When the Country's Founding Father is Your Founding Father- page 9 | History | Smithsonian
President William Howard Taft and his sons, Robert, right, and Charles Phelps. (Bettmann / Corbis)

When the Country's Founding Father is Your Founding Father

The descendants of American presidents are the athletic trainers, lawyers, salesmen and executives of everyday life

George Cleveland Tamworth, New Hampshire

George Cleveland
(Courtesy of George Cleveland)
George Cleveland, 58, is often mistakenly identified as the great-grandson of Grover Cleveland, who was born in 1837, when, in fact, he is the president’s grandson. In a situation similar to the Tylers', two generations of Cleveland men fathered children late in life with much younger wives. “That basically drops two generations,” says Cleveland. “I was born an uncle.”

Cleveland is the executive director of the Gibson Center for Senior Services in North Conway, New Hampshire, but he moonlights as a historical interpreter. In other words, he impersonates President Cleveland. “We resemble each other, though I still have to put on a Mrs. Doubtfire suit and dye my hair white,” says Cleveland.

Most of the president’s writings, he says, are as dull as dishwater. “He never used five words where he could use 50,” he says. But Cleveland tries to use interesting tidbits plucked from the president’s writings and speeches in his performances that his audiences can relate to in some way. In Tamworth, New Hampshire, where Cleveland lives and Grover Cleveland owned a summer home, he might relate a story about the president’s love for hunting and fishing. He has also done skits on Cape Cod. “He complained about the traffic on the Cape on the weekends—in the 1890s,” says Cleveland. He worked that into an act. “That was pretty funny,” he says.

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