AKA Frances Clara Folsom
Birthplace: Buffalo, NY
Location of death: Baltimore, MD
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, NJ
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: First Lady
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Wife of US President Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland was old enough to be Frances Folsom's father. He was her father's partner at a Buffalo law firm, and the executor of his estate when he was killed in a carriage accident when his daughter Frances was eleven years old. He remained a family friend in her childhood, and when she finished high school, "Uncle Cleve" asked her mother for permission to correspond with Frances.
Still, her mother, Emma Folsom, is said to have been shocked when she understood Mr Cleveland's intentions. When Emma and Frances Folsom were invited to Washington to visit the bachelor President, the widow Folsom suspected that she, not her daughter, was about to receive a proposal of marriage. As rumors of a wedding swirled, newspaper reporters made a similar assumption, and badgered the future First Mother-In-Law with questions about her wedding trousseau, until the White House issued a brief press release announcing the President's engagement to Frances, then 20 years old.
She was 21 when she married the 49-year-old President in the Blue Room of the White House. Frances Cleveland was America's youngest First Lady, and remains the only woman to marry an American President in the White House. Their wedding was, of course, a huge event, with John Philip Sousa leading the Marine Band, and church bells pealing across the city. When the Queen of Spain visited Washington DC, Mrs Cleveland called on her, becoming the first US First Lady to meet with a foreign head of state without her husband being present. Young and beautiful, she became famous in the press as "Frankie" Cleveland, a nickname she despised. She was seen as a fashion trendsetter and role model, and photos and drawings of her likeness were used to sell perfume, playing cards, liver pills, and ladies' underwear, among numerous other products -- all without her permission.
After her husband's administration, Mr and Mrs Cleveland retired to Princeton, New Jersey, where the former President died in 1908. Five years later, Frances Cleveland became the first widowed First Lady to re-marry, when she exchanged vows with Thomas J Preston, a professor of classical studies and archaeology at Princeton.
The Clevelands' first daughter, Ruth, was born between her husband's two terms as President, and according to the Curtiss Candy Co, this "baby Ruth" was the namesake of the Baby Ruth candy bar. The preponderance of evidence, however, suggests that the confection was named for baseball star Babe Ruth, and intentionally misspelled to avoid paying him any fee. The Clevelands' second daughter, Esther, was the first Presidential child literally born in the White House, and their third daughter Marion was the last. Their eldest son, Dick, became a prominent attorney, and their younger son, Francis, had a career as a stage actor of limited renown, achieving his greatest success in 1938, with a featured role in the original Broadway production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town with Teresa Wright.
For the first fifteen months of his first administration, Pres Cleveland was a bachelor, and at his request, his sister, Rose Elizabeth "Libbie" Cleveland, acted as White House hostess. Non-wives have occasionally served as hostess at the Executive Mansion, when a President's wife was dead or in poor health, and during the tenure of unmarried President James Buchanan. Libbie Cleveland, however, was probably the first lesbian to act as an unofficial First Lady. Described in accounts at the time as "scholarly" or "bookish", she never married and eschewed romantic relationships with men, but she traded a long and unmistakably erotic series of letters with a younger widow, Evangeline Simpson. The two women eventually moved to Europe together, settling in Bagni di Lucca, Italy, where they lived the remainder of their lives and were buried alongside each other.
Father: Oscar Folsom (attorney, b. 8-Nov-1837, d. 23-Jul-1873)
Mother: Emma Harmon Folsom Perrin (b. 12-Nov-1840, m. 2-Sep-1863, d. 27-Dec-1915)
Sister: Nellie Augusta Folsom (b. 18-Dec-1871, d. 7-Feb-1872)
Father: John Perrin (stepfather)
Husband: Grover Cleveland (US President, b. 1837, m. 2-Jun-1886, d. 1908)
Daughter: Ruth Cleveland (b. 3-Oct-1891, d. 7-Jan-1904 diphtheria)
Daughter: Esther Cleveland Bosanquet (b. 9-Sep-1893, d. 26-Jun-1980)
Daughter: Marion Cleveland Dell Amen (b. 7-Jul-1895, d. 18-Jun-1977)
Son: Richard Folsom Cleveland ("Dick", attorney, b. 28-Oct-1897, d. 10-Jan-1974)
Son: Francis Grover Cleveland (actor, b. 18-Jul-1903, d. 8-Nov-1996)
Husband: Thomas Jex Preston Jr (archaeologist, b. 1880, m. 10-Feb-1913, d. 25-Dec-1955)
High School: Central High School, Buffalo, NY (1881)
University: BA, Wells College (1884)
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