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Frances Cleveland

June 2, 2013
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Grover Cleveland was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. He was also the only president to be married in a White House ceremony and scandalously. Cleveland, who was 49 at the time, married Frances Folsom, who was 21. The wedding was a simple affair, attended only by close friends, family, and cabinet members and their wives. The occasion though was far from quiet. John Phillip Sousa led the Marine Band.

The new First Lady came from western New York, the only surviving child of Oscar Folsom. Oscar Folsom was a longtime close friend of Grover Cleveland. Cleveland, at age 27, met his future wife shortly after she was born. He took a strong interest in the child, buying her a baby carriage and doted on her strongly as she grew up. When her father was killed in a carriage accident, without having a written will, the court appointed Cleveland as administrator of his estate, bringing Cleveland into still more contact with Frances, who was then 11.

Frances attended school in Buffalo, and Medina, New York and Wells College in Aurora, New York. It was while she was in college that Cleveland's feelings for her took a romantic turn. He proposed by letter in August 1885, soon after her graduation. They did not publicly announce their engagement until just five days before the wedding.

The wedding took place on June 2, 1886 at the White House. Their age disparity was 27 years. President Cleveland worked as usual on his wedding day. The 7 p.m. ceremony was performed in the blue room and the words love, honor, and keep were substituted for honor, love and obey. The couple spent a five day honeymoon at Deer Park of Western Maryland.

The new First Lady was the subject of intense media interest. She took over the duties of being White House hostess, and her charm won her popularity. She held two receptions a week, one being on Saturday afternoon so women with jobs could come.

After Cleveland's defeat in 1888, Mrs. Cleveland told the staff upon leaving to take care of the building as they would be returning in four years. She proved correct thus becoming the only First Lady to preside at two non-consecutive administrations.

The Cleveland's had three daughters and two sons. Following her husband's death Mrs. Cleveland remained in Princeton, N.J. On February 10, 1913, at the age of forty-nine she married Thomas J. Preston Jr., a professor of archeology. She thus became the first presidential widow to remarry. During the great depression of the 1930's she led the Needlework Guild of America in its clothing drive for the poor.

She died at age 83 on October 29, 1947. She is buried in Princeton next to President Cleveland, her 1st husband.

 
 

 

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