Ah, June – the perfect month for weddings: a profusion of blooms and warm weather, and not yet as hot or as insect-ridden as the rest of the summer.
I’ve had weddings on my mind a lot lately: not only will I be attending two this summer, but I’ve been researching Progressive Era weddings for my third book in the Concordia Wells mystery series. In searching through newspapers of the time period, I ran across articles about a wedding that was such big news, the reporters were falling over each other to get the scoop on the details.
President Grover Cleveland was getting married!
We can imagine why this was a very big deal: Cleveland is the only U.S. president – ever – to get married in the White House (in the Blue Room). Two other presidents were widowed and remarried while in office – John Tyler and, later, Woodrow Wilson, but their ceremonies were elsewhere. That confluence of institutions – presidential, marital, and the fourth estate (the press) – was going to be a challenge for all involved. It was like America was throwing a big wedding.
And they didn’t even have press photographers back then, just folks with sketch pads. Can you imagine what it would have been like today, with iPhone cameras in abundance? Ah, but the President’s staff, particularly his friend and private secretary, Colonel Daniel Lamont, was able to keep the press at bay with a few wily tactics. I’ll tell you about that in a moment.
Cleveland was a bachelor when he took office. His sister, Rose, acted as hostess for social functions. I’ll bet you’re wondering how the heck our guy Grover was able to court a lady in the first place, right? Me, too. It turns out Cleveland was executor of the estate of his deceased friend, Oscar Folsom, and had known Folsom’s daughter, Frances (nicknamed Frank) most of her life. When Frank was a college gal, she paid President Cleveland a visit (properly chaperoned, of course). Little Frank was all grown up, and Mr. Cleveland wasted no time. He got permission from her mother to correspond with the young lady, and soon after, they were engaged. In fact, Frances became First Lady at age 21, which makes her the youngest of them all.
But we still have the wedding, and those pesky reporters to get around. The bride and her mother were due to arrive by train the morning of the wedding, but what the reporters didn’t know, as they followed President Cleveland’s sister in her carriage to the train depot, was that the bride’s rail car (at the very end of the train) would be detached from the train just before it pulled into the station, and redirected onto a side track. The carriage driver dropped Rose Cleveland off at the train station, drove around the block (ostensibly to keep the horses active while waiting), and pulled up beside the detached car, on the other side of the station. After loading passengers and trunks, he went back around and picked up Rose again.
Soon, of course, the press had their fill of all the wonderful wedding details that their readers would demand.
The gowns, especially the bride’s:
There was much more, of course, so if you’re interested in the complete description (wow, is it complete), here’s the link:
What do you think of the press covering a famous wedding so exhaustively? Are you attending any weddings this summer? I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,