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5 Memorable White House Weddings

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When First Twin Jenna Bush is married this weekend in Crawford, Texas, she'll be the first presidential child since 1992 to tie the knot while Dad's in office. That year, Jenna's aunt, Dorothy Walker Bush—younger sister of George W. and youngest child of George H.W.—married Robert B. Koch, in a quiet ceremony at Camp David.

Jenna's betrothed, Henry Hager, is described as "a former aide to the president." According to Doug Wead, author of All the Presidents' Children, in her choice of spouses, "Jenna Bush is following a long line of presidential children before her. Like the rest of us, they marry whoever is around."

It's 37 years and counting since a son or daughter of the president was married at the White House (during the Age of Nixon). Historians reckon there have been about 30 major weddings at the White House. And of the 23 presidential offspring married while their father was in office (Jenna included), nine tied the knot at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

If I could pick five White House weddings to attend and report back to mental_floss—for their historical interest if not for the open bar—it would be these:

Maria Hester Monroe—March 9, 1820

This first wedding of a presidential child seems to have put a damper on President James Monroe's Era of Good Feeling. Seventeen-year-old Maria was engaged to 21-year-old Samuel L. Gouverneur, her first cousin and a White House staffer.

The wedding took place in the East Room or the Blue Room (historians aren't sure), just three years after the presidential mansion was rebuilt following its burning in the War of 1812. Maria's older sister had taken charge of the wedding plans with the cool efficiency of Martha Stewart, and by inviting just 42 family members and close friends, she antagonized Washington society and the diplomatic corps.

The couple tried to make amends by scheduling a round of balls. The first was nine days after the wedding, at the home of naval hero Commodore Stephen Decatur. During the festivities, Decatur quietly accepted a challenge to a duel. The following Wednesday he was shot and killed on the field of honor. The news shocked the country and plunged the capital into mourning, forcing the cancellation of all celebrations, including those of Mr. and Mrs. Gouverneur.

John Adams II—February 5, 1828

Louisa Adams, wife of Monroe's secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, had noted in her diary how much bad feeling the Monroe wedding had generated. Yet after Adams succeeded Monroe, the White House wedding of son John Adams II—the only presidential son married in the White House—proceeded in much the same way.

Mary Catherine Hellen was close not only to John II, but to the entire Adams family. After her parents died, John Quincy and Louisa Adams raised Mary and her siblings. As a teenager Mary became the object of affection—if not obsession—of the three Adams sons. She had already enthralled one brother and been engaged to another when, at age 17, Mary wed the youngest Adams in a small, quiet ceremony.

John II died of alcoholism at age 31, and Mary went back to live with John Quincy and Louisa, running their household until their deaths. She outlived her own children and died in 1870.

Grover Cleveland—June 2, 1886

cleveland-wedding.jpgThe only president to serve two non-consecutive terms was also the only president married in a White House ceremony. Grover Cleveland was 49 and a little more than a year into his first term when he married 21-year-old Frances Folsom. The wedding was a simple affair—attended by close friends, family, and cabinet members and their wives. Apparently Washington was getting used to small ceremonies. But the occasion was far from quiet—John Philip Sousa led the Marine Band.

After the ceremony, "[T]he ladies kissed the bride to their hearts content," The New York Times reported, "but the gentlemen followed the example of the groom and refrained." There was a 20-pound salmon to sup on and a 25-pound wedding cake.

Cleveland had known his bride her whole life. Her father was a close friend of the future president, and Cleveland bought the infant Frances a baby carriage as a gift. When her father died leaving no will, the court appointed Cleveland to administer the estate.

Two other presidents married while in office. John Tyler married his second wife, Julia Gardiner, in 1844, in New York City. And Woodrow Wilson married his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt, in 1915, at her home in Washington, DC.

Alice Lee Roosevelt—February 17, 1906

alice-roosevelt.jpgOf all the presidential children, Theodore Roosevelt's eldest child had a reputation that most closely resembles Jenna Bush's. Princess Alice, as she was known, was a late-Victorian version of a celebrity, whose wild exploits were catnip for the press—smoking in public, driving her own car, chewing gum, and flirting with men—without a chaperone.

One of her many suitors was Nicholas Longworth, 35, an ambitious Republican congressman from Ohio. And if previous White House weddings were simple, private affairs, the Roosevelt-Longworth wedding was the Must-See Event of the year. The House of Representatives adjourned for the day, and 1,000 guests fought for both parking spots and a view of the bride from one of the White House's state rooms.

Alice refused to have bridesmaids, who might have detracted attention from the 22-year-old bride and her wedding dress with its 18-foot-long train of silver brocade. She walked toward the East Room on the arm of her father and managed to do the impossible—she upstaged Theodore Roosevelt.

Nicholas Longworth went on to become speaker of the House. He already was a drinker and womanizer, two activities that cooled their marriage quickly. When Alice had a daughter, the father reputedly was Sen. William Borah of Idaho.

Tricia Nixon—June 12, 1971

nixon-wedding.jpgThe "˜60s had seen the weddings of President Lyndon Johnson's two daughters and President-elect Richard Nixon's younger daughter. The wedding of elder daughter Tricia Nixon to Edward Cox, a 24-year-old law student with a liberal bent, was the most sumptuous and last White House wedding to date.

It was also the first outdoor White House wedding, held in the Rose Garden between rain showers and broadcast live on television. At the reception, which followed in the East Room, the 25-year-old bride danced with her father to "Thank Heaven for Little Girls." The 400 wedding invitations, Time magazine reported, included one to "Eddie's friend Ralph Nader."

According to The Hill, "[Tricia's] dress made its way [from Boston] to the White House under the watch of designer Priscilla Kidder and a phalanx of armed Secret Service agents. A cover story in Life magazine reported that the group purchased a first-class seat for the dress to ensure its safe passage to Washington." Also in attendance was Alice Roosevelt Longworth, whose own White House wedding was 65 years earlier.

David Holzel enjoys this kind of presidential trivia, and edits The Franklin Pierce Pages just to prove it.

See also...

"¢ A Brief History of Celebrity Political Endorsements
"¢ The Stories Behind 10 Famous Product Placements
"¢ Trailer Parks, Video Games & Amway: How Sports Owners Made Their Money
"¢ Paging Dr. Freud: Unusual Mental Illnesses
"¢ On The Money: A Presidential Currency Quiz
"¢ Name the Presidents in 8 Minutes
"¢ Quiz: The Lives of Former Presidents

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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