CLOSE
Getty Images
Getty Images

9 Super-Presidential Marriages

Getty Images
Getty Images

The only thing that could possibly be more stars-and-stripes than a post about U.S. presidents and American historical figures is a post that doubles up on them. In honor of Independence Day, we give you nine presidential relatives who didn’t have to look too far from the White House to meet their spouses.

1. When Dwight D. Eisenhower’s grandson began dating Richard Nixon’s daughter, the security guards at her college weren’t too amused: He once told a guard, “David Eisenhower here to see Julie Nixon,” and the guard responded, “Yeah, and my name is Harry S. Truman.”

David and Julie had known each other since the 1956 Republican National Convention, but didn’t start dating until they were both in college in 1966. She went to Smith and he was at Amherst just eight miles away.

2. Andrew Jackson Donelson was technically Andrew Jackson’s nephew, but he acted as guardian for A.J. and seven other children after their father died. In fact, Donelson was so close to Andrew that his first wife (and first cousin) Emily served as the unofficial First Lady after Rachel Jackson died. After Emily died as well, Donelson married another cousin, Elizabeth Randolph, who was previously wed to Thomas Jefferson’s grandson. Donelson would have his own brush with the White House as Millard Fillmore’s running mate in 1856. The pair only received eight electoral votes, however, and James Buchanan became the 15th president of the United States.

3. George Washington never had children of his own, but raised his wife’s children from a previous marriage as if they were his own. In addition, he later adopted his step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, as his own son. GWPC had a daughter named Mary Anna, who married her third cousin, Robert E. Lee. Yep, that Robert E. Lee. In addition to being an American military icon, Lee’s great-great grandmother was Thomas Jefferson’s great-aunt.

4. Though they’re probably the least-known related presidents, you might remember that ninth president William Henry Harrison was the grandfather of 23rd president Benjamin Harrison. Elizabeth Harrison, Benjamin’s daughter, married James Blaine Walker, the grandnephew of James G. Blaine, her father’s secretary of state. Blaine was present when President James Garfield was shot by an assassin in 1881...

5. ... which makes it rather interesting that Elizabeth and James’ daughter, Dr. Jane Harrison Walker, married James Garfield’s great-grandson, Newell Garfield.

6. Here’s a twist—a presidential relative who married another presidential relative, then later became president himself. Did you follow all of that? Here’s what happened: Teddy Roosevelt’s niece, Anna, married his fifth cousin, Franklin. You probably know them better as FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt.


7. Sarah Knox Taylor was the second of Zachary Taylor’s three daughters. (He also had a son.) Before Zachary Taylor was the 12th president, he was a general at Fort Crawford in Wisconsin. That’s where 17-year-old Sarah fell in love with his second-in-command, lieutenant Jefferson Davis. Despite her parents’ hesitation, Sarah Knox married Davis in 1835 and contracted malaria almost immediately afterward. She died just three months into their marriage. Though Davis had resigned from the army to marry Sarah, he resumed his military career during the Mexican-American War, where he again served under his former father-in-law, Zachary Taylor. Davis, of course, went on to become the President of the Confederate States of America.

8. Abraham Van Buren, the eldest son of eighth president Martin Van Buren, married Dolley Madison’s cousin, Angelica Singleton. Dolley herself arranged the match. Angelica served as the official First Lady for her father-in-law since his wife had died almost 20 years before he took office.

9. Susan Ford, the only daughter of Gerald and Betty Ford, married Charles Vance—one of her dad's Secret Service agents—in 1979. When Susan openly courted her father's employee, Vance told her that her parents wouldn’t like the 16-year age difference, among other things. “It was only a matter of persuading him that our relationship was more important than his job—which he finally came to realize," Susan later said.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Food
How Mammoth Poop Gave Us Pumpkin Pie
iStock
iStock

When it’s time to express gratitude for the many privileges bestowed upon your family this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to be grateful for mammoth poop. The excrement of this long-extinct species is a big reason why holiday desserts taste so good.

Why? Because, as Smithsonian Insider reports, tens of thousands of years ago, mammoths, elephants, and mastodons had an affinity for wild gourds, the ancestors of squashes and pumpkin. In a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Smithsonian researcher and colleagues found that wild gourds—which were much smaller than our modern-day butternuts—carried a bitter-tasting toxin in their flesh that acted as a deterrent to some animals. While small rodents would avoid eating the gourds, the huge mammals would not. Their taste buds wouldn't pick up the bitter flavor and the toxin had no effect on them. Mammoths would eat the gourds and pass the indigestible seeds out in their feces. The seeds would then be plopped into whatever habitat range the mammoth was roaming in, complete with fertilizer.

When the mammoths went extinct as recently as 4000 years ago, the gourds faced the same fate—until humans began to domesticate the plants, allowing for the rise of pumpkins. But had it not been for the dispersal of the seeds via mammoth crap, the gourd might not have survived long enough to arrive at our dinner tables.

So as you dig into your pumpkin pie this year, be sure to think of the heaping piles of dung that made the delicious treat possible.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
Atlanta Shelters Give Pups a Temporary Home for the Holidays
iStock
iStock

The holidays are looking a little brighter for adoptable dogs from two animal shelters in Atlanta, Georgia. As ABC News reports, a new program called Home for the Pawlidays is providing temporary homes to longer-term residents of Fulton County Animal Services and DeKalb County Animal Services for the week of Thanksgiving.

The initiative was organized by Atlanta's LifeLine Animal Project, a local group dedicated to providing healthcare and homes to shelter dogs. The dogs that were chosen for the project may be older, have special health needs, or other issues that make it more difficult to find them forever homes.

But from November 18 to 25, the dogs are getting to spend time away from the shelter and in the homes of loving foster families.

“We were thinking, everyone gets a break from work, and they should get a break from the shelter,” LifeLine’s public relations director Karen Hirsch told ABC News.

Some caretakers have already fallen in love with their four-legged house guests. Foster Heather Koth told ABC that she hadn’t been considering adoption, but after meeting Missy the shelter dog, she now plans to foster her until she has a permanent home or possibly adopt the dog herself.

And for the dogs that can’t be kept by their temporary owners, just a week of quality playtime and sleeping in a real bed can make a huge impact. You can check out photos of the pets who are benefiting from the program this week below.

[h/t ABC News]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios