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Bridegroom-presidents

( Originally Published 1908 )

ONE President, Cleveland, came to the White House a bachelor and took a wife while living there, the marriage ceremony being performed in the Blue Room. One President, Tyler, lost his first wife while a tenant of the White House, and took his second wife while still living there. The wedding ceremony, in joining President Tyler to Miss Julia Gardiner, was performed in New York, but the President soon brought his bride to the Executive Mansion to act as "First Lady."

One President, Rutherford B. Hayes, celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of his marriage at the White House by holding a Silver Wedding.

Each of these three events attracted nation-wide attention at the time. Each was chronicled in the press of the country as a national affair, while the whole people, in a sense, joined in the general rejoicing that centered at the official home of the head of the nation in Washington.

The Only President Who Married in the White House

The wedding of President Grover Cleveland to Miss Frances Folsom, on June 2, 1886, was a brilliant affair, and stands out as the one occasion when a President married himself off in the White House. Of all the weddings, says one account of this event, that appeared in Frank Leslie's, "none was so important as the Cleveland ceremony. The interest of the whole world was awakened by the event. Mr. Cleveland was the only President that received his bride in the Executive Mansion, and his sensational political career he being the first Democratic President since Buchanan has attracted attention all around the globe. The charming personality of Miss Frances Folsom nearly equalled the interest manifested in the bridegroom."

"The fair young bride entered," the same account continues, "like a morning sunbeam into the stately mansion which she was to rule as the "First Lady" of the land. In the evening, amid a shower of rice and old slippers, she left it as the President's wife, and the couple sped away to Deer Park, in the Alleghany Mountains, followed by the hearty felicitations of 60,000,000 Americans and the rulers of nearly every country on the globe.

"The ceremony was performed in the Blue Room in the evening by the Rev. Byron Sunderland. The wedding was semi-private, followed by a public reception. The flower decorations were said to have been the most elaborate ever seen in the White House up to that time. As seven o'clock struck, the Marine Band stated Mendelssohn's wedding march, the first gun of a national salute boomed from the arsenal, and every church bell and whistle in the capital added to the din. The minister entered the room and found nearly fifty invited guests in a semicircle about the pair.

"The ceremony," say the published accounts, "was preceded by a wedding breakfast and an informal luncheon. The bride was glad to be entertained by the party, as the rush of public business kept the President busy. An informal supper for the guests was served, and then the pair slipped through the private Red Room entrance to a carriage. The honeymoon was spent in a little lodge in Deer Park, a resort in the mountains of Maryland."

An eye-witness relates that "the silver chandelier overhead, and the crystal sconces on the walls at the sides of the two great gilt-bordered mirrors, brilliantly illuminated the scene as the President, with his bride leaning on his left arm, advanced to the centre of the room. Tall, graceful, blue-eyed and fair, blushing like the morn beneath her misty veil, Miss Folsom looked an ideal American bride. Well might a President sue for her hand and a nation take pride in his choice. Not far from the bride's left stood Mrs. Folsom, and Secretary Bayard and Mrs. Hoyt were just beyond them. Farther along the semicircle were Secretary and Mrs. Whitney, with Secretary Endicott and Mrs. Endicott a few steps beyond. Miss Rose Cleveland (the President's sister), was about at the turn of the circle. Next to her were Secretary Lamar and Secretary Manning. Farther around towards the President's right, beyond a group of the relatives of the bride, stood Postmaster General and Mrs. Vilas. Closest to the President's right were Colonel and Mrs. Lamont, the President's secretary. Every one who had been invited was present except Attorney-General Garland. As the bride's hand disengaged itself from the arm of the President they stepped slightly apart. The Rev. Dr. Sunderland then began the impressive ceremony, and the Rev. W. N. Cleveland made an invocation of blessing the pair."

Mrs. Cleveland as a Bride

Mrs. Cleveland was the only woman ever married in the White House to a President. One who was present at the ceremony tells of her appearance that day :

"Beautiful in face and form, she was a vision of loveliness as she stood blushing before the audience of friends gathered about her. Her gown was of ivory satin, with trimmings of Indian silk, arranged in Grecian folds over the front of the corsage and fastened in the folds of satin at the side. She carried no flowers and wore no jewels except her engagement ring. Gloves reaching to the elbow completed the perfect toilette of the White House bride."

Press despatches published on the day following the wedding refer to the ceremony and bride thus :

"The last notes of the wedding march floated in from the corridor. The chatter of the guests had ceased as they fell back toward the south end of the room and naturally arranged themselves in an irregular double line in front of the forest of palms and azaleas. The President, with his bride leaning on his left arm, advanced to about the centre, standing just beneath the chandelier. The groom was self-possessed and happy, and the bride as charming in her look of love and confidence as the most exacting person could have hoped.

"The delicate profile of the bride, her shapely head and self-reliant carriage, all subservient to the timid look in her eyes, the compression of her well-formed lips and the statuesque firmness of her face, made the fabrics she wore a simple and harmonious drapery. It was the woman at whom the women looked rather than the dress. The two together made as lovely a sight as ever graced the White House.

"The train was a marvel of graceful arrangement, and it was marvelous how she handled it in a small well-filled room, for it was nearly as long as the room itself and would have reached easily from the spot where the vows were pledged into the corridor through which the bridal party had come, but for the bride's deft management, whereby it lay in a glistening coil at her feet."

And to these news stories of the marriage of President Grover Cleveland, Doorkeeper Pendel adds the following intimate details :

"The ceremony took place in the Blue Parlor and was a comparatively private function. Miss Folsom was a daughter of an old friend of President Cleveland and many years younger than he, but the marriage has proved in every respect to be a happy one. The officiating clergyman was the Rev. Byron Sunderland, whom President Cleveland had known during his early manhood, and at whose church the Cleveland family worshipped while in Washington. Miss Folsom came to Washington and with her mother took apartments at one of the prominent hotels a day or two prior to the wedding.

