to not hang his client, but have him commited to an asylum instead. Lawrence won as the jury voted in favor of committing Lawrence to an asylum for the rest of his life. Few people know their history enough to recall this assassination attempt, but this trial set the legacy for a plea of not-guility-by-reason-of-insanity.

Oh, the prosecutor in this trial: Francis Scott Key of the Star Spangeld Banner fame.

A New Book of Interest For Historybuff's

"What scene or incident in American history would you like to have witnessed - and why"? This was the question editor Byron Hollinshead asked historians and scholars to answer in his new book I Wish I'd Been There: Twenty Historians Bring to Life Dramatic Events that Changed America. Some of the finest historical writers picked a single moment or event in American history that most piqued their interest and transformed themselves into imaginary witnesses. Some of the events recalled are the witch trials in Salem, the Lewis and Clark expedition, the assassinatuion of Abraham Lincolnm the beginnings of the Vietnam War and other key turning points in America's past. The publisher is Doubleday and the book was released October 3, 2006.

The book can be purchased from Amazon.com.

Is There a Subscriber that Lives in Springfield, Illinois?

I am in need assistance of someone living in or near Springfield, Illinois. I need closeup digital photos taken of 2 specific signs at the Receiving Vault at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. Let me know if you can help. I will email you a small photo indicating which two signs are needed to be photographed. Thanks in advance.

Unusual Grave Markers
While in Springfield, Illinois recently to shoot panoramas for HistoryBuff.com, among the other sites, I did 3 panoramas at the Oak Ridge Cemetery. While looking for William Herndon's grave (he was a law partner of Abraham Lincoln) I spotted two unique grave markers and took several photos of each from different angles. One is at the right of this paragraph. I have placed several of the photos on HistoryBuff.com. To view all of the images, click a link below.

Dowling/Hamer Family Grave Marker

Brant/Homer Family Grave Marker

Treasure Chest Contest

Each issue will contain a new clue to what the answer is. The answer can be either a person, place, or thing that relates to American history. The first with the correct answer will win the Treasure Chest prize. (See below.)

Contest Rules

1) To enter the Treasure Chest Contest, send an email to help@historyreference.org with your answer to the contest.

2) The email with your Treasure Chest Contest entry should contain "Treasure Chest Contest" as the subject line.

3) Only one guess per subscriber for each newsletter issue.

4) Failure to follow the above three rules will result in the entry being disqualified for that issue.

5) The contest ends when the first subscriber with the correct answer, and who follows the above rules, is submitted. Thus, the contest could remain active for several issues.

Treasure Chest Prize

Multi-format Player

  • Includes Wireless Remote Control
  • Component, S-Video, & Composite Outputs
  • Stereo Audio and Coaxal Digital Audio Ports

    DVD Movies

  • Ten different classic movies on DVD

    $20 Credit For HistoryBuffAuction

  • Bid on what you want from the auction - Up to $20*
  • To see examples visit http://www.historybuffauction.com/auction.cgi

    * In the event that the winner is under 18 years of age, the credit will be issued to the parent or guardian for bidding purposes.


    1) I was born/made in England.

    2) A direction on a compass enters into the equation.

    3) Eat, drink and be merry - or upset!

    4) I am a document important to American history.

    August Brain Teaser

    This is a most unusual paragraph. How quickly can you find out what is wrong with it? It's so usual, you would think nothing is wrong with it. In fact, nothing is wrong with it! It's unusual, though. Study it. What is so unusual about it? Do you know?

    Answer: The most often-used letter in the alphabet is the letter "e." The paragraph above does not have a single "e."

    October Brain Teaser

    What was the largest ocean in the world before Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean?

    Answer: Next issue. (No prizes offered for correct answer.)

    PS: If you make any money by winning bets on these brain teasers, a little commission would be nice :-)

    September Contest

    GRAND PRIZE QUESTION: The United States had a president who was once a King. Who was he?

    GRAND PRIZE ANSWER: Gerald Ford was born Leslie King. His name was changed when he was adotped.

    ALTERNATE PRIZE QUESTION: Who was the Baby Ruth candy bar named after?

    ANSWER: There are no primary source documents that give the truth behind the naming of the Baby Ruth candy bar. The two most popular answers are that the bar was named after Grover Cleveland's daughter Ruth, and the other is that the bar was named after Babe Ruth. Thus, I accepted either as being correct.

    Thirty-five people entered the contests. Eighteen people either had the incorrect subject heading or the wrong answer to the question. Three prizes went unclaimed.
    The September contest winners were:
    • Jennifer Herker - Iowa
    • Steven Kalan - California
    • Mary McLain - South Carolina
    • Rick Howard - Tennesee
    • Alvin Peters - Kansas
    • Grant & Cyndi Bennett - Missouri

    This Issue's Question

    To enter the Grand Prize Contest, answer the question: Only one United States President became a United States senator AFTER he was president. Who was he?

    To enter the Alternate Contest, answer the question: A few of the United States president's are NOT buried in the United States. Which ones and why?

    Contest Rules

    • Contest entry deadline is Monday, October 16, 2006. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

    • Subscribers may enter all three contests, but can only win one prize.

    • To enter either contest, email your answer to help@historyreference.org.

    • If entering for the Grand Prize, enter "Contest Entry Grand Prize" for the subject heading.

    • If entering for alternate prize contest, enter "Contest Entry" for the subject heading.

    • Alternate contest entries with prize desires such as "any prize is OK," "any of the historic newspapers" etc. will be disqualified. You MUST select ONE prize. The Grand Prize is considered as only one prize.

    • If entering both contests, send separate emails.

    • From subscribers entering the alternate contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE alternate contest prize they want to win, EIGHT will be selected to win ONE of the alternate contest prizes below.

    • From subcribers entering the Grand Prize contest, one will be selected to win the prize from those submitting the correct subject heading, correct answer, and by the deadline.

    • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
    Grand Prize
    (One winner will be selected)

      A copy of the recently released book

      I Wish I'd Been There

      (See article above)

    Alternate Contest Prizes
    Alternate Contest Prizes (Only one of each offered)

    Classic Western TV Episodes

    Legends of the Old West

    Over 4 hours of this classic western from the 1950's

    1960's Hit Music CD

    Two CD Set Plus One DVD

  • Stand By Me - Ben E. King
  • Walk Right Back - Everly Brothers
  • Cherish - The Association
  • I Say a Little Prayer - Dionne Warwick
  • Count Me In - Gary Lewis & the Playboys
  • Ferry 'Cross the Mercy - Gerry and the Pacemakers
  • Tracks of My Tears - Miracles
  • Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss) - Betty Everett
  • Plus 20 More!

  • DVD of classic commercials

  • Original Historic Newspapers

    Original Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC) historic newspaper from 1843

    Original Baltimore American historic newspaper from 1857

    Original The Sun (Baltimore) historic newspaper from 1866
    That's it for this issue.

    Rick Brown

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