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Jane Means Appleton Pierce

(1806 - 1863)

First Lady from March 4, 1853 to March 4, 1857

Jane Means Appleton Pierce

(1806 - 1863)

First Lady from March 4, 1853 to March 4, 1857

Handwriting sample provided by the Gallery of Fame


"I have been thinking of my precious child much today...he was in my dreams last is desolate to be without him..."

Pages 1 and 4 of the letter

Pages 2 and 3 of the letter

This letter appears to have been written between 1836, the year of the death of Franklin Pierce, Jr., and 1839, as it mentions "Frances", who was her sister Frances Appleton Parkard, who died in that year. This letter was written to her sister, Mary Aiken, and mentions various family members and friends. Particularly poignant is Mrs. Pierce's reference to her deceased son, "I have been thinking of my precious child much today and he was in my dreams last night. Oh! dear sister it is desolate to be without him and my heart will go after him..."

Pierce, Jane (Means Appleton)(1806-1863) First Lady. Born in Hampton, New Hampshire, she married Franklin Pierce in 1834. Jane M. Pierce was probably the most tragic First Lady this country has ever known. All three of the Pierce children died before they reached their teens. The death of their last surviving son, Benjamin "Bennie" Pierce (1841-1853), was the most terrible of all. Just prior to Pierce's Inauguration in 1853, the Pierce's watched helplessly as a run-away train struck young Bennie, decapitated him and rolled his severed head to the feet of his horrified parents. Despondent, Mrs. Pierce became a virtual recluse during her husband's single term as President, spending much of her time writing letters to her beloved Bennie. The duties of First Lady fell to Mrs. Pierce's aunt, Abby Kent Means.

Letters of Jane M. Pierce are scarce, particularly those referring to the tragic loss of one of her sons. 


Jane Pierce

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  (Redirected from Jane Means Appleton Pierce)
Jane Pierce


In office
March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1857
Preceded by Sarah Polk
Succeeded by Harriet Lane

Born March 12, 1806
Hampton, New Hampshire, U.S.
Died December 2, 1863 (aged 57)
Andover, Massachusetts, U.S.
Spouse(s) Franklin Pierce
Children Franklin Pierce, Jr.
Frank Robert Pierce
Benjamin Pierce
Religion Congregationalist

Jane Means Appleton Pierce (March 12, 1806 – December 2, 1863), wife of U.S. President Franklin Pierce, was First Lady of the United States from 1853 to 1857.



 Early Life and Marriage

Born in Hampton, New Hampshire, the daughter of Reverend Jesse Appleton, a Congregationalist minister, and Elizabeth Means-Appleton, Jane was a petite, frail, shy, melancholy figure. After the death of her father, who had served as president of Bowdoin College not long before Franklin enrolled there, she at age 13 moved into the mansion of her wealthy maternal grandparents in Amherst.

How she met Pierce, a young lawyer with political ambitions, is unknown, but her brother-in-law Alpheus S. Packard was one of Pierce's instructors at Bowdoin. Franklin, aged almost 30, married Jane, aged 28, on November 19, 1834, at the home of the bride's maternal grandparents in Amherst, New Hampshire. Theirs was a small wedding, conducted by another brother-in-law of Jane, the Reverend Silas Aiken. The couple honeymooned six days at the boardinghouse of Sophia Southurt near Washington, D.C..


The Pierces had three children, all of whom died at young ages:

  • Franklin Pierce, Jr. (b/d 1836) - died three days after birth.
  • Frank Robert Pierce (1839-1843) - died at the age of four from epidemic typhus.
  • Benjamin Pierce (April 13, 1841-January 16, 1853) - Two months before Pierce's inauguration as president, a tragedy occurred as the family traveled by train from Andover, Massachusetts, to Concord, New Hampshire, where they had planned to attend the funeral of a family friend. Minutes after departure, their passenger car broke loose from the train and rolled down an embankment. The only fatality was Bennie Pierce.

Jane Means Appleton Pierce

 Husband's Public Life

Pierce was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives by the time they married, and became aU.S. Senator in 1837. Mrs. Pierce hated life in Washington, D.C., and encouraged Pierce to resign his Senate seat and return to New Hampshire, which he did in 1842.

Service in the Mexican-American War brought Pierce the rank of Brigadier General and local fame as a hero. He returned home safely, and for four more years the Pierces lived quietly at Concord, New Hampshire, in the happiest period of their lives, where Jane watched her son Benjamin "Benny" grow up.

 First Lady of the United States

In 1852, the Democratic Party made Pierce their candidate for President. His wife fainted at the news. When Pierce took her to Newport for a respite, eleven-year-old Benny wrote to her: "I hope he won't be elected for I should not like to be at Washington and I know you would not either." But the President-elect convinced Jane that his office would be an asset for Benny's success in life.

The Pierces apparently had genuine affection for one another, but quarreled often and gradually drifted apart. She opposed Pierce's decision to run for president, for she much preferred private life. When her son Bennie was killed in a train accident before Pierce was sworn in as President, she believed God was displeased with her husband's political ambitions.[1] After the deaths of her children, Mrs. Pierce was overcome with melancholia and distanced herself during her husband's presidency. She never recovered from the tragedy. For nearly two years, she remained in the upstairs living quarters of the White House, spending her days writing maudlin letters to her dead son. She left the social chores to her aunt Abby Kent-Means and her close friend Varina Davis, wife of War Secretary Jefferson Davis. Mrs. Pierce made her first official appearance as First Lady at a New Year's Day reception in 1855 and thereafter served as White House hostess intermittently.


Pierce died of tuberculosis at Andover, Massachusetts, on December 2, 1863. She was buried at Old North Cemetery in Concord, New Hampshire, and her husband was also interred there beside her in 1869.


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