Welcome to my house: First Kids through the years

Welcome to my house: First Kids through the years

Presidents come and go, with time spent in the White House different and unique from one POTUS to the next. For their kids however, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is part of childhood; their experiences while living in the White House shaping them into the fine young men and women they will become. From Robert Lincoln to Malia and Sasha Obama, not only has time in Washington had a grooming sensation, but they have also left lasting impressions in Washington and even the country. Considering one political era is closing and another beginning, let’s take a look at some of the most memorable kids who have had the pleasure of calling the “Presidential Palace” their home.

Abraham and his wife Mary Todd with Robert and Tad Lincoln (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Abraham and his wife Mary Todd with Robert and Tad Lincoln (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Robert, Edward, William and Tad Lincoln

When your father is one of the most beloved and recognized presidents, you might expect there to be a lot of pressure on your shoulders while growing up. President Abraham Lincoln began his time in office in 1861 and at the time, his sons Robert,18, Edward,15, William,11 and eight year old Tad were typical young boys full of antics and games even while under a political watchful eye. Stories reveal that while Mrs. Lincoln often berated her sons for playing tricks on each other and misbehaving, President Lincoln had great toleration and considered his children perfect for his mental relaxation. While their father went on to change the nation with things like the Emancipation Proclamation and heading the country during the infamous Civil War, the Lincoln boys did not leave too memorable a mark, unfortunately.  Edward died of medullary thyroid cancer right before his fourth birthday. William died right after his eleventh birthday of typhoid fever, and Tad died at age 18 due to tuberculosis. On a brighter note, it would be the oldest, Robert, who graduated from Harvard in 1865, becoming a very successful lawyer and politician like his father.

 

Grant with his children (L to R) Nellie, Jesse, Fredrick and Ulysses Jr. and wife Julia. (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Grant with his children (L to R) Nellie, Jesse, Fredrick and Ulysses Jr. and wife Julia. (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Fredrick, Ulysses Jr, Nellie and Jesse Grant

With a commanding general and POTUS as the man you call father, the Grant children certainly had high expectations. However, the four managed to stir up some drama in the spotlight! Nellie, Grant’s only daughter, was perceived by the newspapers to be a kind of American princess, and at only 16 years old, Nellie went to Europe to study in London. Along the way, she met Queen Victoria and fell in love with a famous English singer and got married. (Her father did not approve!) At 19, Jesse Grant, the youngest child, dropped out of Cornell to join his parents on a ‘world tour’. After visiting and having dinner with Queen Victoria, she described Jesse as “a very ill-mannered young Yankee.” Ouch!

Ulysses “Buck” Jr. was the more mature, level-headed one, studying law at Harvard and Cornell. He and a friend invested a lot of money into opening a Wall Street investment firm – with the help of his father lending $100,000. Unfortunately, in 1884 the entire firm collapsed, and Ulysses and Ulysses Jr. were broke! Even the eldest, Fredrick, had a hard time behaving. Following in his father’s footsteps, Fredrick attended the United States Military Academy, but he finished 37th out of 41 students in academics and dead last in discipline!

 

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Theodore and Edith with five of their six children. (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

 Alice, Theodore Jr., Kermit, Ethel, Archibald and Quentin Roosevelt

Like the Grant children, the Roosevelts had their fair share of scandals and drama in the White House. Starting with the family rebel, Alice Roosevelt was constantly shocking America with her immodest behavior. She smoked cigarettes in public, rode unchaperoned in cars with men (alert the media!), partied late into the night, engaged in voodoo and was even seen placing bets with a bookie. Theodore, fortunately, was a drama-free, easy going guy. He lived a simple life before going off to war, but he died of a heart attack while overseas at the age of 56. Kermit was more of the moody and secluded child, but he and his sister Ethel warred as children, and ganged up on Archie, but all of the children called Kermit “the lucky one” because he always got away with mischief (he was their mother’s favorite, according to Ethel). Quentin, the youngest of the six, was perhaps the most mischievous of all. Legend is he carved a baseball diamond on the White House lawn without permission, routinely defaced official presidential portraits with spitballs, and threw snowballs at Secret Service guards from the roof of the White House. Arguably, Quentin’s most famous transgression was bringing a pony to Archie’s room through the White House elevator in an effort to help “cheer up” his brother. At least he had good intentions.

(Photo courtesy of Pinterest)

(Photo courtesy of Pinterest)

Robert, Helen and Charles Taft

In comparison to the Grant and Roosevelt children, the Tafts were drama-free, scandal-free angels. These three kids were 20, 18 and 11, respectively, when their father, William Howard Taft, was elected president in 1909. Robert, Helen and Charles were all very high-achieving and ambitious kids. After caring for their mother when she suffered a stroke, Helen continued with her studies in college, and her father surprised her with a debutante party at the White House! Charles, who spent much of his adolescence in the White House, was the free spirit of the bunch, and his best playmates were Theodore Roosevelt’s children. He grew up and became a Cincinnati City Counselor, and being an avid fan of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, he sometimes listened to games on the radio with an earplug during city council meetings. No scandals here!

 

John and Jackie with their two children. (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

John and Jackie with their two children.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Caroline and John F. Kennedy Jr.

