6 Children Who Famously Followed in Their Parents' Footsteps

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Theodore Roosevelt often brought his eldest son, Theodore, Jr., to work with him. Likewise with Jim Henson and his son, Brian. Marie Curie? Not so much. To celebrate "Take Your Child to Work Day," we look at several famous instances of children following the path set forth by their mother or father, and who may or may not have regularly accompanied them to the office, the lab, or the battlefield.

1. VESPASIAN AND TITUS

From humble beginnings, Vespasian rose to the rank of general and eventually Emperor of Rome, a title he held from 69 CE until his death in 79 CE. He had two sons but was particularly close to his eldest, Titus, who served as prefect of the Praetorian Guard under his father. Vespasian involved his son in many of his decisions as emperor, and after he died Titus took the throne, becoming the first son to directly succeed his biological father as Emperor of Rome. Among the numerous pieces of his father’s legacy that Titus cemented was the Colosseum, which Vespasian began constructing in 70 CE and which his son finished the year after his death.

2. MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT AND MARY SHELLEY

Mary Wollstonecraft, circa 1797; Mary Shelley, circa 1830.
Mary Wollstonecraft, circa 1797; Mary Shelley, circa 1830.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Raised by an abusive father, Mary Wollstonecraft took refuge in her work as a writer and translator. She became a renowned feminist, and in 1792 published her most famous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which stirred up considerable controversy for its assertion that women deserved a proper education. In 1797, she gave birth to her second daughter, Mary, and died 11 days later due to complications. Although she never knew her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin—who became Mary Shelley after marrying the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816—inherited her gift for writing, and at age 20, she published Frankenstein.

3. MARIE CURIE AND IRÈNE JOLIOT-CURIE

Irène Joliot-Curie and Marie Curie, circa 1925
Irène Joliot-Curie and Marie Curie, circa 1925.
Wellcome Collection, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

With three Nobel prizes between them, Marie Curie and her daughter Irène were pioneering scientists whose work revolutionized our understanding of radioactivity. Born in Poland, Marie Curie attended the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris and went on to, along with her husband Pierre, discover radium and polonium. The birth of Irène in 1897 didn't slow the husband-wife team down, and in time Marie and Irène would also work closely together. During World War I, mother and daughter operated mobile x-ray units that came to be known as "Petite Curies." Irène's work built upon her parents' research, and in 1935 she and her husband received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for artificially creating a radioactive element. Both women likely died due to prolonged exposure to radiation.

4. THEODORE ROOSEVELT AND THEODORE ROOSEVELT JR.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT AND THEODORE ROOSEVELT JR.
Theodore Roosevelt: National Archive, Newsmakers. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.: Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The 26th president and former Rough Rider instilled in his eldest son an appreciation for military history and battlefield heroism. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., or "Ted" as he was commonly known, proved his mettle as a major during World War I, where he fought in several battles and was wounded in France. After the war, he assumed a political career but reentered the military in the lead-up to World War II. Given the rank of Brigadier General, he lobbied his division commander to accompany troops during the D-Day invasion. At age 56, walking with the aid of a cane and carrying a heart condition he hadn't disclosed, Roosevelt Jr. was among the first soldiers to step foot on Utah Beach. Nearly a mile off course, he orchestrated a modified attack from the new position, calmly directing landing units as enemy fire rained down on their position. Roosevelt Jr. survived D-Day, but died of a heart attack weeks later. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, and years later, Theodore Roosevelt would also be awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, making the Roosevelts one of only two father-son pairs of recipients.

5. ZULFIKAR AND BENAZIR BHUTTO

Pakistani President Zulfikar Alî Bhutto, whose daughter Benazir Bhutto is standing next to him, shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in June 1972.
Pakistani President Zulfikar Alî Bhutto, whose daughter Benazir Bhutto is standing next to him, shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in June 1972.
AFP, Getty Images

Zulfikar Bhutto founded the Pakistan People's Party and from 1971 to 1977 served first as the country's president and then as the prime minister. Following a military coup, he was executed in 1979 and his daughter, Benazir, who had just returned home after attending college in the west, was placed under house arrest. Benazir inherited leadership of the PPP and, after years of careful maneuvering, became Pakistan’s prime minister in 1988—the first female prime minister of a majority Muslim nation. Benazir Bhutto served just two years, followed by another stint in the '90s, all the while battling corruption charges brought by her opponents. In 2007, while attempting to mount another comeback, she was killed by a shooter/suicide bomber in Rawalpindi.

