From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Frances Clara Folsom Cleveland Preston (July
21, 1864 – October 29, 1947) was the wife of the President
of the United States Grover
Cleveland and First
Lady of the United States from
1886 to 1889 and again from 1893 to 1897. Becoming First Lady at age 21, she
was the youngest First Lady so far. She was a younger maternal cousin of Peter
Pitchlynn, former chief of the Choctaw
Nation of Oklahoma.
Frances Clara Folsom was born in Buffalo,
New York, the daughter of Oscar Folsom, a lawyer and descendant of the
earliest settlers ofExeter,
and Emma Harmon-Folsom.
All of Frances Cleveland's ancestors were from England and
settled in what would become Massachusetts, Rhode
Island and New
Hampshire, eventually migrating to western New
was their only child to survive infancy (a sister, Nellie Augusta, died before
her first birthday). She originally had the first name Frank (named for an
uncle), but later decided to adopt the feminine variant Frances. A
longtime close friend of Oscar Folsom, Grover Cleveland, at age 27, met his
future wife shortly after she was born. He took an avuncular interest in the
child, buying her a baby carriage and otherwise doting on her as she grew up.
When her father died in a buggy accident in 1875 without having written a
will, the court appointed Cleveland administrator of his estate. This brought
Cleveland into still more contact with Frances, then age 11.
She attended Central High School in Buffalo and went on to Wells
College in Aurora,
New York. Sometime while she was in college, Cleveland's feelings for her
took a romantic turn. He proposed by letter in August 1885, soon after her
graduation. They did not announce their engagement, however, until just five
days before the wedding.
Frances Folsom, age 21, married President Grover Cleveland, age 49, on June 2,
1886, at the White House. Cleveland was the only president to be married in
the White House (John
Tyler had married his second
wife while he was president in 1844, but he married in New York City).
President Cleveland worked as usual on his wedding day.
The ceremony, a small affair attended by relatives, close friends and the
cabinet and their wives, was performed at 7 p.m. in the Blue
Room of the White House by the
Reverend Byron Sutherland, assisted by the Reverend William Cleveland, the
groom's brother. The words "honor, love, and keep" were substituted for
"honor, love and obey". John
Philip Sousa and the Marine
Band provided the music. The couple spent a five-day honeymoon at Deer
Park in the Cumberland
Mountains of Western
Lady of the United States
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 on Saturday afternoons, when women with jobs
were free to come. Cleveland's sister Rose
Cleveland had been her bachelor
brother's hostess in the first 15 months of his first term of office. After
her brother's marriage, Rose gladly gave up the duties of hostess for her own
career in education.
After the president was defeated in the U.S.
presidential election, 1888, the Clevelands lived in New York City. Upon
leaving the White House at the end of her husband's first term, Frances is
reported to have told the staff to take care of the building since the
Clevelands would be returning in four years. She proved correct, becoming the
only First Lady to preside at two nonconsecutive administrations.
The Clevelands had three daughters and two sons:
Ruth Cleveland (1891-1904)
Esther Cleveland (1893-1980)
- Her daughter is Philippa
Foot, the British philosopher.
- Marion Cleveland (1895-1977) - Born in Buzzard's
Bay, Massachusetts, she attended Columbia
University Teachers College
and married, first, Stanley Dell and second, in 1926, John Amen, a New York
lawyer. During 1943-1960 she was community relations director of the Girl
Scouts of America at its
headquarters in New York.
- Richard Folsom Cleveland (1897-1974) -
lawyer. Born in Princeton,
New Jersey, he served as an officer in the Marines during World
War I, graduated from Princeton
University in 1919, earned a
master's degree in 1921 and graduated from Harvard
Law School in 1924. He
practiced law in Baltimore.
- Francis Grover Cleveland (1903-1995) -
actor. Born in Buzzard's
Bay, Massachusetts, he graduated from Harvard
University with a degree in
drama. After teaching for a time in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, he went to New York to enter the theatre. Eventually he
settled in Tamworth,
New Hampshire, where he served as selectman and operated a summer stock
company, the Barnstormers.
After Cleveland's death in 1908, Frances remained in Princeton,
New Jersey. On February 10, 1913, at the age of 49, she married Thomas
J. Preston, Jr., a professor of archaeology at Princeton
University. She was the first presidential widow to remarry. During the Great
Depression of the 1930s, she
led the Needlework Guild of America in its clothing drive for the poor.
She died on October 29, 1947, in Baltimore.
She was buried in Princeton next to President Cleveland, her first husband.