Fast forward to 1961, when JFK was sworn into office, and Caroline was just three years old. She was often photographed strutting around the White House grounds on her pony, Macaroni (casual), and one such photo in a news article inspired singer-songwriter Neil Diamond to write his hit song, “Sweet Caroline” (no big deal, right?!) The White House staff loved Caroline and described her as “unspoiled,” considering she was so young when they moved to Washington. Their father was assassinated in 1963 (three days before his son’s birthday) in Dallas. Robert was only three years old when they moved out, so he probably does not remember to much about his time in the White House. Caroline, who is still alive today, is an author, attorney and diplomat, and she is currently the United States Ambassador to Japan. JFK Jr., was a lawyer, journalist and magazine publisher. Sadly, he died in 1999 in a plane crash going over the Atlantic Ocean. He was only 38.

Lyndon and ‘Lady Bird’ Johnson with their daughters. (Photo courtesy of Pinterest)

Lyndon and ‘Lady Bird’ Johnson with their daughters.
(Photo courtesy of Pinterest)

Lynda and Luci Johnson

After President Kennedy was assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson took over the office, and his wife and two young daughters came along with him. Lynda was already in college at the University of Texas when her father suddenly took office, so she did not live in Washington, yet her younger sister got to experience the lavish lifestyle for a while. Luci on the other hand was more of a rebel child. (She even changed her name from ‘Lucy’ to ‘Luci’ as an act of rebellion against her parents!) However, she probably refrained from rebellion when her parents got her a new 1965 Corvette Stingray convertible as a birthday/graduation present. Despite all of the memories the girls made at the White House, there’s probably two memories in particular that will stay with them forever: both Lyda and Luci got married at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue! Each of them had over 700 people at their wedding receptions with eight-foot wedding cakes.

 

Gerald and Betty with their children. (Photo of Flickr Creative Commons)

Gerald and Betty with their children.
(Photo of Flickr Creative Commons)

Michael, John, Steven and Susan Ford

Could you imagine having prom in the White House?! When your father is commander in chief, such things are possible! When Gerald Ford began his term in office, his children were 24, 22, 18 and 17, respectively. And yes, President Ford was even generous enough to host Susan’s prom at the White House! Steven was known to party at the White House with his friends, blasting Led Zeppelin from the rooftop. In a 2010 interview, Steven revealed that he did not realize the snacks delivered to them came from his father’s paycheck. “I thought food and drink were just part of the perks of living at the White House!” he said. He ended up becoming an actor, showing off his skills in “When Harry Met Sally,” “Black Hawk Down” and “The Young and the Restless.” Susan is now an author and photojournalist, and her first husband just so happened to be one of her father’s Secret Service agents.

 

Jimmy and Rosalynn with Amy. (Photo courtesy of jimmycarter.info)

Jimmy and Rosalynn with Amy. (Photo courtesy of jimmycarter.info)

Amy Carter

The daughter of President Jimmy Carter was just 9 years old when they moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – her three older brothers did not live in the White House during their father’s term. The media was especially interested in Amy because she was the first young child to live there since JFK’s kids in the 1960s. She was known to roller skate down the White House hallways, and she even had a treehouse in the South Lawn. Most notably, Amy caused controversy when she was caught reading a book during a state dinner for the Canadian Prime Minister. Amy would become known for her political activism, participating in a number of sit-ins and protests during the 1980s and early 1990s, aimed at changing U.S. foreign policy toward South African apartheid.

 

(Photo Courtesy of Pinterest)

(Photo Courtesy of Pinterest)

Chelsea Clinton

The only child of President Bill and Senator Hillary Clinton, Chelsea was 13 when they moved into the White House, and her cool Secret Service codename was “Energy”. The main controversy concerning Chelsea was that her mother asked the press to limit coverage of Chelsea’s participation in public events. Her parents switched her from a public school to Sidwell, a private school in D.C., getting a lot of media attention back in the day! Chelsea moved out when was was 17 to attend Stanford University, and she became a special correspondent for NBC News from 2011 to 2014. She now works with the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative, and has recently worked greatly in her mother’s campaign for presidency in 2016. She now resides in Manhattan with her husband and son.

 

(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

Malia and Sasha Obama

We made it! Malia and Sasha Obama, the girls we all know and love, are the children of President Barack and Michelle Obama. They both spent nearly the entirety of their adolescence in the White House spotlight and handled it with perfect grace. Back in 2008, President Obama agreed that if he won the presidency, the girls would get a dog. Bo, a Portuguese water dog. Winning a second term, the Obamas welcomed another furry friend inside the White House, Sunny. Now 18 and 15, these two girls have grown beautifully in the spotlight. Malia is currently taking a well-deserved gap year and plans on attending Harvard in 2017. America patiently awaits Sasha’s future plans after high school. Looking at her parents, we are 100% confident that she will have a bright future in front of her. Come to think of it, #SashaObama2036 has a nice ring to it.

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Authored by: Margaret Carpenter

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Jane Gastineau at 8:55 am

    Edward Baker Lincoln was not 15 years old when his father became president in 1861–Eddie had died in 1850. There is no conclusive evidence of his cause of death, though his symptoms indicate it was probably consumption/tuberculosis, which was very common at the time. The speculation that he died of medullary thyroid cancer is pure speculation, and it is based partly on a photograph that scholars/experts agree is not really Eddie Lincoln (the photo appears in the Wikipedia article, among other online sites)and partly on controversial speculation about Abraham Lincoln’s health.

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