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Down Will Come Baby: 1915

Down Will Come Baby: 1915

1915. "Mrs. William Gibbs McAdoo, nee Eleanor Wilson. Baby McAdoo's open-air bed." The infant with the precarious perch was Ellen McAdoo, born in 1915 to Woodrow Wilson's daughter and Treasury Secretary William McAdoo. At the age of 31 she killed herself with an overdose of sleeping pills. View full size.


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Although the tide of comments seems to have passed to newer posts, I was intrigued by the cryptic information regarding the unfortunate baby Ellen's untimely end. At the time of her death, she had been twice divorced, the first time to a Filipino movie star, the second to a Hollywood musician. Both marriages were short-lived. The first marriage challenged the racial biases of the time, and of her father, who seemed to have shared her maternal grandfather's (Woodrow Wilson) views on race (Wilson famously endorsed "Birth of a Nation"), as there were questions as to the groom's "pure" Spanish heritage. The marriage was allowed to proceed only after the groom signed an affidavit attesting to his racial purity. After an (apparently) unsuccessful singing career, Ellen was working as a telephone operator when she died of an overdose of sleeping pills on December 22, 1946.

The two photos below show Ellen in the arms of her grandfather, in the White House, and about to board a flight to California, with her father, who was serving as a Senator from that state, in 1934.

More details here.


Good way to decrease the spread of tuberculosis. Fresh air was very important for people who lived in crowded conditions where airborne diseases were easily spread.

What would Dr. Spock have said?

Subjected as she was to such bizarre parenting skills, I guess it's no wonder she offed herself at 31.

In the Window

>> Sometimes I honestly wonder, and NOT about the topic.

The problem is, people forget that there were no home air conditioners (least of all window units) in 1915. They see a box hanging out the window, they dismiss it mentally as an air conditioner, and they keep looking for the baby bed - something with rails, like a crib.

They simply don't figure out that the baby bed IS what they've already dismissed as an air conditioner.

2139 R Street NW

Still there. With window units! All these buildings look so imposing in black-and-white. Then when you see them in Google Technicolor Street View with a minivan parked out front, they shrink.

The house is now the Embassy of the United Republic of Tanzania.

View Larger Map


>> I don't understand. Where is the baby?

What the? Sometimes I honestly wonder, and NOT about the topic.

I'm curious where this is.

I'm curious where this is. Is it in Washington? I didn't think there were many five story row houses here. Anyone have a clue where this is?

[2139 R Street N.W. - Dave]

Mommy Knows Worst

Lileks has one of these in his book "Mommy Knows Worst: Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice."

Very funny book, with lots of old adverts.

This is going to drive me crazy...

...until someone figures out what in the world this has to do with a baby! I've even tried looking to see in the luck anywhere...

[The bed is the box sticking out of the window. - Dave]

Window Unit

I kept thinking, "What? All I see is an air conditioner!"


I don't see anything even remotely looking like an open air bed.

[It's a puzzle, isn't it. - Dave]


I don't understand. Where is the baby?

No wonder

No wonder she was unbalanced, poor woman.

One way or another

It seems it was her destiny to die sleeping.

No Way

That thing could be cemented directly to the foundations of the house, with a forest of backup safety chains, and there's still no way I'd put a baby in it. Scary.

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