Affectionate Fathers of the 19th Century

Not every Victorian father thought children were to be seen and not heard.

Robert Louis Stevenson brought his stepson along on his honeymoon. Alexander Graham Bell hoped to give his daughter a strange name. And Harry Houdini. . . You’ll have to read his story to believe it.

Houdini Showing How To Escape HandcuffsThe Good-on-Paper Dad

There are no magic words for infertility.

Perhaps Harry Houdini was sterile from many x-ray experiments he sat for his brother, Dr. Leopold Weiss. Another speculation questions the underdevelopment of his petite wife.

In order to cope with their inability to make a baby, Harry and Bess made one up.

They named their imaginary son Mayer Samuel Houdini after Harry’s father. Letters passed back and forth documented his life. It was not until Mayer became “President of the United States” that the pair retired the conversation.

It is possible he was not their only fictional child. In 1911, Bess told a reporter: “I married Mr. Houdini when I was not quite 17 years old. Now our daughter is following in my footsteps and will soon become a bride.”

Abra CaDADbra. Read the story of Harry Houdini’s invisible son. – Click to Tweet


The Proud Papa


Expecting a child in September, Alexander Graham Bell and his wife debated names.

He, in receiving much acclaim for his latest breakthrough invention, wished to name the baby “Photophone.” However, thanks to her mother’s persuasion, Marian joined her sister Elsie May as darlings of the Bell household.

The Hero Father

1888._Семья_императора_Александра_IIIAlexander III had his brother’s life.

The second born, it wasn’t until Nicholas died that his fate was realized. His older brother left him not only the throne but a wife.

On his death bed, Nicholas requested his fiancée and Alex wed. Despite odds, the two shared a happy marriage and had six children.

While traveling in October of 1888, their train incurred disaster. Derailing, it plummeted down a slope. The roof threatened to cave in. Were it to do so, it would crush the Imperial family and other passengers in the dining car.

To save his family and other passengers, Alexander braced the roof with what doctors have come to describe as a super-human strength.

The Fun Step-Dad

Author Robert Louis Stevenson took his stepson his honeymoon.

An abandoned bunkhouse at the old Silverado Mine on Mount St. Helena accomodated the new family with plenty of scope for the imagination. There, according to the Robert Louis Steven’s Museum, “Lloyd and Louis began their many make-believe games that involved pirates and experimentations with a hand-operated “toy” printing press.”

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It was a map that Lloyd had drawn which inspired Treasure Island, a classic which Stevenson dedicated to the boy.

The duo would go on to co-author several books. And at his step father’s encouragement, Lloyd took the occupation of author as well.

The Model Father


That “crazy, stupid intriguer.”

Ever a thorn in Prince Albert’s side, Baroness Lezhen had gained influence over the royal nursery, over the mind of his child. “The hag” already had sway with his wife. As evidenced when he appealed to Victoria with no avail.

Then the Princess Royal fell ill. A doting father, Albert noticed her decline. A misdiagnosis from a doctor Lezhen staffed endangered the life of his first born.

An argument between the young parents ensued. Once a quiet settled, the prince consort conceded to her queenly ruling. If their daughter died, it would be on her head.

Victoria surrendered, and Albert oversaw any affairs of the nursery henceforth. The Passionate Prince “developed a most forward-thinking curriculum, including not only academic learning but also gardening, creativity, cooking and, above all, a social awareness. His children meant everything to him and he was one of the few princes who paid as much attention to his daughters’ education as to his sons’.”

Come now, share a favourite memory you hold of your father.

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