Adams Family History Shows How Fate Can Be Generous, Cruel

A Liverpool Creamware Pitcher showing President John Adams sold for $6,875 at a December 2016 Heritage auction. Liverpool pitchers were produced for the nation’s first four presidents, with examples picturing Adams among the rarest.

By Jim O’Neal

Abigail “Nabby” Adams (1765-1813) was the first presidential child in American history.

Nabby had a difficult personal life, despite having both a father and brother become president of the United States. Her marriage to William Stephens Smith was rocky, not made any better by Smith’s financial difficulties due to poor investments and business ventures.

In 1810, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, tantamount to a death sentence in those primitive medical times. Her treatment started with a mastectomy (without anesthesia) with typical 19th-century surgical tools: a large fork, a pair of six-inch prongs, a wood-handled razor, and a thick iron spatula heated in a small oven.

Within 2½ years, she was dead as the malignant cells left behind spread throughout her body, rendering her inoperable.

She had three younger brothers. John Quincy Adams is arguably the greatest of all presidential children. Charles Adams was a bright, engaging lawyer who died an alcoholic at age 30. Thomas Adams – also a lawyer – drank excessively and died in debt.

John Quincy Adams’ story is legendary. He would become the sixth president of the United States and, until George W. Bush, the only president’s son to become president himself.

His 1778 voyage to France with his father proved to be a defining event in both their lives. An important bond filled the emotional needs of an adolescent boy, and he became indispensable to his famous father. Fellow commissioner to France Benjamin Franklin was fluent in French, but often too busy to offer help. In a foreign country and ignorant of the native tongue, the future president had only his son to alleviate the striking boredom.

It developed into a strong intellectual, emotional and spiritual relationship, clearly evident in their correspondence for the remainder of their lives. Writing to wife Abigail, John Adams declared their son “is respected wherever he goes, for his vigor and vitality, both of mind and body. His rapid progress in French and general knowledge is highly unusual for a boy of his age.”

John Quincy Adams

When their work in France was done, father and son returned to America. But Congress dispatched Adams back to France, and then to the Netherlands with JQA in tow. Then fate struck again. When he was 14 years old, John Quincy Adams was asked to join a diplomatic mission in Russia to obtain recognition for the new United States.

In 1794, JQA was appointed by President Washington as Minister to the Netherlands, an assignment that would take him all the way to the White House. At various times, he also served as ambassador to Prussia, England and Russia. He would help negotiate the end of the War of 1812 and find time to squeeze in service as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Like father, like (some) sons.

In 1789, John Adams learned that son Charles was bankrupt, an alcoholic and faithless. The Founding Father, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and second president of the United States, renounced him. He died a hopeless alcoholic, just days before John Adams learned he had lost the 1800 presidential election.

Fate can be a cruel master and Lady Luck a fickle companion.

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

America Will Never Forget the Sacrifices of Our Heroic Men and Women

The 48 Star Flag that Led the First Americans to Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944
The flag that led the first American troops onto Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, is featured in a June 12, 2016, Heritage Civil War & Militaria auction.

“When it mattered most, an entire generation of Americans showed the finest qualities of our nation and of humanity. On this day, in their honor, we will raise the American flag over a monument that will stand as long as America itself.” – George W. Bush, May 29, 2004

By Jim O’Neal

Sixteen million Americans served during World War II. Twelve years ago, the National World War II Memorial, honoring their commitment and sacrifices, was dedicated in the nation’s capital. The event featured a four-day celebration with special museum exhibits and services in the National Cathedral.

Almost every feature and detail of the seven-acre memorial in the National Mall are symbolic. A ceremonial entrance is flanked by 24 bronze bas-relief sculpture that provide glimpses into the American experience and on the battlefield. Inside, the memorial is anchored by two pavilions – one proclaiming victory in the Atlantic Theatre, the other success in the Pacific. Fifty-six granite pillars represent the states, federal territories and District of Columbia.

The columns are linked with bronze ropes to reflect the nation’s unity during the war and adorned with two bronze wreaths, one of wheat, representing the United States’ agricultural strength, and one in oak, signifying the might of a nation.

The site also features the Freedom Wall, decorated with 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who lost their lives during the war or who remain missing in action. Carved at the bottom are the words “Here we mark the price of freedom.”

Visitors can find hidden treasures in the site, including the famous “Kilroy was here” graffiti familiar to every WW2 veteran. Also carved into the memorial are these words from President Harry S. Truman: “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.”

Amen.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].