Priscilla Cooper Tyler
|Priscilla Cooper Tyler|
|First Lady of the United States|
September 10, 1842 – June 26, 1844
|Preceded by||Letitia Tyler|
|Succeeded by||Julia Tyler|
June 14, 1816|
New York, New York, U.S.
|Died||December 29, 1889
Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.
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Elizabeth Priscilla Cooper Tyler (June 14, 1816 – December 29, 1889) was the daughter in law of John Tyler, the tenth President of the United States. She served as official White House hostess and official First Lady of the United States from September 10, 1842 to June 26, 1844, the second of Tyler's three First Ladies.
Background and early life
Priscilla Cooper was born in New York City in 1816. Her father Thomas Apthorpe Cooper was a successful stage actor and producer. Her mother Mary Fairlee Cooper was a New York socialite. Priscilla began to work as an actress at the age of 17. Thomas Apthorpe Cooper achieved great success in the theater business and they lived in a grand house on Broadway. The family's fortunes were reversed during the Panic of 1837. The family lost their house and at one point were reduced to subsisting on radishes and strawberries.
While playing Desdemona in a production of Othello in Richmond, Virginia she met Robert Tyler, the eldest son of wealthy plantation owner and former US Senator John Tyler. In Victorian America, acting was considered a scandalous profession and actresses had little social standing. The addition of the Cooper's financial woes seemed to conspire to make any match between the two unlikely. Despite their social differences, the couple wed in Bristol, Pennsylvania on September 12, 1839. John and Letitia Tyler warmly welcomed her into the Tyler family.
John Tyler was the successful candidate for the Vice-Presidency in the 1840 election. After the sudden death of President William Henry Harrison just one month after taking office, John Tyler became President of the United States.
White House hostess
By the time John Tyler assumed the Presidency, his wife Letitia was a semi-invalid. She asked Priscilla to assist her in her duties as White House hostess. When Mrs. Tyler died on September 10, 1842, the President asked Priscilla to assume the duties of White House hostess and First Lady. Priscilla was described as extroverted, attractive, intelligent, and witty. She was also the first woman acting as First Lady to travel with the President as an official member of the Presidential party.
The Tylers resided in Philadelphia for 16 years. Robert practiced law and was active in the Democratic Party. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, Robert and Priscilla declared loyalty to the Confederacy. They moved to Richmond where Robert took a post as the register of the Confederate Treasury.
After the war, Robert became the editor of the Mail and Advertiser newspaper in Montgomery, Alabama. Priscilla remained in Montgomery after Robert's death in 1877. She spent the last twelve years of her life there. The personal papers of the Tyler family, including those of Priscilla Cooper Tyler, are held by the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William and Mary.
- "Finding aid for the Tyler Family Papers, Group A". Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
|First Lady of the United States
Julia Gardiner Tyler