Like Lincoln, Andrew Johnson did not have an auspicious beginning.
He was born December 29, 1808 in Raleigh, North Carolina. His dad was a porter at the local hotel and his mother a housekeeper. The family was poor and poorer yet when his father died when Andrew was only three. Not knowing what else to do, his mother worked it out so he could be an apprentice at a tailor shop – Andrew was still a child.
That was Andrew’s life until he became a teen and decided to run away – but was smart enough to take his tailor tools with him. Of course, the “master” was angry and even angrier that the tools were gone, so he put an ad in the paper offering a $10.00 reward for Andrew Johnson.
As Andrew moved from place to place, he earned his keep by his tailoring. But then he heard that his mother was facing tough times, so he went back home. The tailor was out of business, but in a fit of revenge, refused to free Andrew from his apprenticeship. Andrew packed his mom, her second husband and his brother into a cart and took off across the Smokey Mountains to Greeneville, Tennessee.
Andrew was now 18. He worked for another tailor until he saved enough money to own his own shop.
(That tailor shop is housed inside of the Andrew Johnson Visitor’s Center in Greeneville.)
Something else happened in Greeneville – Andrew met Elizabeth McCardle, a teacher and daughter of a shoemaker.
Andrew had not had even one day of formal education. Although he had taught himself to read at the tailor shop – it was Elizabeth who patiently taught him how to write and to do math.
They were married by Mordecai Lincoln, a cousin of Abraham.