If you've ever been on the lookout for a new roommate, you know how hard it is to find someone who fits what you're looking for. People bring with them all kinds of stuff - physical possessions and personality quirks alike. A new roommate might have some clothes you want to wear or add cool gadgets to the kitchen, but they could just as easily be accompanied by a problematic pet or some really obnoxious friends. There's just no way to know.
When we got to thinking about this conundrum, we wondered which figures in history would be OK to live with. Leaders, celebrities, members of royal families, inventors - they'd all have much to offer in a living situation. But would the pros cancel out some of the cons? Luckily, we broke it down so you could decide for yourself. Happy roommate hunting!
- 186 VOTES
Pros: Could reach anything on a high shelf.
Cons: Might try to pin you down in an impromptu wrestling match.
Context: Abraham Lincoln holds the distinction of being the tallest US President. At 6 feet, 4 inches, he looked even taller when he wore his characteristic top hat, adding to his distinguished demeanor. Having someone with height at the ready would be useful for getting things off high shelves and the like, but Lincoln as a roommate could potentially be full of surprises.
He was a practical joker, especially in his youth. In 1828, for example, Lincoln arranged for the grooms in a double wedding - Reuben Grigsby, Jr. and his brother, Charles - to be taken to the wrong wedding beds as an act of retaliation for being excluded from the event. On another occasion, he delivered a biting speech to Congress mocking Lewis Cass's attempts to paint himself as a military hero to earn the Democratic nomination for president.
Add that all together and you've got a roommate who'd jump out and pin you whenever he got the chance.
Pros: Lots of perks - like electricity.
Cons: Pigeons would be your roommates, too.
Context: Nikola Tesla, an ethnic Serb born in what is now Croatia, was a ground-breaking inventor and scientist in the field of electric power. After working at Thomas Edison's facility in New York during the mid-1880s, Tesla researched alternating current and quickly received more than 30 patents for the inventions that resulted from his work. Alongside AC dynamos (akin to batteries) and motors, he also patented his Tesla coil, essential to wireless technologies still used today.
During his career, Tesla feuded with Edison, lost funding numerous times, and saw his work disappear in a devastating fire. Toward the end of his life, he gave much of his attention to pigeons, even bringing them into his home to take care of them. According to Tesla:
I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was purpose in my life.
Pros: Raiding her closet would be a blast.
Cons: As long as you like puce.
Context: The connection between Marie Antoinette and fashion was as strong during her life in 18th-century France as it is with her enduring historical legacy. Antoinette wore the most elaborate dresses, extravagant headwear, and, according to some modern observers, used fashion as a way of defining and distinguishing herself at the royal court.
As she wore clothing that demonstrated changing fashion trends throughout Europe, she became fixated on "the color of a flea" - puce. The brownish-purple-and-red color reportedly got its name because it looked like the blood one might see after receiving a flea bite.
According to French socialite Henriette Louise de Waldner de Freundstein, Baronne d'Oberkirch:
Every lady at court wore a puce-colored gown, old puce, young puce... the new color did not soil easily and was therefore less expensive than lighter tints, the fashion of puce gowns was adopted by the [Parisian] bourgeoisie.
Pros: Child's culinary talents would make for outstanding breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Cons: Getting used to her voice might be tough.
Context: Julia Child began cooking French cuisine while in Paris with her husband Paul in 1948. She trained with master chef Max Bugnard before forming a school with two of her cooking school classmates, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.
Beck, Bertholle, and Child introduced millions of people worldwide to French cooking with their cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961. From there, Child wrote numerous other books, hosted a cooking show on public television, and became a culinary icon of sorts.
Some naysayers thought Child was "revolting" due to her lack of hygiene and gracefulness in the kitchen as well as some of the ingredients she used. Her voice was high-pitched, described as "hooting" by her family, and mocked by observers.
According to Child's biographer, Bob Spitz, "Julia herself never thought she had a funny voice. She didn’t understand the parodies." It ultimately became part of her brand, called everything from "the unself-conscious chortling of an extremely happy bird" and "waffley" to "arresting" and "distracting" along the way.
Pros: Songs, class, and style would ooze out of Sinatra - and rub off a little.
Cons: Regular visits from members of the Mafia.
Context: Considered one of the best-known entertainers of the 20th century, Frank Sinatra was nicknamed "The Voice" due to his prolific music and movie career. The Rat Pack member not only transcended genres - mixing elements of jazz, rock, swing, and pop into his music - but reportedly made friends across various walks of life, too.
During the 1960s, Sinatra was suspected of having Mafia ties, most notably with Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. Sinatra was allegedly to be the middleman between Giancana and John F. Kennedy, but was also connected to mafiosos in Detroit and Philadelphia. The FBI surveilled Sinatra, although the singer wasn't subtle about spending time with known gangsters. FBI agent Sam Ruffino recalled:
[Sinatra] didn't make any apologies for it. Those were his friends. The fact that they were known hoodlums and murderers didn't matter to him. He didn't care, he was going to hang around with who he wanted to hang around with.
- 690 VOTES
Pros: Spring break with Queen Victoria would be a trip to almost anywhere.
Cons: Vacation spot access was only possible thanks to imperialism.
Context: Queen Victoria ruled the United Kingdom and the British Empire for more than 60 years, steadfast in her imperialist policies. The rise of the British Empire under her authority led to its eventual peak during the early 20th century. When she was crowned in 1838, Queen Victoria ruled over what historian Lawrence James called "a rag bag collection of territories overseas."
Through her long reign, Queen Victoria became Empress of India in 1877 and oversaw the "Scramble for Africa" at the end of the 1870s and '80s. Although she may not have agreed with all of the methods of imperialism used by her subjects (Cecil Rhodes, for example) the monarch supported them nonetheless.
As a result, Queen Victoria ruled land around the world and could literally find someplace to call her own on nearly every continent. Slow travel times aside, if you were her roommate and headed off for a vacation together, you'd definitely travel in style to wherever you wanted to go - no questions asked.