Alice Roosevelt and Nick Longworth: The actual engagement photos

Alice wasn’t shy in saving photos of herself.  This spread filled two full pages of the oversized scrapbook.  

It’s easy to like Alice Roosevelt Longworth, oldest daughter of TR and owner of Washington, D.C.’s sharpest tongue for 96 years (1884-1980).  Among others she’s credited with–

                “If you have nothing nice to say about anyone, come here and sit by me.”

                “My simple philosophy:  Fill what’s empty.  Empty what’s full.  And scratch what itches.”

                “The secret to eternal youth is arrested development.”

                On Calvin Coolidge:  He “looks as if he was weaned on a pickle.”

                And on Thomas E. Dewey:  “The little man on top of the wedding cake.”

Her father, Theodore Roosevelt, famously added this: “I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice.  I cannot possibly do both.” 

Recently, I spent a day rummaging through her scrapbooks in the Manuscript Room of the Library of Congress. What a pleasure!!  They contain a treasure trove of newspaper clips, full of gossip, politics, old smudgy snapshots, so on.   

I’m not sure yet what to do with them yet.  (The research was part of my endless quest into the story of cantankerous old House Speaker “Uncle Joe” Cannon, a project that has become my own personal White Whale.  I’ll catch that damn whale some day.) 

In the meantime, I’d like to share some of the photos with you, spread out over the next few weeks.  To start, in 1904, Alice made herself the glamour sensation of the country by announcing her surprise, sudden wedding engagement to young Congressman Nicholas Longworth, scion of the richest family in Cincinnati.  Nick and Alice had met early that year year on a diplomatic mission to the Phillipines hosted by then-Secretary of War William Howard Taft.  Newspapers loved the story, and Alice clipped them all.  Here are a few–


Taft (all 300+ pounds, on right) posing for photos in Manila with Alice and other diplomats.

A full-page newspaper fashion sketch of Alice. 
Photo of the Manila delegation. Alice is front and center. Nick is second row on left with hat.
Cupid wins. A typical newspaper take on the weeding announcement.
Nick, the lucky man, shakes hands till it hurts.

More from Alice Longworth’s scrapbook.

German newspaper clip shows Alice socializing with ladies aboard the steamer Schiffes in 1905. 
Click here for
As promised, today a few more clippings from the wonderful overstuffed scrapbook of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, irrepressible oldest daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt — a fantastic find at the Manuscript Room of the Library of Congress.
Last time, we showed you news photos that Alice saved from the 1904 surprise announcement of her wedding engagement to “suave” “debonair” Congressman Longworth (R.-Ohio).  Today, we have a mix of clips, some from just after the wedding, others from Alice’s life later on.
Hope you enjoy them.  There’s more to come.
Alice with her stylish fur and feather hat,  all the rage in 1906.
Alice kept piles of cuttings from the White House press office, which used service like this one in London to assure global reach — here a story from Berlin via the London Herald.
Alice and Nick arriving in Paris was a great event for the local society.


Alice in the 1930s with her only child, daughter Paulina.  Born in 1925, Paulina’s father was understood to be not Nick Longworth, Alice’s husband, but rather Senator William Borah (R-Idoha), with whom Alice had an affair.  Sadly, Paulina suffered from a chilly relationship with her mother complicated by what doctors back then called “melancholy,” and died of a pill overdose in 1957 at 31 years old.   Her husband, Alexander Sturm, had died of hepatitis in 1951.   
This is my personal favorite:  Alice wrote a memoir in 1933 called CROWDED HOURS, published by Scribner.s,  and, like any good writer, she tracked her sales and royalties like a hawk.  Here’s one of her statements.




Luck in politics? Ask Nick Longworth (R-Ohio), Speaker of the House,1925-1931.

Page from 1887 Longworth scrapbook, Manuscript Room, Library of Congress.

Click here for
    —  Alice and Nick’s engagement photos
    — More photos from Alice Longworth’s scrapbook

“I’d rather be lucky than good.”  That’s what NY Yankee pitching ace “Lefty” (Vernon Louis) Gomez famously said about baseball back in the 1930s, but it goes just as well with politics.  And when a politician is both lucky and good, it takes real skill to see it and recognize which is which.

