Thursday, May 30, 2013

The marriage of Grover and Frank—the first and only one of its kind in the White House


            When Grover Cleveland and Frances “Frank” Folsom said their marriage vows to each other on June 2, 1886, the couple made American history. He became the first and only president, and she became the first and only First Lady, to be married in the White House.

Marriage of Grover Cleveland and Frances "Frank" Folsom drawn by
Thure de Thulstrup for Harper's Weekly, June 12, 1886. Library of Congress.

            Grover had known Frank since she was a baby. In fact, he had bought Frank her first baby carriage. As a rising 27-year-old lawyer in Erie County Democratic politics, Grover first met Frank shortly after she was born in Buffalo, on July 21, 1864. Frank was the only daughter of his close friend Oscar Folsom, a lawyer, and his wife, Emma Harmon Folsom. After Grover lost his bid to get elected district attorney of Erie County, he formed a law partnership with Frank’s father, Oscar. Two days after her ninth birthday, Frank’s father died in a carriage accident, without a will.
Frances "Frank" Folsom.
Library of Congress.

            The court appointed Grover to be administrator of Oscar’s quarter-million dollar estate and Grover became a trusted advisor to Frank and her mother, Emma. He saw to it that Frank attended high school in Buffalo and continued her education at Wells College in Aurora, NY, one of the first U.S. liberal arts colleges for women. While Frank was furthering her education, Grover was advancing himself politically as mayor of Buffalo in 1882 and governor of New York in 1883.
            In 1884, Grover narrowly defeated Republican James G. Blaine for president by capturing New York’s 36 electoral votes by less than 1,200 votes. The final electoral vote tally gave Grover 219 votes to Blaine’s 182. Grover was the first Democrat to win election to the presidency since the Civil War. He was also the second bachelor to move into the White House as president—James Buchanan had preceded him. However, James remained a bachelor but Grover did not.
Grover Cleveland. 1892.
 Library of Congress.

            Frank and her 44-year-old mother, Emma, visited Grover at the White House a few weeks after Grover’s inauguration. Emma held out hope that the 48-year-old bachelor might fall for her and propose marriage but he had his eyes set on her 20-year-old daughter, Frank. Emma was bitterly disappointed when Frank and Grover fell in love and decided to get married the following year.
            The wedding ceremony took place at 7 pm in the Blue Room of the White House on June 2, 1886. John Philip Sousa and the Marine Band provided the music for the small wedding which was attended by only family members, close friends, and the cabinet and their wives. At 21, Frank was the youngest presidential bride to become First Lady.
John Philip Sousa. 1896.
Library of Congress.

            Grover and Frank had three daughters and two sons. Their 22-year-old marriage came to an end when Grover died at their home in Princeton, NJ on June 24, 1908 at the age of 71. Frank remarried a Princeton professor and lived another 39 years until she died on October 29, 1947 at 83. Today, Grover and Frank, the only president and First Lady to be married in the White House, lie next to each other in a cemetery in Princeton.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment.