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.

Hard Sell: A History of the Pet Rock

Amazon
Amazon

You may have heard the story of the Pet Rock, the Mexican beach stone that could be purchased in bulk for less than a penny, retailed for $3.95, and made inventor Gary Dahl a millionaire during a kind of novelty gift hysteria in late 1975. But Dahl didn’t really get rich off of the rock.

He got rich off of a cardboard box.

Dahl was working as a freelance advertising copywriter in California that year when, while having drinks at a bar with friends, the conversation turned to the destructive nature of pets. Dogs and cats ruined furniture. Worse, they required constant attention, from being walked to being fed to cleaning up after them. Dahl said that he didn’t have to worry about any of that because he had a “pet rock.”

It was, of course, a joke. And it got a laugh. But Dahl decided there could be more to it than that. He went home and began writing an owner’s manual for this hypothetical pet rock, which detailed how best to handle it, the tricks it could perform (“play dead” being the most popular), and how it could remain a faithful companion due to its “long life span.” The gag was not so much the rock itself but the way it was presented. In addition to the manual, Dahl conceived of a cardboard box with air holes that resembled the kind used by pet shops. It also bore a passing resemblance to a McDonald's Happy Meal container.

 

Dahl's motivation in making a serious effort to monetize his pet rock idea was due in large part to his precarious financial situation at the time—he was struggling to keep up with his bills. He recruited George Coakley and John Heagerty, two colleagues, to come on as investors. They both signed on, with Coakley investing $10,000—a not-inconsiderable sum in 1975, especially when the intention was to sell virtually worthless rocks.

The Pet Rock packaging is pictured
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dahl, however, knew what he was marketing. Like chattering teeth, the Hula Hoop, and other fads, the Pet Rock was the beneficiary of good timing. Vietnam had ended but Watergate was still fresh; the country’s mood was slightly downcast, and Dahl believed people would see the inane nature of the Pet Rock and recognize the humor of it. He boxed the rocks with the manual and packed them in excelsior, which may be best known as comic book legend Stan Lee’s catchphrase but also means a softwood shaving pile meant for protecting fragile items. The rocks were purchased from a local sand and gravel company, which sourced them from Mexico’s Rosarita Beach. Dahl debuted the rock at a gift show in San Francisco in August of 1975, then waited for a reaction.

He got one. People understood the appeal right away and he began taking orders. Neiman Marcus wanted 1000 rocks. Bloomingdale’s later signed on. Newsweek did a story with a picture, which spread the word. Dahl had retail and media credibility for what was superficially a nonsense product. His bar joke was turning into a national phenomenon.

When the holiday season arrived, Dahl estimated he was selling up to 100,000 Pet Rocks a day. Ultimately, he would sell between 1.3 and 1.5 million of them within a period of just a few months. Coakley made $200,000 back on his initial $10,000 investment. Dahl gifted both Coakley and Heagerty with Mercedes. Making 95 cents in profit on each Pet Rock sold, Dahl earned over $1 million. He launched his own firm, Rock Bottom Productions, which was itself another joke. “You’ve reached Rock Bottom” is how the receptionist answered their phone.

 

The fad did not last—by definition, they’re not designed to—but Dahl was satisfied. His two investors were not; they "claimed they had received too small a share of the profits" and later sued Dahl for more revenue. After a judgment in the investors' favor, Dahl wrote them a six-figure check.

The Pet Rock is pictured
Amazon

There were attempts to prolong the life of the rock by offering a Bicentennial version in 1976—it had the American flag painted on it—and mail-order college degrees for them. Dahl sold Pet Rock T-shirts and Pet Rock shampoo. There were also copycat gifts, since Dahl could not really patent a rock. (He might have been able to obtain a utility patent because of the rock’s particular purpose as a companion, but he did not.) The humor was transient, however, and people had moved on.

Dahl had other ideas. There was the Official Sand Breeding Kit, which claimed to provide guidance on growing sand, and Canned Earthquake, which consisted of a coffee can that had a wind-up mechanism that caused it to jump around on a table. Neither was particularly successful. Dahl’s real passion, though, was buying and renovating a bar in Los Gatos, which he named Carrie Nation’s Saloon.

This was not without its problems, as people who believed they had the next Pet Rock would often stop by the bar to try and secure an audience with Dahl for his insight. Many times, their idea consisted of packaging bull or elephant excrement. There were also proposals to market a pet stick. Dahl had no patience for these inventors, believing the Pet Rock could not be duplicated. Later, he went back to advertising after taking what he described as an “eight-year vacation” following the success of his project.

The Pet Rock can still be found online, though it’s no longer Dahl’s business. He died in 2015. Of the unsold rocks he had left over at the end of the fad, he was indifferent. If they didn’t sell, he said, he would just use them to repave his driveway.

Submarine Expedition Reveals Parts of the Titanic Have Fully Decayed

NOAA/Institute for Exploration/University of Rhode Island
NOAA/Institute for Exploration/University of Rhode Island

In 1985, oceanographers Robert Ballard, Jean-Louis Michel, and their crew located the wreck of the RMS Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Images of the shipwreck have since become as iconic as photographs of the ocean liner taken before the 1912 tragedy. But the ruin's time in the ocean is limited. As part of an upcoming documentary, a crew of scientists carried out the first manned expedition to the wreck in 14 years and discovered the Titanic is rapidly decaying, BBC reports.

After it sank, the Titanic settled in two parts on the seafloor about 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Most of the wreck is still intact, but a lot has changed since 2005, when it was last visited by a human-occupied submersible.

While working on a film for Atlantic Productions London, an exploration team from Triton Submarines visited the wreck five times over eight days and discovered that entire sections of the ship have disappeared. The starboard side of the officer's quarters has deteriorated, and the captain's bathtub is totally gone. The deck house on the same side and the sloping lounge roof of the bow are also on the brink of collapse, according to the crew.

Unlike other artifacts and historic sites, there's no way to preserve the wreckage of the Titanic for future generations. Churning ocean currents, corrosive salt, and metal-eating bacteria will continue to break down the steel behemoth until it becomes part of the sea. Some experts estimate that by 2030, it's likely that no part of the wreck will remain.

Whether that projection is off by years or decades, these findings suggest that every new team that visits the Titanic may find something different than the team before them. On this most recent expedition, the Triton Submarines exploration team was able to film the wreck in 4K for the first time. That footage may end up being some of the last ever captured of many elements of the ship.

[h/t BBC]

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