6. JIM AND BRIAN HENSON

Jim and Brian Henson
Jim Henson: John Gooch, Keystone/Getty Images. Brian Henson: Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images.

The younger Henson began appearing on television when he was just 6 years old. That's when he appeared in the very first episode of Sesame Street, the iconic show that Jim Henson helped bring to life. At 14, Brian created puppets that his father used on The Muppet Show, and at 16 the elder Henson hired him as a puppeteer on 1981's The Great Muppet Caper. Brian's big break came in 1986 when his father named him one of the "puppeteers" (and voice) for the dwarf Hoggle in Labyrinth. After his father's tragic death in 1990, Brian Henson went on to produce and direct TV shows and films, including A Muppet Christmas Carol and Farscape, and today is chairman of The Jim Henson Company.

This story originally ran in 2017.

5 Facts About Edgar Allan Poe on His 210th Birthday

You’ve read Edgar Allan Poe’s terrifying stories. You can quote "The Raven." But how well do you know the writer’s quirky sense of humor and code-cracking abilities? Let’s take a look at a few  things you might not know about the acclaimed author, who was born 210 years ago today.

1. He was the original balloon boy.

You probably remember 2009’s infamous “Balloon Boy” hoax. Turns out the Heene family that perpetrated that fraud weren’t even being entirely original in their attempt at attention-grabbing. They were actually cribbing from Poe.

In 1844 Poe cooked up a similar aviation hoax in the pages of the New York Sun. The horror master cranked out a phony news item describing how a Mr. Monck Mason had flown a balloon flying machine called Victoria from England to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina in just 75 hours. According to Poe’s story, the balloon had also hauled seven passengers across the ocean.

No balloonist had ever crossed the Atlantic before, so this story quickly became a huge deal. Complete transatlantic travel in just three days? How exciting! Readers actually queued up outside the Sun’s headquarters to get their mitts on a copy of the day’s historic paper.

Poe’s report on the balloon was chock full of technical details. He devoted a whole paragraph to explaining how the balloon was filled with coal gas rather than “the more expensive and inconvenient hydrogen.” He listed the balloon’s equipment, which included “cordage, barometers, telescopes, barrels containing provision for a fortnight, water-casks, cloaks, carpet-bags, and various other indispensable matters, including a coffee-warmer, contrived for warming coffee by means of slack-lime, so as to dispense altogether with fire, if it should be judged prudent to do so.” He also included hundreds of words of excerpts from the passengers’ journals.

The only catch to Poe’s story was that it was entirely fictitious. The Sun’s editors quickly wised up to Poe’s hoax, and two days later they posted an understated retraction that noted, “We are inclined to believe that the intelligence is erroneous.”

2. He dabbled in cryptography.

If you’ve read Poe’s story “The Gold-Bug,” you probably know that he had a working knowledge of cryptography. But you might not know that Poe was actually a pretty darn good cryptographer in his own right.

Poe’s first notable code-cracking began in 1839. He sent out a call for readers of his Philadelphia newspaper to send him encoded messages that he could decipher. Poe would then puzzle over the secret messages for hours. He published the results of his work in a wildly popular recurring feature. Poe also liked to toss his own codes out there to keep readers busy. Some of the codes were so difficult that Poe professed utter amazement when even a single reader would crack them.

Poe was so confident in his abilities as a cryptographer that he approached the Tyler administration in 1841 with an offer to work as a government code cracker. He modestly promised, “Nothing intelligible can be written which, with time, I cannot decipher.” Apparently there weren’t any openings for him, though.

3. The "Allan" came later.

It would sound odd to just say “Edgar Poe,” but the famous “Allan” wasn’t originally part of the writer’s name. Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809 to professional actors, but his early childhood was fairly rotten. When Poe was just two years old, his father abandoned the family—leaving the toddler's mother, Elizabeth, to raise Edgar and his two siblings. Not long after that, Elizabeth died of tuberculosis.

Poe actually had a little luck at that point. John and Frances Allan, a well-to-do Richmond family, took the boy in and provided for his education. Although the Allans never formally adopted Poe, he added their surname to his own name.

Like a lot of Poe’s fiction, his story with the Allans didn't have a particularly happy ending. Poe and John Allan grew increasingly distant during the boy’s teenage years, and after Poe left for the University of Virginia, he and Allan became estranged. (Apparently the root of these problems involved Poe’s tendency to gamble away whatever money Allan sent him to subsidize his studies.)

