14 Little-Known Ways Abraham Lincoln Was Actually The OG Hustler


PSA: Abraham Lincoln did. not. say. this. quote. Do you really think he would have used the word “hustle”?

I’m appalled at how many times this has been repinned on Pinterest. But while he didn’t actually *say* this actual phrase, Lincoln did embody that basic principle: that there’s no time to wait on anyone else to do stuff for you and that if you want to get ahead, you have to do it yourself. Here are 14 little-known ways Abraham Lincoln was basically the OG hustler.


1. He was self-educated.

Lincoln only had about a year of formal schooling, maybe less. The rest he did on his own. He once described his own education as “defective.” He read things like Aesop’s Fables, the Bible, The Pilgrim’s Progress, plus newspapers, hymnals, and schoolbooks–basically anything he could get his hands on. He practiced speaking to just about anyone who would listen.

2. He turned a temporary job into a better, more stable job.

He got one job moving cargo on a steamboat from Springfield, Illinois, to New Orleans. When the boat had technical difficulties near the town of New Salem, Illinois, the boat owner was impressed by the town’s location—and Lincoln, too, so much so that he offered him a job as a clerk in the store he planned to open up in New Salem.

3. He took on the town bully in a fight and lost—but earned everybody’s respect in the process.

He wrestled Jack Armstrong, the leader of the local group of rowdy boys called the Clary’s Grove Boys, and accounts differ as to how it wound up. Most accounts say he lost, but all accounts say that fight earned Lincoln the respect of the group—and it was better to have them for you than against you.

4. He was encouraged to run for politics because was good at arguing and managed three businesses.

In 1832, Lincoln was encouraged by New Salem town leaders to run for politics because they were impressed by his performance in the New Salem debating club and talent at running the store, sawmill and gristmill.

5. He took a job as a volunteer in the Black Hawk War because he needed to pay the bills.

Then he was named captain of his unit, despite being only in his 20s and not having any military experience. They never saw combat, but still.

6. Kind of like he taught himself literally almost all the education he had growing up, Lincoln also taught himself surveying and, you know, the entire law.

When he was working as New Salem’s postmaster, he took up a side gig surveying to make extra money. Problem was, he didn’t know anything about surveying, so he borrowed two books and taught himself. Later, after he landed his first gig in the state legislature, a couple of people told him he should practice law. So he got some books and taught himself. NBD.

7. He was the only president to have a patent.

Lincoln invented this device in the late 1840s that helps ships get over shoal beds. He patented that mofo and is still the only president to have invented something and patented it.

8. He grew a beard literally because a little girl told him it would make him less ugly.

Seriously—Lincoln grew his whiskers because a child named Grace Bedel wrote him a letter and told him they’d make his face look less thin and gaunt. Nevermind that no other presidents had ever had a beard (he was the first). Lincoln was just like, oh, OK, let me grow this beard real quick.

9. He helped form a new party because the old ones sucked.

He was instrumental in forming the Republican party in the 1850s and was the first president to come from it.

10. He stomped his opponents in the Electoral College.

During his first run for president, he got 180 votes total, while his opponents got only 123 added all together. *sassy emoji*

11. He was the first person to use all sorts of presidential powers that had never been used before and did not care much that it pissed off pretty much everyone.

He took on expansive wartime powers, instituted blockades, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, imprisoned Confederate sympathizers (both proven and suspected). A lot of people were (and still are) upset about the way he responded, but Lincoln was pretty much like “IDGAF” and did what he had to do.

12. When General McClellan failed to do literally everything the president asked him to do, instead of stewing in Washington, Lincoln traipsed down to Antietam and decided to just fire him (and take the best photo ever—look how much taller he is than everyone else!).


Lincoln was basically just like “lol no” at this point and just cut ties.

13. He said more in two minutes than a scheduled orator said in hours.

Lincoln wasn’t the big speaker scheduled for the Gettysburg Address. There was another speaker who spoke for about two hours prior to Lincoln taking the stage. In fact, Lincoln wasn’t even asked to speak until a few days prior. But guess what: There’s no real record of what the other guy said, but the 272-word Gettysburg Address is one of the greatest pieces of writing of all time.

14. When he was running for re-election, he basically said he’d hang around after he lost to help defeat the Confederacy.

He made the entire Cabinet sign an envelope containing a statement that said he would work with whoever the new President-elect was, because that person would have inherited a war he couldn’t win.

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