Historic June Weddings: Grover Cleveland

   

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.

 

Front page of The Sun, June 3, 1886
Front page of The Sun, June 3, 1886

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.

Neat, huh?

Soon, of course, the press had their fill of all the wonderful wedding details that their readers would demand.

 

image via wikimedia commons (public domain)

 

The gowns, especially the bride’s:

from The Sun. The dresses of all the important ladies are described.
from The Sun. The dresses of all the important ladies are described. This is just a sampling!

The flowers:

from The Sun.
from The Sun.

The music:

from The Sun. Notice the band director is Sousa.
from The Sun. Notice the band director is Sousa.

There was much more, of course, so if you’re interested in the complete description (wow, is it complete), here’s the link:

The Sun: 03 June 1886.

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,

Kathy

4 people like this post.

18 thoughts on “Historic June Weddings: Grover Cleveland”

  1. Perry BlockPerry Block

    By my calculations, Cleveland was 49 and his bride 21. Is that what it takes? To be President of the United States!

    Great. I’ve got a bit of a way to go …

  2. Loree HuebnerLoree Huebner

    Great post! Love the history here.

  3. PatriciaPatricia

    Neat stuff. So interesting that reporters feel the need to comment on the women’s attire. There’s something that hasn’t gone out of style I guess. What’d she wear? What kind of flowers? What kind of ring?

    Coolness. And how exciting to be the only women in history to hold the honor of being married in the white house and to be the youngest first lady.

    Thanks for the history lesson, Kathy.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  4. Kassandra LambKassandra Lamb

    Okay, I know this isn’t the part that should be my main take-away here, but I’m so excited to see the old banner for the Baltimore Sun again!!

    And yes we have a wedding this year, in mid September up in Maryland–my cousin’s daughter and the first of her children to get married. The whole family is looking forward to it.

    Great post!

  5. Margot KinbergMargot Kinberg

    Kathy – What a great love story! Interesting what happens with the ‘I’m all grown up now’ thing… Interesting too that this is the only case I know of where a president married while in office.

  6. Karen McFarlandKaren McFarland

    That was amazing history Kathy. There seemed to be a few years difference there between Grover and little Frank. But people got married earlier in those days. Sad to say, I do not foresee any weddings this summer. And what were hubby and I thinking? We got married in December. No, we weren’t thinking. Although, because it was California, the weather held. It did rain the day before and my mother almost lost it. Hey, it all worked out. 🙂

  7. Amy KennedyAmy Kennedy

    I hope little Frank was happy–I can’t stop thinking about An American President…I know it has no similarities except a president wooing someone and I loved it. And I realize now why the description was sooooo complete–no cameras, no television to take it all in. Now I can see the Grecian folds, or whatever…

  8. BillBill

    Cool having The March King himself conducting! Does he do Bar Mitzvahs?

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