Brides Of The White House
( Originally Published 1908 )
A WHITE HOUSE bride has always become a national character at the time of her nuptials, while a White House wedding has always been regarded as a national event. From the time of the first wedding in the President's House in 1811, when a niece of Dolly Madison's married a Congressman, to the last such wedding in 1906, when President Roosevelt's daughter was wedded, also to a Congressman, every man, woman and child in the land has taken an interest in White House marriages, an interest the intensity of which, with each individual citizen, has been secondary only to that shown on an occasion of the kind in his own family.
Of the fourteen White House brides, ten were actually married in the mansion, while the remaining four came there to spend the first months of her married life.
Only one of our twenty-six Presidents married in the White House—Grover Cleveland. Only one other President married during his term in office—John Tyler. President Tyler, as inferred, was not married in the White House. He went to New York for the ceremony, though he brought his bride to the White House to reign there, for the remainder of his term, as the second Mrs' Tyler.
All except six of our Presidents have entered the White House as married men. Four were widowers—Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren and Chester A. Arthur.
Only one of our Presidents came to the White House and left it a bachelor—James Buchanan. But even President Buchanan figured in a rôle of importance at a Washington wedding. In 1860 he attended the wedding of one who was, and long had been, the most conspicuous and best liked of Washington hostesses, Madame Bodisco. Mr. Buchanan gave Madame Bodisco away as a bride to Captain Douglas Gordon Scott, of Scotland.
Fourteen Newly Wedded White House Couples
The fourteen White House brides were all connected more or less closely with the official family occupying the White House at the time of their weddings. The list of these brides, in chronological order, is as follows :
1811. In the original President's house, the only wedding in what may be called the first White House—Miss Todd, a niece of Dolly Madison, to Congressman John G. Jackson, great uncle of "Stonewall Jackson." This wedding took place during the administration of President Madison.
1820. In the Executive Mansion, the first wedding following the restoration of the White House after its destruction by the British—Miss 'Maria Monroe, youngest daughter of President Monroe, to Lawrence Gouverneur, private secretary to President Monroe.
1826. Miss Helen Jackson, a connection of the famous Adams family of Massachusetts, to John Adams, son of President John Quincy Adams.
1830. Miss Lewis, a friend of President Jackson's, to Mr. Pageot, an attaché of the French Legation in Washington.
1832. Miss Easten, niece of President Andrew Jackson, to Mr. Polk, of Tennessee.
1835. The third wedding in the administration of President Jackson. Miss Sarah Yorke, of Philadelphia, to Andrew Jack-son, Jr., adopted son of President Jackson.
1838. In President Van Buren's administration. Miss Angelica Singleton, of South Carolina, to Major Abram Van Buren, a son of President Van Buren's, and his private secretary.
1842. In President Tyler's administration. Miss Elizabeth Tyler, daughter of the President, to William Waller.
1844. Miss Julia Gardiner, daughter of Senator Gardiner, of New York, to President John Tyler.
1874. Miss Nellie Grant, daughter of President U. S. Grant, to Algernon Sartoris, an Englishman of wealth.
1874. Miss Honore, of Chicago, to Colonel Fred Grant, son of President U. S. Grant.
1878. In the administration of President Hayes. Miss Emily Platt, a niece of President Hayes, to General Russell Hastings.
1886. Miss Frances C. Folsom, of Buffalo, to President Grover Cleveland.
1906. Miss Alice Roosevelt, eldest daughter of President Roosevelt, to Congressman Nicholas Longworth, of Cincinnati.
Of these fourteen brides, ten were married in the White House, and four elsewhere. The four couples who were married outside of the White House, each came there, however, immediately after the honeymoon, and lived as members of the President's family for months. The four bridal couples in question were : First, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jackson, Jr., who were married in Philadelphia; second, Major and Mrs. Abram Van Buren, who were married in South Carolina; third, President and Mrs. Tyler, who were married in New York; fourth, Colonel and Mrs. Fred Grant, who were wedded in Chicago.
It will be noticed, in reading the list of brides, that it includes two Presidents of the United States, and four sons and four daughters of Presidents. The two Presidents were Tyler and Cleveland ; the four sons were those of John Quincy Adams, Van Buren, Jackson and Grant. The four daughters were those of Monroe, Tyler, Grant and Roosevelt.
A further glance at the list of brides, shows that White House nuptials have been by no means periodically regular. The list shows only five weddings in the last fifty years, while the remaining nine ceremonies were crowded in between the years 1811 and 1844. The average of weddings actually within the White House has been one for each decade during the existence of the official home of the Presidents. "White House weddings have not been frequent enough to become common-place," says one writer, "but the ten within a hundred years afford opportunity for comparison. The scale of magnificence has steadily ascended until it reached its climax in the Longworth-Roosevelt wedding of February, 1906."
Brief descriptions of each of the White House weddings utilize the remaining space in this chapter, while the story of the nuptials of the Presidents and of the weddings of the daughters of Presidents Grant and Roosevelt are reserved for separate chapters.
Early White House Weddings
Historians have been extremely brief in recording early White House weddings. Of the early White House brides very little has come down to us.
The earliest wedding of the kind was in Dolly Madison's reign, when Miss Todd, a relative of hers, was married to Congressman Jackson, of Virginia. This wedding took place March 11, 1811, and Miss Todd of all the brides, was the one farthest removed in relationship from any official family.
In recorded descriptions of Miss Todd, we are informed that "she was a beautiful girl of Philadelphia. The dashing consort of the President, Dolly Madison, brought about the wedding in the White House to furnish a social sensation. The bride was a Quakeress, and is said to have demurred at the lavish display, but the festivities were a nine-days' wonder in Washington." The bridegroom was John G. Jackson, a Representative in Congress from Virginia. All his colleagues in Congress, the government officials, and the diplomats attended the wedding reception.
