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Frances Folsom Cleveland (1864-1947)

Frances Folsom Cleveland (1864-1947) married the president in the White House when she was 21. Cleveland, her father's law partner, had become her guardian when her father died, when she was 11. Early photographs capture her youthful beauty and fashionable elegance. She became "the most popular woman in the country," and a campaign symbol in her husband's later campaigns, appearing in her own poster and adorning a vast number of campaign and popular cultural items. Her popularity greatly enhanced her husband's public image. She was our first "national celebrity" First Lady. Frances and Grover Cleveland were our only presidential couple to serve in the White House for two, non-consecutive terms (Benjamin Harrison was president between the terms of Cleveland's presidency). The happy presidential couple had several children, one of whom was named Ruth. The candy bar, Baby Ruth, was named after her, and many songs were written for her and dedicated to the nation's "Baby Ruth."

 


Grover Cleveland (1837-1908)

Twenty-second President, 1885-1889, and Twenty-fourth President, 1893-1897

Grover Cleveland was the only president to be elected to two non-consecutive terms. A staunch political and social conservative, Grover Cleveland was known for his integrity and reformist activities. When he was elected governor of New York in 1882, he went after the corrupt Democratic political machine of Tammany Hall, courageously defying the "Bosses" who controlled the party. Nominated on the second ballot at the 1884 Democratic convention, Cleveland won election by the smallest popular margin in American history.

The first Democratic president since the Civil War, Cleveland appointed Southerners to a number of posts. For the most part, he believed in a "hands off" presidency, avoiding involvement in proposed legislation, but quickly rejecting congressional actions he disapproved of. In fact, Cleveland vetoed more legislation than any president before him, gaining him the nickname "Old Veto." During his first term in office, Cleveland married 21-year- old Francis Folsom. Twenty-eight years his junior, the beautiful, young First Lady became very popular with the public.

Cleveland lost the 1888 election over his proposal to reduce tariffs on foreign goods, but was reelected in 1893 on a platform of economy in government--and tariff reduction. Soon after his reelection, the country suffered a severe economic depression, the Panic of 1893. Despite the suffering of the unemployed, Cleveland stayed true to his policy of "hands off" government and would not intervene. When Pullman Railroad workers went on strike over a pay cut, interfering with the delivery of the U.S. mail, Cleveland sent in federal troops to break it up. Cleveland did better with foreign affairs, citing the Monroe Doctrine to force arbitration of a boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana.

 


"Democrats, Good Democrats," Grover Cleveland campaign song

"Democrats, Good Democrats" from the recording entitled Presidential Campaign Songs 1789-1996, Folkways 45051, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. © 1999. Used by permission.

Melody: "Maryland, My Maryland"; arranged by Oscar Brand/TRO-Hollis Music, Inc., BMI

The Song "Good Democrats" recalls the election switch in 1876 and encourages the Democrats to go to the polls and reclaim the Presidency.

Partial lyrics:
"...Our gallant Cleveland is the man
Democrats, Good Democrats
To whip the whole Blaine-Logan clan
Democrats, Good Democrats
He is a statesman brave and true
He’ll get the grey, he’ll get the blue
He’s just the man for me and you
Democrats, Good Democrats…"

 


 

Related Images

 1886 wedding portrait of Frances Folsom Cleveland
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1886 wedding portrait of Frances Folsom Cleveland


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