The untold truth of the Secret Service

We all think we have a pretty solid image of what the Secret Service is, and what it's there for. They're the personal entourage of the president and his family, and they get mad at us when we tweet mean things at them (not that we do that or anything, *ahem*). Turns out, there's some pretty surprising, lesser-known details about the job and its history, which we're gonna go ahead and document here:

They were formed on the one day they really would have come in handy

If you were unaware of the history of the Secret Service, it would be understandable to wonder where they were and what they were doing the evening President Abraham Lincoln was murdered. There should have been a dozen men with suits, sunglasses, earpieces, and fashionable top hats surrounding him the whole time, right? As it turns out, they didn't even exist then.

But wait! It gets weirder. Turns out, President Lincoln signed the legislation forming the Secret Service on April 14, 1865 — the exact same day John Wilkes Booth made literally everybody forget he was an actor. Unfortunately, even if it had formed the day before, or even ten minutes before the shooting, it wouldn't have done Honest Abe any good, because as we're about to show you, the Secret Service didn't start as a presidential guard. So either way, he was pretty borked.

The Secret Service started as anti-counterfeiting agents of The US Treasury

When the Secret Service officially formed in July of 1865, diving in front of bullets for the president wasn't even on the menu. See, after the Civil War, things were a big mess, currency-wise. There was all sorts of various banknotes floating around, some from banks that had since folded, and counterfeiters were running buck wild, realizing nobody was keeping track of any of it.

Well, keeping track of it became the original job of the Secret Service. A couple years later, they expanded to investigate fraud as well, and it turned out to be a few decades before the Secret Service took on any of the duties we usually take for granted as their whole job now. To this day, they still investigate counterfeit money and federal-level fraud. They also investigate mail theft, if you ever wanna get the jerk that steals your good magazines in hot water. You know who we're talking about.

The Secret Service was part of the Treasury Department until 2003

Since the Secret Service was once all about protecting us from money crimes, it makes sense that they were part of the Treasury Department. However, it makes less sense that they didn't stop being part of that department until the Dubya era. We know the government can act slow, but geez.

It's sometimes hard to believe these days, but the Department of Homeland Security wasn't always a thing. It was created in 2002, and the government initially wasn't exactly sure what it was supposed to do, except sound official and scary. By 2003 it found its groove, and started eating up and absorbing other government agencies into itself. Within months, the Secret Service, Coast Guard, Customs Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and others had all been moved from the Treasury Department into Homeland Security. We don't have too many jokes to make here, because we really aren't trying to get on any government lists.

Two other presidents were assassinated while the Secret Service was working their bugs out

The Secret Service as we know them, as a full-time guard of the president and family, started with the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt. Well sort of, but we'll get to that. In between Lincoln and Roosevelt, two more presidential assassinations occurred, including Roosevelt's predecessor, William McKinley.

McKinley and his predecessor, Grover Cleveland, had both utilized the Secret Service as an informal guard, but McKinley began to chafe under their watch. He considered himself well-liked enough, as both a president and a generally swell guy, that he totally wouldn't get murdered by an anarchist shortly after consciously diminishing his own security detail and that of the White House. Famous last words, right? Except he also had the White House sentry boxes removed and frequently took public walks and buggy rides unattended. There's confidence, and then there's doing everything in your power to violently meet your maker for no reason.

Even then, at the time the Secret Service only protected the acting president. They didn't start protecting the president's immediate family until 1917, and didn't start protecting campaigning candidates for president until the assassination of Robert Kennedy. So we're already about one hundred years into the history of this organization, where they seem to always be one step behind where they should be. Maybe things will pick up?

Only one Secret Service agent has ever died during a presidential assassination

It's actually a pretty impressive testament to the Service that, through some of incredibly tumultuous times in the 20th and 21st century, only one of them has fallen in a presidential assassination attempt. That would be Secret Service agent Leslie Coffelt, who died in 1950 during a failed assassination attempt on President Harry Truman. Thirty years later, Agent Tim McCarthy was shot trying to protect President Reagan from Hinckley, but he survived. After all, if Reagan can break a line of Presidents dying, why can't his agent do the same?

Their duty is still fraught with danger, however, as agents died in the line of duty from the very beginning of their president-protecting days. The first Secret Service agent killed in the line of duty died while shoving President Teddy Roosevelt out of a carriage as a runaway trolley crashed into it. It was basically like an action movie, except at 30 MPH.

FDR used the Secret Service to keep his disability secret

It's no secret now, but at the time Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, it wasn't common knowledge he was wheelchair-bound, due to complications from a childhood bout of polio. He was extremely self-conscious about his disability, and didn't want it to affect the public's perception of him as a strong leader. But being president and all, it required some fancy maneuvering to make public appearances while giving the impression he could still walk.

Enter the Secret Service. Agents were tasked not just with protecting him, but with interfering with anyone taking inopportune photos of him and his wheelchair. Agents would either physically get in the way of potential photos or, in extreme cases, seize the film or break cameras when folks were too insistent. At least they stopped short of going full Axl Rose?

JFK used to send Secret Service on naughty errands

John F Kennedy is as famous for his impish sexual romps as he is for bring president. He wasn't afraid to get the hands of his Secret Service agents dirty either — one was tasked with framing — and mounting — sexy photos of the Prez with his paramours. All the frame work was done at the same shop, which was ten blocks from the White House, by the same gallery owner that helped Jackie Kennedy decorate. There's … probably some kink there we aren't gonna touch.

In an interview, the owner admitted that no other president had made such a request before, or since. Considering the Secret Service went through yet another revamp after his assassination, it's probably safe to assume "no more X-rated shopping trips" became an official rule.

Gerald Ford would blame Secret Service agents for his farts

Gerald Ford has just sort of fallen down the stairs of US history as a goofy, Homer Simpson-ish oaf of a president. This anecdote will do absolutely nothing to dispel that image.

According to his own Secret Service detail, Ford was prone to fart in public, often and loudly, and with no attempt to hide it. Every time, like clockwork, he would turn to one of his Secret Service agents and attempt to blame one of them for the fart. Hey, beats catching a bullet probably, but then, we never had to smell what The Ford was cookin' like they did.