Battle of the Babies: a White House Brawl

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In this corner: Baby Ruth Cleveland. If you're much of a presidential history buff (or into candy trivia), you've heard of Baby Ruth, who likely wasn't the source of inspiration behind the candy bar of the same name. Because she was born between her dad Grover's two terms in office, she's one of the most famous White House tots. Indeed, she had quite the fan following before she was even on solids.

In this corner: Benjamin "Baby" Harrison McKee, who was three when his namesake grandpa took office.

The feud? As you may suspect, it actually had little to do with the babes. You see, Benjamin Harrison (the President, not the baby) was the POTUS sandwiched between Grover Cleveland's non-consecutive terms. When Harrison decided to run in the 1892 election, he was up against some stiff competition: Cleveland, who left office unwillingly four years earlier when Harrison lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote (sound familiar?). Because the world was swept up in Baby Ruth Mania, some speculate that Harrison's camp scrambled to find a way to compete. The solution was his toddler grandson, Baby McKee. Baby was a great source for photo ops and publicity, from riding goats on the White House lawn to attending his own fourth birthday party held in the Blue Room. There was even a song written about the whole affair. A sampling of the lyrics:

We’re Baby Ruth and Baby McKee,
Lively specimens, you’ll agree
Just as happy as happy can be,
We’ll run the nation’s Presidency!
Which of us wins you’ll very soon see,
Baby Ruth and Baby McKee.

Of course, you know who won the Battle of the Babies: Cleveland was elected to a second term. Sadly, Ruth died of diphtheria in 1904 at the young age of 12.

It's worth mentioning that when Baby McKee visited the Roosevelt White House in 1905, the New York Times referred to him as "a lusty young man."

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June 15, 2011 - 7:38pm
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