"Miss Rose Cleveland, the President's sister," continues Doorkeeper Pendel,in his Thirty-Six Years in the White House, "did the honors of the White House up to the time of his marriage and remained there for a time afterward. I remember the morning Miss Cleveland ordered the carriage to go to the depot to meet the intended bride, Miss Frances Folsom. It was quite early in the morning when she started down, found the train on time, and without any delay brought the intended bride to the Executive Mansion. I received a very pleasant smile and a bow from the intended bride as I opened the White House door. The house was put in order that day for the wedding in the evening. Just before the wedding, Miss Cleveland came into the Blue Room and requested me to light the candles in the two large candlesticks at each side of the mantel. They were married in the Blue Room parlor, right in front of the divan, facing north. I had the pleasure of hearing all the ceremony, as I stood just in the doorway, between the Blue and Red parlors. The Reverend Dr. Sunderland, of the First Presbyterian Church, performed the wedding ceremony. They then went upstairs, donned their traveling suits, passed down the grand stairway, and out of the Blue Parlor door, into the south portico. As they passed out rice and slippers were thrown after them. They spent their honeymoon at Oakland, on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, above Cumberland. After their return the President settled down to business, and Mrs. Cleveland did the honors of the White House."

President Tyler Brings a Bride to Washington

"The country was excited forty years before," we are told, "when President Tyler married Miss Gardiner in the Church of the Ascension, New York, and brought her straight to Washington, where there was a grand reception. This was the first Presidential wedding in our history."

Mr. Tyler's first wife, long an invalid, died in the third year of her residence at the White House. President Tyler married again just before his retirement from office. The second Mrs. Tyler "was then only twenty years of age, while the President was fifty-five. They were quietly married in New York, and then repaired to Washington, so that Mrs. Tyler, who had been Miss Julia Gardiner, was the first bride to enter the White House as its mistress."

The difference in the ages of President Tyler and his second wife was greater than that between the ages of Grover Cleveland and Frances Folsom. Mr. Tyler was fifty-five, while his bride was only twenty. In the case of the Cleveland nuptials, the President was forty-nine while his bride was twenty-two.

The story of the winning of Miss Gardiner by President Tyler, involves a delightful romance. It is related that "in 1844 occurred a tragedy of wide-spreading influence." It seems that Mr. David Gardiner, a wealthy gentleman of New York, had been invited with his daughter, by Captain Stockton, to accompany a party of the President's friends to Alexandria on a vessel of war. When opposite the fort, returning home, it was proposed to fire a gun called "the peacemaker" as a salute. The Secretary of War pretended to be nervous, and saying, "I don't like this; I believe I shall run," walked to the other end of the boat and thus narrowly saved his life, for the gun exploded, killing the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of State and Mr. Gardiner and two other gentlemen. John Tyler, Jr., was escorting the wife of the Secretary of the Navy to the cabin and escaped the accident. "The President, himself, was below with the ladies, and witnessed the fortitude and dignity with which Miss Gardiner bore the news of her overwhelming sorrow. Admiration for her self-control at that hour grew to a warmer attachment, and ended in her becoming the President's bride."

President Hayes' Silver Wedding

During the residence of President and Mrs. Hayes in the White House they celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of their marriage by giving a silver wedding. This was the first celebration of the kind in the history of the Executive Mansion. From an account of the festivities on that occasion, as related in the Washington reminiscences of Mr. Benjamin Perley Poore, the following facts are given The vestibule, the halls and the State apartments were elaborately trimmed with bunting and running vines. In the East Room at the doors and in the 'corners and alcoves tropical plants were clustered in profusion. The mantels were banked with bright colored cut flowers, smilax was entwined in the huge glass chandeliers, and everywhere throughout the room were stands of potted plants. Over the main entrance was the national coat-of-arms and just opposite two immense flags, hanging from ceiling to floor, completely covered the large window. The Green, the Red and the Blue Parlor was similarly decorated, the flowers used being chiefly azaleas, hyacinths and roses.

The members of the Cabinet and their families were the official personages invited to the celebration, and with them were a few old friends from Ohio. A delegation of the regiment which Mr. Hayes commanded, the Twenty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry brought a beautiful silver offering.

The Marine Band precisely at nine o'clock struck up Mendelssohn's "Wedding March," and President Hayes, with his wife on his arm, came down the stairs, followed by members of the family and the special guests, two by two. The procession passed through the inner vestibule into the East Room, where the President and Mrs. Hayes stationed themselves, with their backs to the flag-draped window. There they remained until the invited guests had paid their congratulations. Mrs. Mitchell, the daughter of the President's sister, Mrs. Platt, stood beside Mrs. Hayes and clasped her hand, as she did when a child, during the marriage ceremony, twenty-five years before.

Mrs. Hayes wore a white silk dress, with draperies of white brocade, each headed with two rows of tasseled fringe, and with a full plaiting at the sides and bottom on the front breadth. The heart-shaped neck was filled in with tulle, and the half long sleeves had a deep ruching of lace. Her hair, in plain bands, was knotted at the back and fastened with a silver comb while white kid gloves and white slippers completed the bridal array.

The Rev. Dr. McCabe, who had married Mr. Hayes and Miss Webb twenty-five years before, was present.

The President and Mrs. Hayes led the way into the State dining-room, which had been elaborately decked for the occasion with cut flowers and plants. The table was adorned with pyramids of confectionery, fancy French dishes and ices in moulds. The bill of fare included every delicacy in the way of eatables ; but no beverage except coffee. Several guns boomed out a salute to the new year at midnight and then the company dispersed.



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