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Thomas F. Pendel was a White House doorman from the Abraham Lincoln administration to the turn of the 20th century. By the time Chester A. Arthur succeeded James A. Garfield in September 1881, Pendel had experienced the assassinations of both Lincoln and Garfield.

Even before Arthur moved into the White House, a man who "seemed perfectly rational" came to the Executive Mansion, asking to see the new President. Pendel sent him on his way, but two weeks later he returned.

Another usher, Mr. Allen, approached the chap, who handed Allen a note. Allen walked over to Pendel and said, "Tom, that man is crazy."1

Chief Usher Eldon Dinsmore tried to persuade the visitor to come along with him to see President Arthur; but the fellow sensed he was being deceived, and he attempted to bolt.

"Dinsmore grabbed him by the collar," recounts Pendel, "and as he did so, the man's hand went down to his hip-pocket." Allen went for the pocket "and drew out . . . a six-shooter, with every barrel loaded." Pendel confiscated the gun. The "ugly customer" was packed off to police headquarters, and "that was the last we ever saw of him."2

This portrait of Thomas F. Pendel appeared in his 1902 memoir, Thirty-six Years in the White House.

Footnotes & Resources

  1. Thomas F. Pendel, Thirty-Six Years in the White House (Washington: Neale Publishing, 1902), 123–124.
  2. Ibid., 124-125.