In 1886, President Grover Cleveland – aged 49 – married 21-year-old Frances Folsom; he was the only president to marry in the White House, and he wed a woman less than half his age. Just imagine the scandal that would ensue today! Frances was the daughter of Oscar Folsom, the president’s former law partner, who passed away when she was 11 years old. Cleveland became her legal guardian and remained close friends with her mother; if the president was expected to marry anyone it was his friend’s widow.
But love takes unexpected paths, and Cleveland’s feelings for Frances took a romantic turn while she was in college. He proposed by letter in August 1885 soon after her graduation, and they announced their engagement a mere five days before the wedding.
The new First Lady was the subject of intense media interest, and her charm won over her detractors. The President and his wife had five children, and by all accounts their marriage was warm and loving. Frances remarried after the President’s death, but when she died she was buried by President Cleveland’s side.
Here is a fascinating love letter from the President to Frances before they wed; he discusses Congress, Washington society, and most poignantly, his desire to live with her in “a little house…where the President and his family could live like other people.”