Longworth and soon-to-be-future bride Alice Rosevelt in 1905.

Take Nicholas Longworth, Speaker of the US House from 1925 to 1931.  People today in Washington, D.C. remember Longworth mostly because his name is attached to one of its most familiar buildings, the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill.  Beyond that, he’s mostly a blank, which is a shame.

All you need to know about Longworth is this:

Like too many politicians of his day, Longworth got that stupid twinge of guilt when he was about to die in April 1931.  He ordered his family to destroy all his personal papers.  The only things saved (available today in the Manuscript Room of the Library of Congress) were a few scrapbooks, speeches, and letters from famous people.

One of these old scrapbooks, though, contained a gem.  It was from 1887 when Longworth was an 18 year-old junior at Harvard.   Nick loved playing poker with friends, and, in his scrapbook, he actually saved the five cards he drew in a game one night that December: a royal straight flush.

Longworth as the well-dress House Speaker.

Today, a century and a quarter later, that royal straight flush is enshrined as Nick Longworth’s permanent monument, more fitting than any building, statue, or round of boring speeches.

Longworth understood his luck.  “Suave.” “Polished.” “Affable.” “Easygoing.”  That’s how people usually described him.  “Longworth is a gregarious creature who loves his friends and who can find loveableness in his most pronounced political enemies,” one newsman wrote.  He wore morning suits, spats, and often carried a gold-handled cane.  That, and, according to the same reporter,  he could “wear spats and look as if he had been born into them.”  Partly, this is because he was.

Nick Longworth’s luck started early.  His parents were scions of one of the richest, oldest families in Cincinnati.  They sent him to Harvard, then Harvard Law School, then had him finish his law degree back in Ohio.  They helped him launch a political career that sent him to Washington, D.C.  as a Congressmen just four years out of school.  There, young Nick Longworth managed to win the heart of the city’s most sought-after bride, Alice Roosevelt, the vivacious oldest daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt.  This made him an instant celebrity and power.

Longworth House Office Building, opened in 1933.

Longworth lost his House seat in 1912.  He had broken a cardinal rule that year by siding against his own father-in-law, Roosevelt, in that year’s Presidential election.  Alice never forgave him.  But Nick re-gained his seat two years later and resumed his climb as if nothing had happened.

Combine luck with charm and some skill, and by 1923 Longworth had risen to become the House Republican Majority Leader, the most effective in years, then Speaker in 1925.   Calvin Coolidge reigned in Washington back then, and Longworth, a staunch conservative, fit right in.   He reasserted the powers of the Speaker in ways unseen since the fall of Joe Cannon in 1910, and also forged a close friendship with Democratic leader John Nance Garner, himself a future Speaker and Vice President.  Garner, Longworth, and a floating clique of friends met regularly in a secluded Capitol hideaway office they called the “Board of Education” where booze flowed freely despite Prohibition. “I was the heathen and Nick was the aristocrat,” Garner liked to joke.  It resulted in a Congress that got its work done.

Many House Speakers are utterly forgotten after they leave office, but, even here, Nick Longworth got lucky.  In his final years as Speaker, he had the good fortune to preside over planning of what would become the second House Office building, which would bear his name until today.  He died in 1931, shortly after losing the Speakership to his Democratic friend John Nance Garner.  His wife Alice would live another 50 years, a favorite Washington solon until 1980.

Luck is good.  Enjoy it when you have it.  And if you happen to draw a royal straight flush, save it.  Don’t be stupid and throw it away.


Jacques Cousteau

Faces. By age 40, we each have the one we deserve. So said George Orwell.
Here are links to faces I’ve posted here, belonging to people I liked or disliked enough to profile. Some are current. Most are historical. All are interesting.

Click on the names and look in their eyes. Then decide if you’d want them home for dinner.


Trouble makers:



Cops – Good and Bad:


Artists (all types):