Presidential Kids

The Presidents' Children

People hold public figures in the public eye to very high standards. But what if the particular figure didn’t ask to be there? When the sons and daughters of U.S. presidents are put on the national stage, their childlike antics, teenage rebellions, and less-than-positive behavior can make national news, even after they’ve left the White House.

Amy Carter

People probably expect the children of presidents to be politically active-but not so politically active that they end up arrested. Amy Carter, the daughter of President Jimmy Carter, was arrested 4 times: 3 times for protesting South Africa apartheid [what?], reportedly with her father’s permission, and once while protesting CIA campus recruiting at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she was allegedly blocking the buses that were carrying away other arrested protesters. Unfortunately, all this protesting took up a lot of her time, and in 1987, she was dismissed from Brown University for failing to keep up with her schoolwork.

Alice Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt once said of his daughter, “I can be President of the United States, or I can attend to Alice. I cannot possibly do both!” When her mother died from Bright’s Disease [What?] shortly after her birth in 1884, Alice was raised by her aunt Anna until her father remarried in 1886. Princess Alice, as she was nicknamed, was the party girl of her time, not to mention a fashion icon and nonconformist [What?]. She was known to smoke in public, chew gum, and even carry her snake with her to parties. To her father’s disappointment, this combination made her very popular with the public. So, in an effort to put her celebrity to good use, Roosevelt sent his daughter on the 1905 “Imperial Cruise” in which Alice joined several well-known Washington politicians as a goodwill ambassador on a trip around the world. At one point, Alice was said to have jumped fully-clothed into the ship’s pool, urging a Congressman to do the same.

Quentin Roosevelt

Alice wasn’t the only Roosevelt child to go his own way. Quentin, the youngest of President Theodore Roosevelt’s kids, was “a fine bad little boy,” as his mother often said. But he was also the leader of the “White House Gang,” a name given to them by the president himself. Growing up in the White House allowed for all sorts of mischief by this gang of rowdy boys, which included future President William Howard Taft’s son and the children of other Washington politicians. With Quentin at the lead, the group carved a baseball diamond into the White House lawn, shot spitballs at the portrait of Andrew Jackson, and even launch “attacks” on other Washington buildings. Quentin once brought 3 snakes, wound around his arms, as he entered the Oval Office on roller skates. According to the New York Times, he skated into the room, where his father was having a meeting with Attorney General Bonaparte, who “hurriedly ascended [climbed] the back of his chair.”

“What’s the matter?” Quentin asked. “Aren’t they lovely snakes?” While Quentin got a rowdy start in life, he eventually calmed down. He attended Harvard University and got engaged to Flora Payne Whitney, the granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the richest men in the United States at the time. After some time at Harvard, he joined the U.S. Air Service, and died in World War I after his plane was shot down in France.

Willie and Tad Lincoln

Have you ever been in a store and watched unsupervised children running around loose and destroying things? Then you understand what Willie and Tad Lincoln, two of President Abraham Lincoln’s sons, were like. In fact, Lincoln’s law partner even referred to Willie and Tad as “the little devils,” as chaos would inevitably start every time the boys were allowed in the law office.

After Willie’s death at the age of 11 due to an illness-likely typhoid fever [What?]-Tad remained at the head of White House mischief. From hosting a spur-of-the-moment yard sale to sell his parent’s clothing on the White House lawn to hitching goats to a sled and riding it through a reception hosted by the First Lady, Tad managed to keep life at the White House interesting for his parents and visitors alike. As he got a little older, Tad settled slightly and, like the others in his family, became a fan of the theater. In fact, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Tad was watching a play at a different theater. He died of what historians think was tuberculosis [What?] at the age of 18.*

Willie Lincoln

Tad Lincoln

Susan Ford’s prom. She is on the right of the picture in the peach-colored dress.

Susan Ford

Not all first kids were as young as Tad Lincoln and Quentin Roosevelt. Susan Ford was a senior in high school when her father Gerald Ford became president in 1974. Susan gave her high school classmates a night to remember when she hosted the first and only high school prom at the White House.

Chelsea Clinton

Chelsea Clinton was 13 when her father Bill Clinton took office in 1993. After some unkind things were said about her on television, Chelsea’s parents worked hard to keep stories about her out of the news. When she left for college at Stanford University in 1997, Secret Service officers attended classes with her and lived in her dormitory.

First kids frequently deal with issues other kids do not encounter, but they continue to find ways to simply be kids and make the White House a home in their own unique way. John Jr. and Caroline Kennedy loved to play in the Oval Office and visit their father President John F. Kennedy. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created a classroom in the third-floor Solarium where Caroline and her classmates met. Amy Carter attended public school in Washington, D.C., and enjoyed spending time in a tree house that was built for her on the White House Grounds. When Malia and Sasha Obama moved into the White House in 2009, the staff organized a scavenger hunt to show them around their new home, which included a surprise visit from their favorite band, the Jonas Brothers. For generations, first families have attempted to retain some semblance of a normal life in the White House and protect the privacy of the children living there.*

* First Kids. (n.d.). Retrieved February 02, 2018, from https://www.whitehousehistory.org/teacher-resources/first-kids-1

Security has long been a concern at the White House for first kids. In the 1890s, during President Grover Cleveland’s second term, First Lady Francis Cleveland ordered the south lawn gate closed to all visitors after seeing a frightening incident involving their young daughter Ruth. A crowd of curious strangers had surrounded Ruth and her nanny on the White House Lawn and, picking her up, passed her around to be hugged and kissed.

Security

The Secret Service

The Secret Service is one of the country's oldest federal investigative agencies, founded in 1865 to stop counterfeiters. There are approximately 3,200 special agents and an additional 1,300 uniformed officers who guard the White House, the Treasury building and foreign diplomatic missions in Washington. In addition to protecting the First Family, the Secret Service also provides security for the vice president, the president elect, the vice president elect, former presidents and their families, presidential candidates, visiting heads of state and representatives of the United States performing special missions overseas.