The Vault

Celebrity Baby Feeding Frenzy, 1920s-Style

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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.

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.