Starting this week, my aim is to be back to blogging regularly--I hope! Today I'd like to share a very interesting fact I learned many years ago when I read Destiny of the Republic, a meticulously researched account of the shooting and eventual death of President James A. Garfield by Candice Millard.
You may think that the reason the Secret Service was created was to protect the president of the United States. However, that is incorrect. According to Wikipedia:
With a reported one third of the currency in circulation being counterfeit at the time, Abraham Lincoln established a commission to make recommendations to remedy the problem. The Secret Service was later established on July 5, 1865, in Washington, D.C., to suppress counterfeit currency. Chief William P. Wood was sworn in by Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch. It was commissioned in Washington, D.C. as the "Secret Service Division" of the Department of the Treasury with the mission of suppressing counterfeiting. At the time, the only other federal law enforcement agencies were the United States Customs Service, the United States Park Police, the U.S. Post Office Department's Office of Instructions and Mail Depredations (now known as the United States Postal Inspection Service), and the United States Marshals Service. The Marshals did not have the manpower to investigate all crime under federal jurisdiction, so the Secret Service began investigating a wide range of crimes from murder to bank robbery to illegal gambling.
After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, Congress informally requested that the Secret Service provide presidential protection. A year later, the Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for presidential protection.
But before that, anyone could just walk into the white House. Check out this article from the Washington Post, "People Used to be Able to Walk into the White House. Legally," by Katie Zezima:
...once upon a time it was possible for just about anyone to stroll into the president's home during an open house and partake in the free-flowing booze. Like that time people nibbled on a 1,400 pound block of cheese and ground the crumbs into the upholstery. Seriously.