On this day in 1834, future President Franklin Pierce marries a petite and devout Calvinist named Jane Appleton. Her brother-in-law officiated at the wedding.
Jane and Franklin had three sons, all of whom died before adulthood. These tragedies haunted the couple and contributed to Pierce’s subsequent battle with alcoholism, which in turn negatively affected his marriage. When Pierce, who was still grieving over the recent death of son Benjamin, was sworn in as president on March 4, 1853, he told the crowd “you have summoned me in my weakness…you must sustain me by your strength.” Jane was still in mourning and did not attend Pierce’s inauguration. Although Jane joined Pierce in the White House, she avoided public duties until two years into his term.
By the time they left the White House in 1856, Jane’s grief had taken a toll on both her physical and mental health. Pierce tried to raise his wife’s spirits by taking her on a trip to the Caribbean and on an extended tour of Europe, but in 1860 she contracted tuberculosis and they were forced to return to America. She died in 1863 and Pierce died three years later. Both were buried next to their children in Concord, New Hampshire.