On June 2, 1886, in an intimate ceremony held in the Blue Room of the White House, President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom, the daughter of Cleveland’s late law partner and friend, Oscar Folsom. Fewer than 40 people were present to witness the 49-year-old president exchange vows with Frances, who at 21 years of age became the youngest first lady in U.S. history.
As a devoted family friend, Cleveland allegedly bought “Frank” her first baby carriage. After her father’s death, he administered her estate. When Frances entered Wells College, Cleveland, then the governor of New York, asked Mrs. Folsom’s permission to correspond with the young lady. After his inauguration as president in 1885, Frances visited Cleveland at the executive mansion. Despite a 27-year difference in age, their affection turned to romance, and in 1886 the couple were married in the White House.
Mrs. Cleveland, who replaced Cleveland’s sister Rose Elizabeth as White House hostess, won immediate popularity for her good looks and unaffected charm. After the president’s defeat in his 1888 reelection bid, the Clevelands lived in New York City, where their first child, Ruth, was born in 1891. In 1892, in an event unprecedented in U.S. political history, the out-of-office Cleveland was elected president again. Frances Cleveland returned to Washington and resumed her duties as first lady as if she had been gone but a day. On September 9, 1893, the first family saw the addition of a second child. Esther was the first child of a president to be born in the White House but not the first child ever to be born there. In 1806, James Madison Randolph was born to Martha Randolph, the daughter of President Thomas Jefferson.
When Grover Cleveland left the presidency in 1897, his wife had become one of the most popular first ladies in history. In 1908, she was at his side when he died at their home in Princeton, New Jersey. Five years later, she married Thomas J. Preston, Jr., a professor of archeology at Princeton University.