Growing up as a child in the White House has never been an easy proposition. The media glare, the demands of politics and the burden of expectations will sometimes break even the best of them. At times, for the older ones, especially, their lives before the White House also become fodder for the public. Alas, the pressure doesn't conclude when the father's term ends.
Our forty three presidents have sired a combined 167 children (89 males, 68 females), adopted eighteen (twelve males, six females), and became the stepfather to two boys. Interestingly, out of the 167 biological children, ten (four males, six females) were born out of wedlock.
The nation's tenth president, John Tyler, was the most productive, fathering fifteen children (eight males, seven females). At the other end of the spectrum, four presidents (George Washington, Andrew Jackson, James Polk and James Buchanan), did not beget any children.
The seventh president, Andrew Jackson, was the Angelina Jolie of his time. Together with wife Rachel, he adopted ten children (eight males, two females). Meanwhile, our third president, the genius Thomas Jefferson, comes up tops in the illegitimate category, with six (two males, four females).
Two former White House's boys, John Quincy Adams (son of the second president, John Adams) and George W. Bush (son of the 41st president, George H.W. Bush), went on to become president themselves (the 6th and 43rd). Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president, was the grandson of ninth, William H. Harrison.
♦ Letty Tyler Semple
Letty, daughter of John Tyler (10th), accused her stepmother, Julia Gardiner (Tyler's second wife), of seducing her husband, James Semple.
♦ Alice Roosevelt
Among all of our presidents, Theodore Roosevelt (26th), probably fits the archetypal image of an action hero the best. He was handsome, with an imposing physique, a courageous soldier, a leader of men and exceptionally intelligent to boot. However, even he threw his arms up in exasperation over the antics of his gorgeous daughter, Alice Roosevelt. The stunning raven-haired beauty proved to be too much of a handful for her father, who once famously declared, "I can either run the country, or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both."
Alice, a trendy socialite, drew gasps of alarm with her headline grabbing lifestyle, leading the press to crown her Princess Alice. Pictures of her smoking on the roof of the White House, gallivanting around Washington in the arms of some of the most eligible bachelors in the country, shooting at telegraph poles, parading in public with a pet snake wrapped around her shoulders, gambling at the race track - the list was endless - were regularly featured in newspapers throughout Roosevelt's two terms in office.
In a feature article that appeared in The Titusville Herald on June 9, 1999, Lawrence L. Knutson, a long-time D.C insider, reported,
"A congressman's wife, describing Alice at a White House party in 1911, said she "held the very scant skirt quite high, and when the band played, kicked about and moved her body sinuously like a shining leopard cat." At a society ball about that time, she bounced to the Turkey Trot while blowing rhythmic puffs of cigarette smoke, causing some to liken her to a rocketing locomotive."
The free-spirited Alice was ahead of her time, and she makes no apologies about it.
"Nobody cultivates me. I'm wild. I'm wild."
♦ Robert Todd Lincoln
The son of the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was present in the assassination of three presidents; his father, James Garfield (20th) and William McKinley (25th).
♦ James Webb Cook Hayes
The second son of Rutherford Hayes (19th) is the most decorated soldier among all the children of former presidents. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest from the military, for his bravery during the Spanish-American War. His citation read,
"Pushed through the enemy's lines alone, during the night, from the beach to the beleaguered force at Vigan, and returned the following morning to report the condition of affairs to the Navy and secure assistance."
♦ Maureen Reagan
The daughter of Ronald Reagan (40th) once claimed to have seen the ghost of Abraham Lincoln wandering around the White House's Executive Mansion.
♦ Margaret Truman
The daughter of Harry Truman (33rd) was once an ambitious opera singer, and after three years doing vocal recitals over the radio, she was offered the chance to perform live in the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington. The event, held on December 5th, 1950, in front of 3,500 people, drew some of the most well connected people in town, including her father, and the British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee.
The Washington Post music critic, Paul Hume, wrote this review in the paper the following day.
"Miss Truman is a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality [...] Miss Truman cannot sing very well. She is flat a good deal of the time - more last night than at any time we have heard her in past years [...] There are few moments during her recital when one can relax and feel confident that she will make her goal, which is the end of the song [...] Miss Truman has not improved in the years we have heard her; she still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish. She communicates almost nothing of the music she presents."
President Truman hand delivered the following message to Hume on the same day.
I've just read your lousy review of Margaret's concert. I've come to the conclusion that you are an "eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay. It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for, it shows conclusively that you're off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work. Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you'll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry."
♦ Esther Cleveland
She has the distinction of being the only child of a sitting president born in the White House. Esther, the second daughter of President Grover Cleveland (24th), was born in the Executive Mansion, on September 9, 1893.
Note: Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, the third child of President Kennedy, was also born during his father's term. However, he was delivered in the Otis Air Force Base Hospital in Massachusetts.
♦ Caroline Kennedy
Legendary singer/songwriter, Neil Diamond, wrote his classic, "Sweet Caroline" in honor of Caroline Kennedy, the eldest daughter of John Kennedy (35th).
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