Daughters Of The Presidents
( Originally Published 1908 )
AS FOR the daughters of Presidents, some facts concerning their lives are given in the present chapter, while a further record of their achievements as hostesses at the White House will be found in the chapters telling of the "First Ladies" and of White House brides, romances and entertainments.
The present chapter may consistently include mention only of those sons and daughters who once lived in the White House, with a brief outline of their careers after leaving the home of the Presidents.
President Roosevelt's Daughter "Princess Alice"
Just as General Grant's daughter, Nellie, was called "The Daughter of the Nation," so the-eldest daughter of President Roosevelt, Alice Roosevelt-Longworth, came to be called "Princess Alice." Both won these appellations through winning the love of the people. Here follows a description of the personality of Mr. Roosevelt's daughter up to the time she became Mrs. Nicholas Longworth. An account of her wedding is included in a separate chapter.
Alice Roosevelt made her début in Washington society on January 3, 1902, when it is recorded that the President and Mrs. Roosevelt "introduced an innovation in entertaining at the White House and gave a large ball in honor of their daughter, the first large dance to be given in the White House since the days of Dolly Madison."
Unlike her father, it is said, she is not bookish at all.
"Recently she has been devoting her leisure to books which deal with the history and habits of the countries where she traveled. But she cares little for novels or for poetry, but is an omnivorous reader of newspapers and magazines. She writes a most entertaining letter, and in these she shows a literary ability which she has always disclaimed."
The remaining facts here set forth concerning this eldest daughter of President Roosevelt are furnished by Frank Leslie's Weekly, all this information relating particularly to her life at the White House previous to her marriage to Nicholas Longworth :
"Miss Roosevelt is the most fortunate young woman in the world. She has all the honors and pleasures of royalty, without being in the least hampered by its restrictions. She receives the attention and homage of the daughter of a King, but she can abandon it all at any time and enjoy life as the well-bred American girl.
"At all official functions she is honored as the daughter of a great ruler, while in private life and among her personal friends she is the daughter of an American citizen, going about the country and enjoying the best there is in life for a healthy and vigorous young woman. It is scarcely within the memory of residents of Washington ttat any girl has had the splendid opportunities that have been afforded Miss Roosevelt. Her position socially, no matter where she may be, is the highest. With money of her own (that came to her by inheritance), with good health, a lively and pleasant disposition, she has been the most favored young woman of the present time.
"Miss Roosevelt takes a personal interest in all the White House functions, and enjoys those entertainments of a semi-public and official character. As the daughter of the President, she is naturally paid great deference by all the visitors. To those whom she knows she is friendly and gracious, and good naturedly submits to the interested staring of thousands who attend the large receptions and are interested in the President and his family.
"At social functions at the White House, Alice Roosevelt would often stroll about the rooms, but she was usually content to remain in the Blue Room with the rest of the official family and leave guests to be interested in themselves. Her world-wide popularity perhaps never was equalled by any other maiden.
"An illustration of the proud place Miss Roosevelt holds in the world was shown in the trip she made to the Orient. A very good insight into the character of Miss Roosevelt was gathered by those who composed the party that accompanied Secretary Taft to the Philippines.
"It is to the credit of Miss Roosevelt that, although a young woman the youngest of the whole party and notwithstanding her position and prominence, her conduct provoked not one word of criticism or complaint from any person who made that remarkable trip. Soon after the special train was on its way across the continent she called on every woman in the party. A short time after that she gave a luncheon for the women in one of the private cars. From the time she started until her return she was enthusiastic about all the sights and enjoyed everything with that eagerness characteristic of youth."
"Among the many things in which Miss Roosevelt resembles her father are her love of active life and her fondness for reading. Horseback-riding is her favorite form of outdoor exercise, although she is very fond of the water and is an excellent swimmer. She can handle an automobile, and fearlessly speeds her machine to its limit. She likes books, and reads much of the literature that particularly interests her father. In fact, her tastes in this direction would seem to have been formed in discussions with him. Her reading has been remarkably wide and her memory retentive. She has read a great deal of poetry and can recite many poems from her favorite authors.
"Miss Roosevelt was educated by governesses, consequently she has never formed the intimate school-girl attachments usually made by other girls. Her friends among the young women of Washington have been numerous, but her intimates have not been many. Countess Cassini, ward of the former Russian Ambassador, was one of her closest friends, and they were frequently together."
