Grover Cleveland

President_cleveland_weddingBackstory: Named after a Sesame Street character (or vice versa), Grover remains the only two-time (and not two-term) president: 22nd and 24th. Born Stephen in the great state of New Jersey in 1837 (and died there in 1908), he switched to using his middle name and quickly rose through the ranks of New York politics as a Bourbon Democrat, serving as governor of the Empire State before leapfrogging into his first term as president in 1885. Lawyer by trade, he spared no expense ($150 large) to get a Polish immigrant to take his place on the battlefields during the Civil War (and yes, back in the day the rich could skip the subterfuge and just pay folks to go once more into the breach for them). In an era of back-stabbing, corrupt, and machine-centered political discourse, Cleveland united fiscally conservative Democrats (the Bourbons) with reform-minded Republicans to win the presidency in an era of almost exclusively Republican chief executives. His candidacy was nearly wrecked by scandal when what they used to call a ‘woman of loose morals’ was found to have had a child Cleveland supported, though said child’s parentage remains a mystery and quite likely could have descended from Grover’s married law partner Oscar Folsom (no relation to the prison or the blues), who would later give away his daughter, Frances Folsom, to Cleveland in marriage in 1886 when the president was nearly 50 years of age (though Oscar had passed on to his reward by this time). The couple were married in the Blue Room (one floor below the Oval Office) of the White House–the only presidential wedding to take place in the prez’s digs–and had five children. Frances is still the youngest ever to serve as First Lady, marrying into that position at 21. Another interesting Cleveland factoid: during his second term of office in 1893, the prez had a large section of his upper jaw and palate removed due to concerns about mouth cancer brought on by Grover’s long-term, heavy cigar habit. He was fitted with a rubber prosthetic and for the remaining 15-odd years of his life, nobody was the wiser. Perhaps even more interesting, the operation was performed on the ship the Oneida off the coast of Long Island in order to shield his condition from the press so as to stave off a financial panic. And in yet another twist, had the president not survived the operation, one Adlai Stevenson I (grandfather of that Adlai Stevenson, II, who ran twice unsuccessfully for president in the 1950s, having been trounced both times by ‘I like’ Ike) would have been president!

What we learn: Someday your ship, too, might come in, though you might want to put down the cigars now if you don’t want to have to drink your food through a straw.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment