Relatively little has been known about the President’s father, whose story reveals a family’s fraught relationship with money, class, and alcohol.
Biden’s parents had hinted at business improprieties—his mother would make references to the family’s wartime “blood money,” and his father was paranoid about being followed by the I.R.S.
With the help of genealogists, I found more information in documents stored at various institutions, including state and federal archives, courthouses, universities, and a mental hospital
Ultimately, I discovered that the story the Bidens had told the public was woefully incomplete
By Adam Entous
“Still, after the war, Biden’s parents “lost everything they had built,” as the President later put it. Biden, Sr., told his children that he’d tried to go into business with a friend in Boston, but the friend ran off with the money and Biden, Sr., declined to press charges. I couldn’t find records of any such partnership, however, and it’s unclear whether the story is simply family lore.
In November, 1945, shortly before the birth of Valerie, their second child, Biden, Sr., and Jean sold the house in Newton. The family ended up in Old Westbury, Long Island, where Sheene, Jr., owned a mansion that, according to a 1945 item in the Times, had twenty rooms, a garage with chauffeur’s quarters, stables, a squash court, and a tennis court. Sheene III said that his father continued to live like Jay Gatsby, even as billing notices from the government arrived. If he wasn’t out drinking on his new yacht, then he was hosting boozy gatherings at home, where he would play the piano or the banjo for his guests. “The Bidens were the life of the party,” Sheene III recalled. “Everybody liked Joe,” he added, referring to Biden, Sr. “He was always smiling, laughing, a jokester.” In the morning, while the adults were sleeping off their hangovers, the children would go downstairs and taste the leftover alcohol. “We’d go around draining the glasses,” Sheene III told me. “I was just a baby, four or five.”
Death and the All-American Boy
Joe Biden was a lot more careful around the press after this 1974 profile.
WRITTEN BY KITTY KELLY | PUBLISHED ON JUNE 1, 1974
Biden has said he’d always been a strong supporter of abortion rights, contrary to this quote from the 1974 article: “I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion,” Biden told Kelley. “I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”