The "girl in blue" is Miss Roosevelt, it may be added, for that is her favorite color, and blue in all shades predominates her gowns. She dresses well and handsomely, but does not attempt so-called "stunning" effects. Her costumes are graceful and attractive, though never loud nor "showy."
Another Roosevelt Daughter
Miss Ethel Roosevelt, the second daughter of President Roosevelt has taken the place of her married sister, Mrs. Long-worth, at the White House. She will be the "Second Lady" of the land her mother being the first, of course at the White House in the season of 1908-9.
In an account of Miss Ethel Roosevelt's life at the White House, by Margaret B. Downing, are related many interesting facts and incidents. In telling of Miss Ethel's first, winter at the White House, Miss Downing says :
"An incident which filled Washington with merriment relates to that first winter. Mrs. Roosevelt has always gowned her children with comfort and utility. Miss Ethel had resided in the White House about a month when girls of her own age and presumably of her own station began to call. But these little misses were clad like fairies in a play satin skirts, knee high, with silk stockings and slippers, and hats that looked like flower baskets. One such maiden came one Saturday and sat up prim and immaculate in the lower corridor, waiting until the White House attendant called her hostess. Miss Ethel arrived on the scene rather breathless and disheveled. She had been down to the White House stables and was trying a new pony. The little guest explained that she came to make a visit and asked Ethel if she could go where she had been and play with the horses. 'Play'? said the President's daughter with horror, `Play, dressed up like that, while everybody would laugh at me? Go home and get on your everyday clothes and then we'll play'."
Proceeding then with a sketch of the personality of this interesting daughter of Mr. Roosevelt, Miss Downing tells us that :
"This young maiden, whose entrance into Vanity Fair is fraught with such important issues, to her country, is one of the most beloved of the series of girls who have enlivened the famous old home of the Presidents since the days of its first mistress, Abigail Adams. No other girl has reigned there so long, not even that illustrious belle, Nellie Grant, and none has entered its portals so young and grown to womanhood in its precincts. It is difficult for Washingtonians to recognize in the tall, grave girl, who is now her mother's inseparable companion, the mischievous little sprite whose antics diverted the city six years ago.
"She is very fond of books, and her den in the White House, former boudoir of Mrs. Longworth, has dainty little shelves which contain books received as gifts when barely able to read. Her father gives her many of the presentation copies which famous authors send him, especially those which deal with things in which she is interested. She has thus gotten together an ambitious lot of autograph copies for so young a collector. She has a fine collection of old prints of musical celebrities, and these are artistically framed and adorn her bedroom.
"Miss Ethel Roosevelt's entrance into the White House caused considerable commotion, just six years ago this October. She arrived with her parents about four o'clock in the afternoon, a tall, rather awkward girl, with bobbed hair and somewhat hoydenish ways of conducting herself. With her two brothers, Kermit and Archibald, she inspected her new home from roof to cellar, and then the trio, hitherto close companions, turned their attention to the grounds. It was just getting dark when the children went into the park which fronts Pennsylvania Avenue, and the lamplighter, with his little ladder, was scampering up and down the posts. Ethel watched the proceeding with deep interest, and then and there she devised a new game. When the lighter would turn into a different avenue,, up the post she would climb, and turn off the light. The man was completely mystified, no sooner would one side of the park be illuminated when the other would be in darkness. Finally the watchman discovered the trouble, and from that first evening Miss Ethel knew no more revels with her brothers. She was placed in charge of a governess and was permitted to join no sportsin which boys were actors."
"The Daughter of the Nation—Nellie Grant
Miss Nellie Grant, while living at the White House previous to her marriage to Algernon Sartoris, was given the name of "The !Daughter of the Nation." At the time she occupied the White House with her father and mother and brothers she was, described as being a "handsome girl, with brown hair and eyes, a softskin, tinged with healthy color, and a round, full figure." She was not nineteen years old until the fourth of July following her marriage. She was slightly under medium height, not much of a talker, and a fine dancer. Her face was open and frank, always smiling, and her modesty and amiability were - unaffected. President Grant always refused to allow his young daughter to figure in society and public functions.
The story of the marriage of Nellie Grant to Mr. Sartoris is contained in a separate chapter.
President Tyler's Daughter
The most notable Southern woman surviving the classic old régime, says a magazine paragraph published by ex-Governor Taylor, of Tennessee, is that yet brilliant daughter of President John Tyler, Mrs. Letitia Tyler-Semple, who ruled the White House when her father, John Tyler, of Virginia, the tenth Chief Executive of the Nation, held sway there. "Mrs. Semple, now eighty-six years old," continues the same story, written in 1906, "mentally virile, almost totally blind, is the pet and admiration of that philanthropic institution founded for Southern gentlemen by the late W. W. Corcoran, the Louise Home. Mrs. Semple is the honored guest of all Presidential families at the White House, where she once reigned as "First Lady."
