The Most Famous Baby in America, 1925 Edition

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Jan. 25 2013 12:00 PM

Celebrity Baby Feeding Frenzy, 1920s-Style

The Vault is Slate's new history blog. Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter @slatevault; find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

The media obsession with celebrity babies is nothing new. Paulina Longworth, daughter of Alice Roosevelt Longworth and then-Speaker of the House Nicholas Longworth, was the most famous baby in America when she was born in 1925. Newspapers followed the story of Paulina’s birth and early days avidly. This image, taken by the wire service National Photo Company, captures the frenzy of photographers eager to get a shot of the infant in her nanny’s arms.

Mother Alice, Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter by his first marriage, was famously incorrigible, freewheeling, and tart-tongued. (Her father, when asked to bring his headstrong daughter to heel: “I can be president of the United States or I can attend to Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”) Alice was a teenager when her dad was in office, and America loved her. Songs were written (“Alice Blue Gown” and “Alice, Where Art Thou?”); babies were named after her; her favorite color (“Alice Blue”) was all the rage.

Advertisement

Paulina, who was born when Alice was 41, was her only child. In her 2008 biography of Alice, Stacy A. Cordery published family documents that show that Paulina’s father was not Nicholas Longworth but Idaho Senator William Borah. This fact wasn’t public when Paulina was born; Cordery speculates that Longworth must have known the truth, but he accepted Paulina as his own.

Sadly, Paulina struggled with depression; she lived through the death of Nicholas Longworth when she was 6, and the untimely passing of her husband when she was 26. She passed away at age 31, from an overdose of sleeping pills.

Paulina Longworth and photographers

"News photographers photographing Paulina Longworth, daughter of Nick and Alice Longworth, being held by woman on sidewalk, Washington, D.C." National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Uh-Oh. The World’s Oceans Have Broken Their All-Time Heat Record.

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

The NFL Should Lose Its Tax-Exempt Status, Which It Never Should Have Had Anyway

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 18 2014 6:52 PM Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters  Colorado Democrats and Republicans are testing theories for reaching women that will resonate far beyond the Rocky Mountains.  
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 4:15 PM Reactions to a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Reveal Transmisogyny
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 3:30 PM How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Trick Women
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.