Lincoln's most memorable contest came against Jack Armstrong, a member of the rough and rugged Clary's Grove Boys. When Armstrong heard stories of Lincoln's famous strength (from Lincoln's boss, no less), he challenged the future president to a match. Crowds gathered. Money was wagered. And when the bout was over, Lincoln again stood tall, as he always seemed to.
Some versions of this story claim that Lincoln challenged each member of Armstrong's gang to individual fights after they attempted to interfere in the match before a clear winner was declared. Armstrong, admitting defeat, reportedly called off his friends and became lifelong friends with Lincoln. While accounts differ on the last moments of the fight, it's clear Lincoln had earned the respect of not only Armstrong, but the neighborhood as a whole.
Biographer William O. Stoddard wrote of the match:
"The episode was full of important consequences to Abraham Lincoln. His courage and prowess had been thoroughly tested and had made a deep impression upon the minds of his rough neighbors. He was in no danger of further challengers from any of them, and Jack Armstrong avowed himself the fast friend of the man who had given him so good a shaking."To this day, historians can only find one instance where Lincoln was bested during a match. It occurred while he was a part of the Illinois Volunteers during the Black Hawk War of 1832, when a man named Hank Thompson became the only man to actually throw Lincoln during a bout for his regiment's championship.
While Thompson may have claimed the title, Lincoln's reputation as a feared wrestler—and beloved president—was rewarded in 1992 when he was inducted into the Outstanding American wing of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
|The National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum, Stillwater, Oklahoma.|
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.