June 2, 1886: Grover Cleveland Marries Frankie Folsom

Grover Cleveland and Oscar Folsom were law partners and best friends. They shared many enthusiasms, one of whom apparently was a woman named Maria Crofts Halpin. When Miss Halpin bore a child whom she named “Oscar Folsom Cleveland” Grover Cleveland did not shy from doing the right thing. He stepped forward and assumed responsibility for the child’s support because he was the only bachelor among the several men who had been involved with the young woman.cleveland-blue-room-wedding

When Folsom died in a carriage accident in 1875, Grover Cleveland again did the right thing and became executor of his estate and ward for Folsom’s eleven-year-old daughter Frances. He had known Frankie since she was a baby, and had bought a baby carriage for her when she was born. Cleveland doted on the girl and remained close friends with her mother.  After Frances entered Wells College, Cleveland received Mrs. Folsom’s permission to privately court her daughter and he filled her dormitory room with flowers.

During the close presidential election of 1884, Cleveland weathered revelations that he had fathered a child out of wedlock (Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?).  Once the bachelor president got into office, speculation about his marriage prospects quickly focused on Mrs. Folsom. The press was certain when Emma Folsom left for Europe with her daughter in late 1885 that she was off to buy her wedding trousseau, and they besieged the ship when the Folsoms returned to New York on May 27, 1886.

The next day, the White House issued a brief statement: the president was not engaged to Mrs. Folsom, but to her daughter, Frances.

A week later the 49-year-old president exchanged wedding vows with 21-year-old Frances, who became the youngest first lady in U.S. history and the first bride to be married in the White House.

The portly President, who had worked a regular day before the wedding, donned a tuxedo and white bowtie to take his vows. His beautiful young bride wore an ivory dress made of such stiff satin that it could stand up by itself.

The Blue Room of the White House was festooned in flowers, and John Philip Sousa led the Marine Band in a quartette that he had composed, initially entitled “Student of Love”, but which the president had changed to the one word, “Quartette.” At the request of the couple, the traditional “honor, love and obey” portion of Frances’ marriage vows was replaced with the words “honor, love and keep.”

It was a small but elegant event. The guest list was limited to family, close friends, plus cabinet officers and their wives.  Journalists were barred from the wedding (except for a last minute glimpse at the floral displays).

The President was said to have not displayed affection to his bride during the wedding ceremony and did not even kiss her at the end, but mother and daughter embraced and wept together before the President whisked her off to a six-day honeymoon in the resort town of Deer Park, Maryland.

June 1, 1851: Herman Melville writes to Nathaniel Hawthorne

In a week or so, I go to New York, to bury myself in a third-story room, and work and slave on my “Whale” while it is driving through the press. That is the only way I can finish it now, — I am so pulled hither and thither by circumstances. The calm, the coolness, the silent grass-growing mood in which a man ought always to compose, — that, I fear, can 0 Rseldom be mine. Dollars damn me; and the malicious Devil is forever grinning in upon me, holding the door ajar. My dear Sir, a presentiment is on me, — I shall at last be worn out and perish, like an old nutmeg-grater, grated to pieces by the constant attrition of the wood, that is, the nutmeg. What I feel most moved to write, that is banned, — it will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the other way I cannot. So the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches. I’m rather sore, perhaps, in this letter, but see my hand! — four blisters on this palm, made by hoes and hammers within the last few days. It is a rainy morning; so I am indoors, and all work suspended. I feel cheerfully disposed, and therefore I write a little bluely. Would the Gin were here!

If ever, my dear Hawthorne, in the eternal times that are to come, you and I shall sit down in Paradise, in some little shady corner by ourselves; and if we shall by any means be able to smuggle a basket of champagne there (I won’t believe in a Temperance Heaven), and if we shall then cross our celestial legs in the celestial grass that is forever tropical, and strike our glasses and our heads together, till both musically ring in concert, — then, O my dear fellow-mortal, how shall we pleasantly discourse of all the things manifold which now so distress us, — when all the earth shall be but a reminiscence, yea, its final dissolution an antiquity.

Then shall songs be composed as when wars are over; humorous, comic songs, — “Oh, when I lived in that queer little hole called the world,” or, “Oh, when I toiled and sweated below,” or, “Oh, when I knocked and was knocked in the fight” — yes, let us look forward to such things. Let us swear that, though now we sweat, yet it is because of the dry heat which is indispensable to the nourishment of the vine which is to bear the grapes that are to give us the champagne hereafter.

…It is a frightful poetical creed that the cultivation of the brain eats out the heart. But it’s my prose opinion that in most cases, in those men who have fine brains and work them well, the heart extends down to hams. And though you smoke them with the fire of tribulation, yet, like veritable hams, the head only gives the richer and the better flavor. I stand for the heart. To the dogs with the head! I had rather be a fool with a heart, than Jupiter Olympus with his head. The reason the mass of men fear God, and at bottom dislike Him, is because they rather distrust His heart, and fancy Him all brain like a watch.…

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