Just a Few Generations

I stumbled across an interesting news clip on YouTube. John Tyler, born in 1790 and president of the United States from 1841 to 1845, still had two living grandsons as of 2019.

Not great-great-grandsons or even great-grandsons. Grandsons.

Watch the video here:

At least one, Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr., has passed away since then. Still, it’s remarkable to consider how a mere three generations could stretch from the founding era to the present.

The feat was made possible by Tyler marrying a much younger woman as his second wife, and then their son doing the same thing.

It’s a reminder that American history isn’t all that long in the grand scheme of things.

When I was working as a reporter for the Herald-Progress newspaper years ago, I liked to browse through the paper’s archives when time allowed. The office had original, physical copies going all the way back to 1919.

In a 1929 edition of the paper, I found a picture of an elderly man shaking President Herbert Hoover’s hand. (Unfortunately, this isn’t something I can link to.) The caption said this gentleman had shaken hands with every Republican president going all the way back to Abraham Lincoln.

Two of my grandparents were already born when that photo was taken. I found it fascinating that my grandparents were alive at the same time as anyone who had met Lincoln. The math made sense and wasn’t any real surprise, of course, but I don’t think I had consciously worked it out before coming across that visual evidence.

The past—at least, the U.S. past—isn’t as remote as we tend to think.

In any case, Tyler is a president I haven’t read much about yet, and I need to rectify that at some point. The latter half of Tippecanoe and Tyler Too, he was the first vice president elevated to the presidency following a president’s death in office (William Henry Harrison in this case), and I’m sure there’s more to him than that. Let me know if you’ve read any great books on Tyler (or anyone from that pre–Civil War era).

Tyler and I, it turns out, are fellow graduates of William & Mary. Granted, he was there many years before me—or perhaps it wasn’t so long after all.

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