Frank Clara Folsom was born July 21, 1864 in Buffalo, New York.
She was the only child of her parents that survived infancy.
Yes, her name originally had been Frank (named for an uncle), but later she decided to adopt the feminine variant Frances.
Her father Oscar Folsom was a close personal friend and law partner of Grover Cleveland, who met her shortly after she was born (Grover was 27 at the time).
Grover Cleveland took an interest in the child, buying her a baby carriage and otherwise doting on her as she grew up.
Then when Francis was 11 years old, her father Oscar died in a carriage accident on July 23, 1875 without having written a will. The court appointed Grover Cleveland administrator of his estate.
Francis went on to attend Wells College in Aurora, New York.
It is not known for sure when Grover Cleveland’s feelings for her took a romantic turn, however we do know that he proposed to her by letter in August of 1885, soon after her graduation from college.
The couple did not announce their engagement until just five days before the White House wedding.
First and only White House Presidential Wedding
Frances Folsom, age 21, married President Grover Cleveland, age 49, on June 2, 1886 in the Blue Room of the White House at 7 pm.
The wedding ceremony, a small affair, was attended by relatives, close friends and the cabinet and their wives.
The ceremony was officiated by the Reverend Byron Sutherland, and assisted by the Reverend William Cleveland, the groom’s brother.
For some reason the words “honor, love, and keep” were substituted for “honor, love and obey”.
John Philip Sousa and the Marine Band provided the music.
The first couple then spent a five-day honeymoon at Deer Park in the Cumberland Mountains of Western Maryland.
First Lady of the United States
The new First Lady was the subject of intense media interest. She took over the duties of being White House hostess, and her charm won her popularity.
Grover Cleveland’s sister Rose Cleveland had been her brother’s hostess in the White House for the first 15 months of his first term as President. After her brother’s marriage, Rose gladly gave up the duties of hostess for her own career in education.
Frances Cleveland soon was hostessing two receptions a week — one on Saturday afternoons, when other women with jobs were free to come.
After Grover Cleveland was defeated for re-election in the 1888 presidential election, the Clevelands moved to New York City. Frances then gave birth to their first child Ruth whereby the Nestle Candy Company named their Baby Ruth candy bar in her honor.
Upon leaving the White House at the end of her husband’s first term, Frances is reported to have told the staff to take care of the building since they would be returning in four years.
History proved her to be correct, becoming the only First Lady to preside with two nonconsecutive administrations.
Grover and Frances went on to have two more daughters and two sons.
After Grover Cleveland’s death in 1908, Frances remained in Princeton, New Jersey.
In honor of Frances, Cleveland Hall was constructed in 1911 on Wells College Campus. Originally a library, the building currently holds foreign language classes.
Frances then became the first presidential widow to remarry.
On February 10, 1913, at the age of 49, she married Thomas J. Preston, Jr., who has been erroneously identified as a professor of archaeology at Princeton University. He was in fact a professor of archaeology, but at Frances’ alma mater, Wells College and not Princeton.
Then while Frances was vacationing with her daughters Marion and Esther and her son Francis at St. Moritz, Switzerland in August of 1914, World War I erupted.
They safely returned to the United States via Genoa on October 1, 1914.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Frances led the Needlework Guild of America in its clothing drive for the poor.
Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston died at the age of 83 on October 29, 1947, in Baltimore.
She was buried in Princeton next to President Grover Cleveland, her first husband.
Now WE know em