Presidential Offspring: Seven Very Odd Outcomes of White House Fathers
Having a president for a father is not easy: The roster of children born to America's chief executives is rife with alcoholics, suicides and failures.
Some, of course, thrive. But still, there are oddities. Here are five (Bonus: Two instances of presidential grandkid weirdness!!)
5. John Van Buren The son of Martin Van Buren, JVB had three overriding interests in life: drinking, gambling and womanizing. He managed to combine these three on one spectacular night when, according to rumors that were never proven but which dogged him throughout his life, he managed to lose $5,000, his home, and his mistress in a drunken card game. Bonus: The mistress was Elena America Vespucci, a direct descendant of America's namesake, Amerigo Vespucci.
4. George Washington Adams and John Adams II John Quincy Adams had three sons; two died very young from alcoholism, one a suicide. (On the other hand, Charles Francis Adams had a distinguished career and might have been a third-generation president with a few breaks.) John is the only presidential son to be married in the White House, but it wasn't a pleasant affair. He married Mary Catherine Hellon, a family friend who had long dreamed of a White House wedding after hearing about James Monroe's daughter's ceremony.
You can't say she wasn't determined: She went out with both George and Charles before, apparently impatient to get on with being the star attraction at a wedding, she became engaged to John. Neither brother attended the event. George, a poetical type with a depressive personality, became increasingly lost in the bottle and eventually threw himself to his death off a ship in New York harbor.
John fared little better: He too became a severe alcoholic and died from it at 31. 3. Robert Todd Lincoln The only son of Abraham Lincoln to survive into adulthood, Lincoln became one of the more ferocious union-busters as the attorney for the Pullman Railcar Company. As workers fought for the most basic of working conditions and pay, Lincoln called in goons when he felt it was necessary and cooked up any subterfuge he could think of to sabotage the movement, and leader A. Phillip Randolph.
Sure, Robert's dad was among the first Republicans, but Abe did have some sympathy for the working man.
2. Maria Hester Monroe Gouverneur Maria, daughter of James Monroe, had a fine if relatively brief life, dying at 47. But here's the thing: She and her husband had to take in their dad to live in their home because he was broke.
A former president, a Founding Father, so destitute his only option was to move in with his kid. Where's a big book advance when you need one?
1. FDR's kids Franklin Delano Roosevelt had six kids; between them the children had 19 freaking marriages. They got divorced as often as they changed butlers, with Elliott and FDR Jr. marrying five times each. Several of the sons distinguished themselves in war, but drinking and womanizing led to marital trouble, not to mention the example of their parents' odd union.
And the bonus grandkid items: John Tyler John Tyler became president 20 years before the Civil War. Yet he still has two grandchildren alive today. Not great-grandchildren, just regular old grandchildren. Two people are living in 2011 who think of John Tyler, who was born in 1790, as "grandpa."
Tyler was married twice and had 15 children, the last of which died in 1947.
Gavin Arthur (Chester Alan Arthur III) Chester Alan Arthur III, who was known as Chet and also Galvin, was the grandson of Chester Alan Arthur, one of those forgettable late 19th-century presidents.
Gavin Arthur was determined not to be forgotten: Back in the 1950s and `60s, when homosexuality was a deeply perverted crime never to be spoken of, Arthur was a pioneer in fighting for gay rights. He also "fought for the Irish Liberation movement, founded a literary magazine, prospected for gold, taught in San Quentin prison, was secretary of the Utopian Society, and led a commune," according to one obit.
Oh, and he also wrote The Circle of Sex, a hybrid astrology/sex book.