Concerning two of the three weddings in President Jackson's time, when Cupid certainly seems to have had a period of strenuous activity in the White House, it is learned from biographical sources that the President, despite his warrior record, was extremely fond of young company. "When the engagement of Miss Lewis, daughter of Major Lewis, of Nashville, a friend and neighbor, was announced," says one biographer, "Jackson prevailed upon her to be married in the White House. Her husband was Secretary of the French legation, and after-ward Minister to Washington, and he desired the honor of being the first foreigner to take a White House bride. The beautiful Tennessee girl did not need much persuasion and the couple made a pretty picture. In the same way Jackson prevailed upon his niece, Miss Easten of Tennessee, to accept the hospitality of his home for her wedding with Mr. Polk of the same State."
When President Hayes Gave the Bride Away
During the administration of President Hayes, occurred a White House wedding of which very little has been written. This was the marriage of a niece of the President, Miss Dmily Platt, to General Russell Hastings. The ceremony took place in the White House on June 19, 1878. The particular chamber chosen for the purpose was the Blue Room.
Miss Platt had frequently assisted Mrs. Hayes at receptions and other social functions at the White House. She had numerous friends at the National Capital, and all these, together with the members of the Cabinet and their families, were present at the wedding. The ceremony took place under a beautiful marriage bell consisting of some 15,000 buds and blossoms, hanging from the central chandelier. The time of the ceremony was seven o'clock in the evening. At that hour, the Marine Band played the wedding march and Miss Platt entered the Blue Room on the arm of President Hayes, who gave the bride away.
During Mr. McKinley's term in the White House, a wedding occurred within those historic walls concerning which so little was said at the time that it is not generally included as a White House wedding. Yet it took place within the mansion, the bride being a daughter of General Hastings, and a niece of Mrs. McKinley. Only the. immediate relatives of the families concerned were present. The bridegroom was an officer of the United States Army.
Marriage of Four Sons of Presidents
Four sons of Presidents were married while their fathers were in office, and all took their brides to the White House for long periods. Only one of the sons, however, of a President was married in the White House. John Adams, a son of President John Quincy Adams, was married in the East Room.
Of the bride of this son of a President, Miss Helen Jack-son, it is related that she was a frail girl, with classic features, and is described as "looking like an angel in her gown of white satin." Her health was poor at the time and the ceremonies were of the quietest kind.
The remainder of the quartet of President's sons consists of the sons of Jackson, Van Buren and Grant. In connection with Jackson's adopted son and his marriage, it is said of President Jackson that the young man rather hurt the stern old warrior by, slipping off and taking beautiful Sarah Yorke as his bride in Philadelphia.
The third son of a President to bring a bride to the White House, was Major Abram Van Buren, who married Miss Angelia Singleton.
"The Executive Mansion was a place of much more than usual attraction," reads a newspaper account published in President Van Buren's day, "in consequence of the appearance there of the bride of the President's son, who was greatly admired."
The fourth son was General U. S. Grant's eldest boy. Fred D. Colonel Grant was living in the White House when he went to Chicago for his bride, and they spent the first six months of their married life in the President's mansion.
Marriage of Four Daughters of Presidents President Monroe and President Tyler had each a daughter married in the historic mansion.
President Monroe's daughter, as a bride, was described at the time as being "the belle of Washington."
John Quincy Adams, in his diary, tells of the marriage of President Monroe's daughter as follows :
"Samuel Lawrence Gouverneur, of New York, was this day married to Maria Hester Monroe, the President's youngest daughter. The parties are cousins by the mother's side, and Gouverneur has been nearly two years in the President's family, acting as his Private Secretary. There has been some further question of etiquette upon this occasion. The foreign Ministers were uncertain whether it was expected they should pay their compliments on the marriage or not, and Poletica, the Russian Minister, made the enquiry of Mrs. Adams. She applied to Mrs. Hay, the President's eldest daughter, who has lived in his house ever since he has been President, but never visits at the houses of any of the foreign Ministers, because their ladies did not pay her first calls. Mrs. Hay thought her youngest sister could not receive and return visits which she herself could not reciprocate, and therefore that the foreign Ministers should take no notice of the marriage ; which was accordingly communicated to them."
To which, an eye-witness of the ceremony, Mrs. Seaton, adds:
"The New York style was adopted at Maria Monroe's wedding. Only the attendants, the relations and a few old friends of the bride and groom witnessed the ceremony, and the brides-maids were told that their company and services would be dispensed with until the following Tuesday, when the bride would receive visitors. Accordingly, all who visit at the President's paid their respects to Mrs. Gouverneur, who presided in her mother's place on this evening, while Mrs. Monroe mingled with the other citizens. Every visitor was led to the bride and introduced in all form."
A more recent report of this most talked-about wedding of the period says that the first East Room wedding when Maria Monroe was a bride, in March, 1820, "was a gorgeous affair.
The new furnishings were the talk of the country. The Monroes loved style and the social whirl, had money enough to carry out their tastes, and were popular, hospitable folks." The bridegroom on that occasion, Samuel L. Gouverneur, of a famous New York wealthy family, was considered quite a "catch," but it is said he remarked just before the wedding, "I consider myself the luckiest young man in the republic, for the most adorable creature within its borders has chosen me from all her suitors to be a White House bridegroom."
The second daughter of a President to marry in the White House was Miss Elizabeth Tyler, daughter of President John Tyler. Concerning this marriage but little of importance has come down to us, excepting that "Congressman William Waller made the President's daughter an excellent husband and brought to his wife much happiness."
Of the weddings of the remaining two of the quartet of President's daughters, Miss Alice Roosevelt and Miss Nellie Grant, descriptions will be found in separate chapters.