Frances Folsom Cleveland
Wife of President Grover Cleveland
1864 – 1947
Frances Folsom Cleveland holds the distinction of being the first bride of a President to be married in the White House. She was only twenty-two years old when she took over the duties of First Lady under the administration of her new husband, Grover Cleveland.
Frances was born Frances Folsom in 1864 to Oscar Folsom and Emma C. Harmon Folsom in Buffalo, New York. Her father was a lawyer and became a law partner of Grover Cleveland’s before his death when Frances was only eleven years old. Upon the death of her husband, Emma moved with her daughter to Medina, New York, where they stayed for only a few years. Upon their return to Buffalo, Frances entered the Central High School, where she prepared for college. Grover Cleveland stayed a close friend of the family. As administrator of the Folsom estate after Oscar’s death, he guided Frances’ education with sound advice. Frances was extremely bright and so thorough in her studies that she was allowed to enter college as a sophomore at Wells College.
When Frances entered Wells College, Mr. Cleveland asked permission from Mrs. Folsom to correspond with her daughter. At the time of her graduation from college in 1885, Frances received a superb floral tribute from the White House conservatories. The affection they had for each other turned into Romance, despite their 27 year difference in age. After graduation, Frances went abroad with her mother, but returned the following spring. Though no public announcement had been made of her engagement to Grover Cleveland, the interested public was sure there would be one. Upon landing in New York, Frances was met by Grover’s sister, Rose Elizabeth Cleveland and his private secretary. The wedding took place on June 2, 1886 in the blue room of the White House.
The first fifteen months of his first term as president, Grover’s sister Rose played hostess. She gladly gave up these duties to Frances and the new First Lady occupied the position with rare grace. For one so young it was an exhausting position, but at no time did she ever forget the dignity of her position. Mrs. Cleveland’s charm and grace won her immediate popularity. She was very thoughtful and held two receptions every week, one on Saturday afternoons, when women with jobs were free to come.
After the President lost the next election, the couple resided in New York city. It was there they had a daughter, Ruth. In 1893, Grover Cleveland was re-elected President and he and Frances returned to the White House. The First Lady was welcomed with most cordial affection as if she’d only been gone a day instead of four years.
The Clevelands had two more children along while holding office as President at First Lady. Esther was born in 1893 in the White House, Marion was born in 1895 at their summer home, Gray Gables. When the family left the White House, Mrs. Cleveland had become one of the most popular First Ladies to ever serve in the White House.
Frances bore two sons while the Clevelands lived in Princeton, New Jersey. She was with her husband when he died at their home, “Westland”, in 1908. Still being a fairly young woman, Frances was married again in 1913, to Thomas J. Preston, Jr., a professor of archeology at Princeton. She died in 1947 at the age of 84. Up until the time of her death she was noted for her charitable work and charming personality. But she was most admired for her devotion to her children.