Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston
|Frances Cleveland Preston|
|First Lady of the United States|
March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897
|Preceded by||Mary McKee (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Ida McKinley|
June 2, 1886 – March 4, 1889
|Preceded by||Rose Cleveland (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Caroline Harrison|
|Born||Frances Clara Folsom
July 21, 1864
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
|Died||October 29, 1947
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
(m. 1886; his death 1908)
(m. 1913; her death 1947)
Richard F. Cleveland
|Alma mater||Wells College|
Frances Clara Folsom Cleveland Preston (July 21, 1864 – October 29, 1947) was married to the President of the United States Grover Cleveland and was the 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 wife of a sitting president.
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, and Medina High School in Medina, New York 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.
In honor of Frances Cleveland, Cleveland Hall was constructed in 1911 on the Wells College campus. Originally a library, the building currently holds foreign language classes.
Frances Folsom, who was 21 years old, married President Grover Cleveland, age 49, on June 2, 1886, at the White House. This was the only time a president married in the Executive Mansion, and Frances was the only First Lady to marry in the White House. Their age difference of 28 years is the second largest of any presidential marriage (behind that of President John Tyler, whose second wife, Julia Gardiner Tyler, was thirty years his junior when they wed in New York City in 1844).
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.
The new First Lady was the object of intense media interest. She took over the duties of being White House hostess, and her charm let her win 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 happily gave up the duties of hostess for her own work in education.
After Grover Cleveland 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 non-consecutive administrations.
Frances was the first First Lady to give birth to a child while her husband was President. 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. The Baby Ruth candy bar was allegedly named for her.
- 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 Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, she attended Columbia University Teachers College and married, first, Stanley Dell and second, in 1926, John Amen, a New York lawyer. From 1943 to 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 and defended Whittaker Chambers against Alger Hiss's libel suit
- Francis Grover Cleveland (1903–1995) – actor. Born in Buzzards 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 theater.
After her husband's death in 1908, Cleveland remained in Princeton, New Jersey. On February 10, 1913, at the age of 48, she married Thomas J. Preston, Jr., a professor of archaeology at her alma mater, Wells College. She was the first presidential widow to remarry. She was vacationing at St. Moritz, Switzerland, with her daughters Marion and Esther and her son Francis when World War I erupted in August 1914. 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.
- 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.
- "First Ladies — History.com Video". History.com. Retrieved 2015-07-08.
- "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.
- "Needlework Guild for America - About Us". Needlework Guild for America. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- "Frances Clara Folsom Cleveland". findagrave.com. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- Original text based on White House biography
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston.|
- Frank: The Story of Frances Folsom Cleveland, America's Youngest First Lady (full-length biography)
- Frances Cleveland at C-SPAN's First Ladies: Influence & Image
|First Lady of the United States
|First Lady of the United States