Grover Cleveland was the 22nd president of the United States from 1885-1889 and the 24th president from 1893-1897.
He was the only president to be married at the White House. He married Frances Folsom on June 2, 1886 when he was 49 years old. Frances was just 21 years old, making her the youngest First Lady in history.
Frances was born July 21, 1864 in Buffalo, New York to Oscar and Emma Folsom. Oscar was Grover’s law partner.
When Oscar died in a carriage accident on July 23, 1875, Grover became the administrator of his large estate. He had known Frances since she was born and took it upon himself to see that she got the best possible education.
When Frances began attending Wells College, Grover asked her mother if he could court Frances. She reluctantly gave her permission. Grover secretly proposed by letter in August 1885, right after Frances graduated.
The public was under the impression that Grover was to be engaged to Emma and were shocked to learn the truth just 5 days before the wedding.
Only about 35 people attended the wedding that was held in the Blue Room of the White House. The president worked a full day before attending his own wedding. The couple changed the words of their vows from the traditional “obey” to “keep.” They gave out pieces of their wedding cake in Tiffany boxes as favors. Some of these boxes, with cake still inside, are on display and in private collections across the country. The cake was a fruitcake and has held up surprisingly well over the past 133 years.
Newspapers reported that the skirt of Frances’s wedding dress was so stiff that it could stand on its own. She repurposed the skirt later with a different top for other occasions.
The American people and the press were obsessed with the First Lady. Grover attempted to combat this by supporting legislation that no woman could be photographed without her permission. It did not pass. The couple lived in a private residence most of the year so that Grover could provide extra protection for his wife.
When the Clevelands vacated the White House at the end of Grover’s first term, Frances told the staff to keep the place up for them because they would be back. Grover was the only president to serve 2 non-consecutive terms.
Later, in 1893, during Grover’s 2nd term, Frances gave birth to their 2nd daughter, Esther. She was the first child born in the White House. The couple’s first daughter, Ruth, was in the inspiration for the candy bar, Baby Ruth.
It was revealed before their wedding that Grover may have fathered a child out of wedlock when Frances was just a child. He continued to support that child until his death. He might not have been the child’s father, but the other candidates were all married. As a single man, Grover took responsibility. There was a rumor that the child may have been fathered by Oscar.
Grover died in 1908. Frances remarried in 1913.
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