First Children Enjoy the White House In Some Very Interesting Ways

Most often when a father becomes President of the United States, he is of the age that his children are already grown. But occasionally during our country’s history, our presidents have moved into the White House with younger children. And, some of these younger children enjoyed the White House in some very interesting, rambunctious ways!  

For instance ----

The Lincolns

President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln --- Had four children, all boys --- Robert Todd, Edward (Eddie) Baker,  "Willie" and Thomas "Tad" Lincoln.

President Lincoln was very fond of children and did not believe in disciplining his boys. In fact he often joined them in their antics.William and Tad, reportedly, used the White House to the fullest.Tad was frequently found dong such things as herding goats into a White House sitting room.

President Lincoln and his son, Tad  Anthony Berger, photographer.  Brady National Photographic Art  Gallery (Washington, D.C.)

President Lincoln and his son, Tad

Anthony Berger, photographer.  Brady National Photographic Art  Gallery (Washington, D.C.)

Once the boys took control over the bells in the White House, totally disrupting the entire house! At the time there was a system of bells in the President’s office that allowed him to summon aides and staffers from throughout the building. From their perch in the White House attic, Willie and Tad set to “tugging hard and bringing out at once all the jangle there is in the building. The ringing bells brought all the White House staff converging on Mr. Lincoln’s office to find out why he needed them.”  (As reported by Michael Burlingame, editor, Inside the White House in War Times: Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln’s Secretary, p. 27.)

Only one of the Lincoln’s sons, Robert Todd, lived to maturity. Robert (age 78) was in the audience on May 30, 1922, the day that the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated to his deceased father.

The Theodore Roosevelts

President Theodore Roosevelt and First Lady Edith Roosevelt brought six very active, very creative children to the White House – Alice (from Theodore’s first marriage to Alice Lee Hathaway), Theodore Jr., Kermit, Ethel, Archie and Quentin.

And all of the children immensely enjoyed their time living in the White House! The boys took particular pleasure in roller-skating and bicycle-riding all over the house, especially on the smooth hardwood floors. Quentin and his White House Gang was fond of hurling spitballs at the historic paintings in the house.

White House staff found the Roosevelt children most challenging as the children felt free to explore anywhere in the White House  --- basement to attic – and do whatever theywished! The children particularly enjoyed crawling through the space between ceilings and floors in the attic, where no one but the White House rats attempted to go!  And then there is the famous story of Quentin taking a pony in the White House elevator to cheer up an ailing Archie. This was to the delight of Archie but it was not so popular with White House staff.  Theodore Roosevelt, however, enjoyed it all!

Alice Roosevelt

Alice Roosevelt

Alice, the oldest of the children, seemed to especially relish getting “into trouble” much to the delight of the American public. Her father once said ---"I can do one of two things. I can be president of the United States, or I can control Alice."

But there have been some quieter ways First Children have enjoyed the White House---

 The Kennedys

President John Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy  --- Brought their two small children, Caroline and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. (referred to as John-John) to live in the White House when their father became President of the United States. Along with them came the construction of a swimming pool and a tree-house on the White House lawn.

John-John loved playing in the Oval Office as his father worked nearby. However frequently he had to be scooped out of a hiding place in his father's desk when important business required his father’s attention.

His sister, Caroline, attended school in the White House. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had security concern regarding her children so she created a kindergarten class in the solarium on the top floor of the White House for Caroline and several of her friends. No, there was no school bus for this school and no bells!

When not attending her White House school, Caroline was frequently found riding her pony, Macaroni, around the White House grounds.

The Fords

President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford --- Had four children, Michael Gerald,

John Gardner (known as Jack), Steven Meigs and Susan Elizabeth. The boys were grown when their father became president but Susan was a teenager.

 Living in the white House was not easy for Susan Ford. Once, in a mini-revolt, she dodged the Secret Service, driving her car right out off the White House grounds through an open gate. She was thrilled to have a brief taste of freedom on the streets of Washington. (The kids of presidents have constant Secret Service protection.)

 The Carters

 President Jimmie Carter and First Lady Roseland Carter --- Had four boys --- John William (Jack), James Earl (Chip) III, Donnel Jeffrey (Jeff) and one daughter, Amy. The four boys were grown when their father became president but Amy was only 9 years old.

Amy Carter

Amy Carter

Amy frequent did her own thing and was not deterred by the expectations of being the First Daughter. She was famous for bringing a book to a state dinner.  She also collected money from White House staffers for the March of Dimes.  And she frequently headed for her own tree-house on the south Lawn to hide and read away from the pressures of the White House.  Way to go, Amy!