Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Family Life

Arthur's wife died of pneumonia in 1880, thus he entered the White House as a widower. The marriage was on the verge of dissolution, for she was losing tolerance for late hours and high living. Although never a doting father, Arthur loved his son, Chester Alan Jr., a student at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) during Arthur's term as President, and his daughter, Ellen "Nell" Herndon Arthur, age ten in 1881. His family competed for his time, however, with his near obsession with fishing, feasting with his cronies, and administrative work. Arthur loved to give grand parties and to showcase his children at such affairs. They were not always as eager to be in the social arena, although Chester Arthur Jr. eventually took to the social life; after attending college, he became a wealthy gentleman playboy with no ambition for politics or work.