The Lincoln Boys in the White House

By Dianne L. Beetler
 When Abraham Lincoln became president of the United States, he brought two boys to the White House to live. They were his sons, 11-year-old Willie and 8-year-old Tad. The boys’ older brother, Bob, was in col-lege and spent little time in Washington, D.C.
 Because Washington was different from Springfield, Illinois, where the Lincolns had lived before the election, Willie and Tad eagerly began exploring their new home. President and Mrs. Lincoln liked to see their mischievous sons enjoying themselves and rarely punished them. Some people thought the Lincoln boys were spoiled and in need of discipline.
 Willie and Tad found two new playmates, Bud and Holly Taft, who often stayed overnight at the White House. One day, the four boys held a circus in the White House attic and charged five cents admission.
 Bud and Willie dressed in two of Mrs. Lincoln’s dresses and sang “Home Sweet Home.” Tad donned his father’s glasses and joined another friend to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
 One morning after breakfast, Tad and Holly disappeared. In those days, no Secret Service agents guarded the president or his family, and no one knew the boys’ whereabouts. Not until evening did someone bring the boys to the White House. They had spent the day exploring the Capitol, and a stranger had bought them lunch because he knew Tad’s father.
 Of course, Tad and Willie constantly heard talk about the Civil War. They built a fort on the White House roof and, with their friends, formed a military company called “Mrs. Lincoln’s Zouaves.” Tad even had his picture taken in a uniform.
 Sometimes the Lincoln boys accompanied their father to military camps. They enjoyed taking food, fruit and books to the soldiers. Once President Lincoln left the boys at home, but Tad and Willie found transportation to the camp and surprised the president by appearing behind the parade of soldiers.
 Tad, the younger brother, was more mischievous than Willie, who was often serious. When a family friend was killed in battle, Willie wrote a poem about him and sent it to a Washington newspaper.
 The boys loved playing with their father, who told them exciting stories and sometimes wrestled on the floor with them.
 In 1862, the pranks and good times in the White House halted when Willie became seriously ill and died.  Tad could hardly be comforted.
 After Willie’s death, Tad became closer than ever to his father. Tad loved toy soldiers, and he and Preaident  Lincoln often went to a toy shop to buy the soldiers Tad wanted for his collection.
 A small room in the White House was converted to a theater for Tad. It included a stage with footlights, scenery and a stage curtain. Besides giving his own plays, Tad loved to attend theaters with his parents.  Once when he went backstage during a play, the actors dressed him in old clothes and sent him on the stage.  President Lincoln soon recognized his son and enjoyed watching him in the play.
 Tad had a pony and other pets, including a dog named Jip, a turkey called Jack, and two goats, Nanny and  Nanko. The turkey had been sent for the Lincoln’s Christmas dinner, but Tad became so attached to Jack that the gobbler was not killed.
 Once Tad hitched a goat to a chair and drove it into a meeting room filled with women.
 After his father’s assassination, Tad traveled with his mother in the United States and Europe. He died in 1871. Today he is most remembered for the tricks he and Willie played in the White House.
Presidential Facts From Yesteryear
By Henry J. Pratt
 On the third Monday in February every year, Americans pause and formally observe the birthdays of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. On that single day, we can celebrate Washington’s birthday, which occurred Feb. 22, and Lincoln’s, Feb. 12.
 But that holiday has recently been expanded. Governmental groups, labor organizations, presidential buffs and others currently label the third Monday in February as “Presidents’ Day” to recognize and honor all former U.S. Chief Executives.
 Folklore tells us just a little knowledge can be dangerous. But presidential trivia buffs can give you some obscure facts about our nation’s leaders to make for lively conversations on Presidents’ Day, or any other day throughout the year. So here goes:
 Where were our Presidents born? The states providing the most of our Presidents are Virginia with eight, New York with four, Massachusetts with four, and Ohio with seven. Herbert Hoover from Iowa was our first President to be born west of the Mississippi.
 Harvard was the undergraduate alma mater of five American Presidents: J. Adams, John Q. Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Yale has been the undergraduate university of two of our Presidents—William Howard Taft and George Bush.
 President Theodore Roosevelt had two nicknames: “Rough Rider” from his Spanish-American war hero days; and “Teddy,” the most common. Thirty of our 41 Presidents, including George Bush, served in the military at some time during their careers. Lincoln’s service was only three months’ militia duty, however.
Several Presidents rode into the White House based largely on gallant military service. They were George Washington, Zachary Tayor, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
 Abraham Lincoln’s restored home in Springfield, Illinois, is the only home our 16th President and his family ever owned. Like many other presidential homes and birthplaces, the Lincoln Home is open for public interpretive tours by the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior.
 When Millard Fillmore became Chief Executive in 1850, there were no books in the White House—not even a Bible. But his wife Abigail converted one of the presidential rooms into a library and began stocking its shelves.
 Many of our Presidents had a good sense of humor, including Lincoln, Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan. But Calvin Coolidge, nicknamed “Silent Cal,” rarely spoke unless spoken to first.
 Many of our Presidents used their good sense of humor to political advantage. Once when Lincoln was debating for public office, his opponent spoke first while Lincoln sat on the platform, listening intently. The opponent kept pointing at Lincoln and referring to him as a liar, a cheat, and a two-faced politician.
 Lincoln never showed anger, but sat there calmly and listened courteously. When it was his turn to speak, he stepped up to the podium and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, if I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”
 Ten of our Presidents showed their religions as Episcopalians. Six were Presbyterians, and before Biden there was only one Catholic—John F. Kennedy. The youngest President at the time he took office was  Theodore Roosevelt at age 42, followed by John F. Kennedy, age 43.
 Our oldest President before Biden, when inaugurated, was Ronald Reagan at age 69. Of course, Biden now holds that distinction as he was 78 upon his inauguration. He is followed by William Henry Harrison, who was age 68 when he took office. However, Harrison caught pneumonia and died a month after his inauguration. He was our first President to die while in office.
 When we review the resumes of Presidents, we find several of them were born to wealth. Others worked their way up from poverty. Many were lawyers when they entered politics leading them to the White House.
Presidential personalities varied from taciturn to talkative, brilliant to obtuse, and charming to lackluster. But in their own ways, each of our Presidents in the now “Faithful 46” dutifully answered the call to duty in our nation’s highest office.
 Indeed, each of our Chief Executives made a variety of contributions and impacts on the democratic way of life too many of us Americans now take for granted.

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