On this day in 1893, President Grover Cleveland’s wife Frances becomes the first first lady to give birth in the White House when the couple’s daughter Esther is born. She remains the only child of a president to be born in the White House. After spending the first two years of his presidency as a bachelor, Cleveland was also the first president to be married in White House. On June 2, 1887, Cleveland married the beautiful Frances Folsom who, at 21 years old, was 27 years his junior. Frances was the daughter of Cleveland’s former law partner; Cleveland literally knew Frances from her birth. When she was 11, her father died and Cleveland became the child’s legal guardian and stayed close friends with her mother. His pet name for Frances was “Frank.” Observers thought Cleveland would end up marrying his friend’s widow and were completely surprised when instead he married Frances as soon as she graduated from college.
Frances became an instant celebrity. She received fan letters and every detail of her life became a matter of public discussion in America’s newspapers and parlors. Cleveland, irked by his wife’s fame, preferred that she keep a low profile. He did not want her called “First Lady of the Land” or “mistress of the White House.” He wanted a happy wife, but a “sensible, domestic” one.
Frances and Grover Cleveland, who was also affectionately referred to as “Uncle Jumbo,” welcomed their first daughter, Ruth, to the world in 1891, in the period between Cleveland’s two presidential terms. (Benjamin Harrison beat out Cleveland in the election of 1889, but Cleveland served again between 1893 and 1897.) Cleveland, who had also fathered an illegitimate child prior to becoming president, was according to his wife a devoted father to all his children.