4. He had a nemesis.

Like a lot of writers, Poe had a rival. His was the poet, critic, and editor Rufus Griswold. Although Griswold had included Poe’s work in his 1842 anthology The Poets and Poetry of America, Poe held an extremely low opinion of Griswold’s intellect and literary integrity. Poe published an essay blasting Griswold’s selections for the anthology, and their rivalry began.

Things really heated up when Griswold succeeded Poe as the editor of Graham’s Magazine at a higher salary than Poe had been pulling in. Poe began publicly lambasting Griswold’s motivations; he even went so far as to claim that Griswold was something of a literary homer who puffed up New England poets.

Poe might have had a point about Griswold’s critical eye, but Griswold had the good fortune to outlive Poe. After Poe died, Griswold penned a mean-spirited obituary in which he stated that the writer’s death “will startle many, but few will be grieved by it” and generally portrayed Poe as an unhinged maniac.

Slamming a guy in his obituary is pretty low, but Griswold was just getting warmed up. He convinced Poe’s aunt, Maria Clemm, to make him Poe’s literary executor. Griswold then published a biography of Poe that made him out to be a drug-addled drunk, all while keeping the profits from a posthumous edition of Poe’s work.

5. His death was a mystery worth of his writing.

In 1849 Poe left New York for a visit to Richmond, but he never made it that far south. Instead, Poe turned up in front of a Baltimore bar deliriously raving and wearing clothes that didn’t fit. Passersby rushed Poe to the hospital, but he died a few days later without being able to explain what happened to him.

Poe’s rumored causes of death were “cerebral inflammation” and “congestion of the brain,” which were polite euphemisms for alcohol poisoning. Modern scholars don’t totally buy this explanation, though. The characterization of Poe as a raging drunk mostly comes from Griswold’s posthumous smear campaign, and his incoherent state of mind may have been the result of rabies or syphilis.

Some Poe fans subscribe to a more sinister theory about the writer’s death, though. They think he may have fallen victim to “cooping,” a sordid 19th century political practice. Gangs of political thugs would round up homeless or weak men and hold them captive in a safe place called a “coop” right before a major election. On election day—and there was an election in Baltimore on October 3, 1849, the day Poe was found—the gangs would then drug or beat the hostages before taking them around to vote at multiple polling places.

This story sounds like something straight out of Poe’s own writing, but it might actually be true. Poe’s crummy physical state and delirium would be consistent with a victim of cooping, and the ill-fitting clothes jibe with gangs’ practice of making their hostages change clothes so they could cast multiple votes. With no real evidence either way, though, Poe’s death remains one of literature’s most fascinating mysteries.

This post originally appeared in 2011.

The $13,000 Epiphany That Made Orville Redenbacher a National Popcorn King

iStock.com/NoDerog
iStock.com/NoDerog

Happy National Popcorn Day! While you’re no doubt celebrating with a bowl of freshly popped, liberally buttered popcorn, here’s something else to digest: Orville Redenbacher originally called his product Red-Bow.

In 1951, Redenbacher and his partner, a fellow Purdue grad named Charlie Bowman, purchased the George F. Chester and Son seed corn plant in Boone Township, Indiana. Though Redenbacher’s background was in agronomy and plant genetics, he had dabbled in popcorn, and was friendly with the Chester family.

Eventually, Carl Hartman was brought in to experiment. In 1969, when the trio had developed a seed they felt really confident in, they went to market. They dubbed the product “Red-Bow,” a nod to “Redenbacher” and “Bowman.”

The product was a hit regionally, but by 1970, Bowman and Redenbacher were ready for a national audience and hired a Chicago advertising agency to advise them on branding strategy. At their first meeting, Redenbacher talked about popcorn for three hours. “Come back next week and we’ll have something for you,” he was told afterward.

The following week, he turned to the agency and was told that “Orville Redenbacher’s” was the perfect name for the fledgling popcorn brand. “Golly, no,” he said. “Redenbacher is such a ... funny name.” That was the point, they told him, and they must have made a convincing case for it, because Orville Redenbacher is the brand we know today—and the man himself is still a well-known spokesman more than 20 years after his death.

Still, Redenbacher wasn’t sure that the $13,000 fee the agency had charged was money well spent. “I drove back to Indiana wryly thinking we had paid $13,000 for someone to come up with the same name my mother had come up with when I was born,” Redenbacher later wrote.

Hungry for more Redenbacher? Take a look at the inventor at work in the vintage commercial below.

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