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  American HistoryUnited States: General History and DescriptionLate 19th Century, 1865-1900Grover Cleveland's First Administration, 1885-1889Grover Cleveland
Frances FolsomThe White House Wedding of Grover Cleveland and Frances Folsom

Grover Cleveland was not most people's idea of a romantic man. He was immensely private, somewhat abrasive, and weighed 300 pounds. As a 49-year-old bachelor in the White House, however, he had mothers across the country looking for ways to introduce their daughters to him. But when asked about his marriage plans, Cleveland coyly replied, "I'm waiting for my wife to grow up."

What the country didn't know was that Cleveland was actually serious, for he was secretly courting Frances Folsom, the daughter of his former law partner in Buffalo, New York, and 27 years his junior. Frances had been 11 when her father died, and Cleveland, who administered the estate, took on the role of her guardian. Throughout her minority Cleveland's intentions towards Frances were entirely proper and fatherly. But as Frances grew into womanhood, his feelings ripened into full-fledged affection.

Given their considerable age difference and Cleveland's prominence, he pursued the relationship with great delicacy and secrecy. Then, on May 28, 1886, he stunned America with the announcement that he would marry Frances at the White House within the week. By marrying quickly, he hoped, the opportunities for gossip and "keyhole journalism" would be kept to a minimum. But that was not to be.

Grover Cleveland and Frances Folsom marry in the White House Blue RoomThe couple's simple Blue Room wedding was held on June 2, 1886 (the only presidential wedding to take place in the White House), and was duly covered by the press. When the Clevelands left by rail for a remote honeymoon cottage in the foothills of Maryland's Blue Ridge Mountains, they were trailed by a second train loaded with newsmen, who set up camp nearby.

With the aid of fieldglasses, the reporters recorded and reported every intimate detail of the couple's activities, much to the outrage of President Cleveland. But the public's hunger for news of the couple was inspired not by malice but by affection. Cleveland had been concerned that his marriage to a much younger woman would cause him political grief, but in reality he had captured the nation's heart by falling in love, and Frances turned out to be one of the most popular first ladies ever to reside in the White House.

Grover and Frances ultimately had five children -- Ruth (October 3, 1891-January 7, 1904), Esther (September 9, 1893-June 26, 1980), Marion (July 7, 1895-June 18, 1977), Richard Folsom (October 28, 1897-January 10, 1974), and Francis Grover (July 18, 1903-November 8, 1996). Esther Cleveland had the distinction of being the first child of a President to be born in the White House.


Discovering America's Past: Customs, Legends, History and Lore of Our Great Nation. Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association, 1993.


Frances Folsom Cleveland

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This page was last updated on February 04, 2014.

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