A biographer of this daughter of a President, in relating further about President Tyler's daughter, says that "only a few blocks from the White House, where she once ruled, a light hearted queen, Letitia Tyler Semple daughter of John Tyler, tenth President of the United States blind, infirm, but mentally virile, waits peacefully for the end, amidst the comforts of that philanthropic institution, The Louise Home."
"Over the mantel in her bedroom hangs an oil portrait of her lovely mother, Letitia Christian Tyler, of Virginia, who died soon after her husband's accession to the Presidency. Indeed, so frail was the health of President Tyler's wife, that her official place in the White House was invariably filled by one of her three daughters, Letitia, Elizabeth, Alice, or by her son's wife, Mrs. Robert Tyler."
Letitia Tyler, as her biographer informs us, married at eighteen to Captain Semple, U. S. N. of Virginia. She was just one and twenty when her official career began in the White House as the daughter of a President. She was living with her father at this tune during the absence of her husband on a three-years' cruise.
"Those were days of conservatism and quiet dignity, and the passing of the old régime is deeply deplored by this stately relic of by-gone days." Mrs. Semple denounces, it was said some years ago, what she was moved to call in her emphatic way "the atrocious butchery" of the White House, declaring that even were she able, physically, nothing could induce her to enter the offensively "reconstructed" portals of to day.
After a visit to Mrs. Semple her biographer records the fact that this brilliant young-old lady of eighty-four (this account being written in perhaps 1904), with her grande dame elegance and culture recalls, as though it were but yesterday, the hasty flitting in 1841 of her father, then the Vice-President, and his family, from the home in Williamsburg, Virginia, to Washing-ton, when news was brought to them, by the boat Osceola, of the death, two days before, of that President of one month, William Henry Harrison.
After the installation of the new incumbent in the Executive Mansion, Mr. Tyler promptly assembled about him, in solemn conclave, we are told, his three daughters and his daughter-in-law, and laid upon them this injunction : "My daughters, you are now occupying a position of deep importance. I desire you to bear in mind three things : Show no favoritism, accept no gifts, receive no seekers after office."
Dolly Madison, still brilliant in the forties, gave to the Misses Tyler the benefit of her social experience. It was at Mrs. Madison's suggestion that they returned all calls in person; and accordingly three afternoons a week were devoted to this duty.
"At the White House, during Mrs. Semple's reign, the ordinary schedule of hospitality was two dinners a week, of about forty covers, to members of Congress, with one public reception, to which invitations were not issued."
But all gayety went into eclipse, it is stated, upon the death of the President's invalid wife in 1842. Mrs. Robert Tyler, in a letter from the White House to a friend wrote, "Nothing can exceed the loneliness of this large and gloomy mansion hung in black." At the same time she speaks of "the almost awful looking Mr. Daniel Webster" and "his charming gossip."
"Mrs. Semple," writes Daisy Fitzhugh Ayres, emerging from the vicissitudes of the Civil War, widowed and penniless, full of pluck and capacity, with three nephews and nieces to provide for, opened in Baltimore, according to one who knew her, the "Eclectic Institute" for young ladies, the attendance at which of two pupils from Canton, Ohio, produced the germ of the subsequent intimacy between Mrs. Semple and President McKinley and his wife. We are told, then, that it was at the urgent instance of Mr. W. W. Corcoran, the Washington philanthropist of the last generation, that the daughter of President Tyler "lent the prestige of her presence to the Louise Home, then just established as a memorial to his wife and daughter. Mrs. Semple's residence there in the troublous times immediately succeeding the Civil War, was looked upon as a wise stroke of sectional diplomacy."
Welcome at the White House, continues Daisy Fitzhugh Ayres, Mrs. Semple has proven herself to be through all administrations. It was her friend, Mr. Corcoran himself, who was wont to escort her to the Hayes' receptions. Mrs. Hayes, herself a Virginian, was a constant informal guest of Mrs. Semple at the Louise Home. Every McKinley function had this venerable daughter of a President high on its list of honored guests, while Mrs. McKinley's carriage was often at her disposal. Mrs. Semple has flowing in her veins the blood of three Presidents : John Tyler, James Monroe. William Henry Harrison.