Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston
|Frances Cleveland in 1886.|
|First Lady of the United States|
June 2, 1886 – March 4, 1889
|Preceded by||Rose Cleveland|
|Succeeded by||Caroline Harrison|
March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897
|Preceded by||Mary Harrison McKee|
|Succeeded by||Ida Saxton McKinley|
July 21, 1864|
Buffalo, New York
|Died||October 29, 1947
Thomas J. Preston, Jr. (1913–47)
|Relations||Philippa Foot (1920–2010)(granddaughter)|
|Children||Ruth Cleveland (1891–1904)
Esther Cleveland (1893–1980)
Marion Cleveland (1895–1977)
Richard Folsom Cleveland (1897–1974)
Francis Grover Cleveland (1903–1995)
|Occupation||First Lady of the United States|
Frances Clara Folsom Cleveland Preston (July 21, 1864 – October 29, 1947) was the wife of the President of the United States Grover Cleveland and the 27th First Lady of the United States from 1886 to 1889 and again from 1893 to 1897. Becoming First Lady at age 21, she remains the youngest First Lady in history.
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 York. She 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, Oscar Folsom, died in a carriage accident on July 23, 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, NY and Medina High School in Medina, NY and went on to attend 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. Their age disparity of 27 years is the second largest of any Presidential marriage. (The greatest age-difference was John Tyler, a widower, when 54 married Julia Gardiner who was 30 years younger.) 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 Maryland.
First 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 1888 presidential election, the Clevelands lived in New York City. Upon leaving the White House at the end of her husband's first term, Cleveland 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) - Born in New York city during the interval between her father's terms as President. She died at the age of 12 of diphtheria and is buried in Princeton, New Jersey.
- Esther Cleveland (1893–1980) – Born September 9, 1893 at the White House in Washington, DC. On March 14, 1918, at Westminster Abbey, she married Captain William Sidney Bence Bosanquet of the Coldstream Guards of the British Army. Their daughter was Philippa Foot (1920–2010), 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 the USA (Girl Scouts of the United States prior to 1947) 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 with the law firm of Semmes, Bowen, and Semmes.
- 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 her husband's death in 1908, Cleveland 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 Frances' alma mater, Wells College. She was the first presidential widow to remarry. She was vacationing at St. Moritz, Switzerland, when World War I erupted in August 1914 with her daughters Marion and Esther and her son Francis. They returned to the United States via Genoa on October 1, 1914. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, she led the Needlework Guild of America in its clothing drive for the poor.
She died at the age of 83 on October 29, 1947, in Baltimore. She was buried in Princeton next to President Cleveland, her first husband.
- The Folsoms of Exeter, The Exeter Historical Society, Exeter, New Hampshire
- "Frances Cleveland Biography". National First Ladies' Library. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
- Graff, Henry F. (2002). Grover Cleveland. New York: Times Books. p. 78.
- "Cleveland Hall of Languages". Wells College. March 7, 2003. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
- "Cleveland-Folsom Wedding Invitation and Marriage Announcement". Shapell Manuscript Foundation. SMF.
- Charles Lachman, A Secret Life: The Sex, Lies and Scandals of Grover Cleveland, p. 420 (2011)
- 1914; Arrival; Microfilm Serial: T715; Microfilm Roll: 2374; Line: 17; Page Number: 11; Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls); Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
- Original text based on White House biography
- Frank: The Story of Frances Folsom Cleveland, America's Youngest First Lady (full-length biography)
|First Lady of the United States
Mary Harrison McKee
|First Lady of the United States
Ida Saxton McKinley