Presidential Children – Tyler’s 15, Still a Record


John Tyler, President from 1841-1845, had two wives. Both were First Ladies, and between them had fifteen children, which is still the record for presidential children. Fourteen of these children lived to maturity.

Tyler’s first wife, Letitia, suffered a stroke in 1839, and during her years as First Lady, remained upstairs in the living quarters of the White House, coming downstairs only once for her daughter’s wedding in January of 1842. On September 9, 1842, she suffered a second stroke and died peacefully the next day. She had given birth to eight children, seven of whom lived to maturity. John Tyler remarried in June 1844. His second wife was Julia Gardner, who gave birth to seven children, all of whom lived to maturity.

Mary Tyler, 1815-1848. She was married in 1835 to a wealthy Tidewater planter named Henry Lightfoot Jones. She died two months after her thirty-third birthday.

Robert Tyler, 1816-1877. After he served as his father’s private secretary in the White House, Robert settled in Philadelphia, where he became a leader in the state Democratic Party. He practiced law and held the positions of sheriff’s solicitor and chief clerk of the state supreme court. He supported James Buchanan throughout his career. Robert’s wife was an actress named Priscilla Cooper, who acted as official White House hostess for the invalid Letitia Tyler for the first three years of John Tyler’s Presidency. When the Civil War broke out, a mob attacked Robert’s home and he had to flee Philadelphia. He returned to Virginia where he served as the register of the Treasury of the Confederacy. He was broke after the war and settled in Montgomery, Alabama where he became wealthy again as a lawyer and publisher of the Montgomery Advertiser. He was also a leader of the state Democratic Party in Alabama.

John Tyler, Jr., 1819-1896. Like his older brother, John also became a lawyer, served as private secretary of his father during his presidential term and also campaigned for James Buchanan. During the Civil War, he served as Confederate assistant secretary of war. After the war, he practiced law in Baltimore. President Grant appointed him to a minor position in the Internal Revenue Bureau at Tallahassee, Florida.

Letitia Tyler, 1821-1907. In 1839, she married James Semple, whom her father appointed a navy purser. The marriage was not a happy one, and she left James after the Civil War. She moved to Baltimore and opened a school, the Eclectic Institute.

Elizabeth Tyler, 1823-1850. She married William Waller in 1842 in a White House wedding, the one event for which her mother came downstairs. She died as a result of complications of childbirth at the age of 27.

Anne Contesse Tyler, April-July 1825.

Alice Tyler, 1827-1854. She was married in 1850 to the Reverend Henry Denison, an Episcopal rector in Williamsburg. She died suddenly of colic at the age of 27.

Tazewell Tyler, 1830-1874. He served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. After the war, he moved to California. He had five sons and two daughters by his second wife.

David Gardiner “Gardie” Tyler, 1846-1927. During the Civil War, the 16-year-old Gardie dropped out of Washington College to enlist in the Confederate Army. After the war, he studied in Germany and became a lawyer. He settled in Charles City County, Virginia. He served in the Virginia state senate (1891-1892 and 1899-1904) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (1893-1897). He was a circuit court judge in Virginia from 1904 until his death in 1927.

John Alexander “Alex” Tyler, 1848-1883. Like his older brother Gardie, Alex dropped out of Washington College. He enlisted in the Confederate Army while barely in his teens. He also studied in Germany after the war, becoming a mining engineer. While in Germany, he served in the Saxon army during the Franco-Prussian War. The Prussian government decorated him for his service during the war. He returned to the United States and was appointed U.S. surveyor of the Interior Department in 1879. He was working in this capacity when he died in New Mexico after drinking contaminated water at the age of 35.

Julia Gardiner Tyler, 1849-1871. In 1869, she married William Spencer, a farmer from Tuscarora, New York, who was deeply in debt. She died from complications after childbirth at the age of 22.

Lachlan Tyler, 1851-1902. He was a doctor who practiced in Jersey City, New Jersey. In 1879, he became surgeon in the U.S. Navy. In 1887, he moved to Elkhorn, West Virginia, where he practiced medicine until his death.

Lyon Gardiner Tyler, 1853-1935. He began his career as a lawyer, but only practiced law for a few years. He earned a reputation as a writer and educator. In 1885, he published a two-volume work, “The Letter and Times of the Tylers.” In this and other books, he worked to vindicate his father’s presidency and career as well as the South in general. He was a professor of literature at the College of William and Mary. He served as President of the College of William and Mary from 1888 until 1919.

Robert Fitzwater “Fitz” Tyler, 1856-1927. He lived in Hanover County, Virginia, where he was a farmer.

Pearl Tyler, 1860-1947. Born when her father was 70 years old, she never got to know her father. Her father died in a Richmond hotel room, where he was staying waiting to be sworn in as a member of the Confederate House of Representatives. At the age of 12, she and her mother converted to Roman Catholicism. She married William Ellis, who had been a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. They lived near Roanoke, Virginia.

Most of John Tyler’s many children lived quiet, productive lives. A few became political leaders like their father. They are remembered at all mainly because their father managed to have a record number of presidential children. No other President has even come close to this record.