Today I read an article/factoid/holysh#tidbit about the family tree of John Tyler, the tenth President of the United States of America. It turns out that the guy, born in 1790, who took office in 1840, has two LIVING grandchildren. I didn’t say great great grandchildren or great grandchildren. The two men in question, Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. and Harrison Ruffin Tyler, are his plain old fashioned grandchildren.
Here are some things about this that blow my mind.
John Tyler was alive when George Washington was President. Between the three generations of the Tyler men in question (including John Tyler Jr., the father of Lyon and Harrison), they have been around for ALL 44 Presidents. By comparison, three generations of my family including me, have been around for a paltry 15.
I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about the Presidency of Tyler before doing some internet research earlier today. Tyler ended up in office after President William Henry Harrison died a month into his term, having succumbed to complications of pneumonia.
Tyler was on the USS Princeton when the tragedy occurred. What tragedy? Yeah, I didn’t know about it either, but it’s fascinating.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
All of these facts and historical footnotes are fertile ground for the imagination. And though they captured my attention today, something else will grab it tomorrow.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but I think it’s important to be curious. As writers, we never know what obscure historical event(s) can be discussed or re-imagined or re-plotted to serve our stories. I can’t get enough of these things, and how often, much later down the road, they give context to something I wouldn’t have otherwise understood.
Do you have any favorite historical footnotes? Obscure, but real characters who fascinate you and that you hope to work into your writing?