Born: March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey
Stephen Grover Cleveland, the son of a Presbyterian minister, was born in Caldwell, New Jersey. When he was around 16 years old, he moved to Buffalo, New York. Not old enough to vote himself, a nineteen year old Grover Cleveland worked on Democrat James Buchanan's successful bid for the presidency in 1856. Ironically, another Democrat wouldn't be elected for 28 years when Cleveland himself won. Since he was the sole provider for his family, he did not serve in the Civil War (he paid a substitute to take his place). He studied law and went into politics. He was elected Sheriff of Erie County in 1870 (he was also was also the public executioner and personally hanged two murderers). Cleveland, who was a Democrat, was known for his honesty and integrity. Tired of political corruptness, the people of Buffalo elected Cleveland their mayor in 1881. The following year, he was elected governor of New York (one of the four governors of New York to become president). As governor, Cleveland did not think he should attempt to control the economics and was mostly a hands off person, vetoing many bills that came to him. This made him very popular with businessmen and conservatives. In 1884, he was nominated by the Democrats for president.
In 1884, the Republicans turned their back on the incumbent president, Chester Arthur, and nominated James G. Blaine. The election was an ugly one with Cleveland being accused of fathering an illegitimate child. The Republicans came out with the campaign slogan, "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa? Off to the White House, ha, ha, ha." Cleveland, who was a bachelor at the time, gave the baby financial support. Cleveland edged out a narrow victory (219 to 182 electoral votes and less then 25,000 popular votes). He was the first Democratic president in 24 years (since James Buchannan). Cleveland was opposed to providing any social services. It has been said that his presidential philosophy was to prevent anything bad from happening but not to make any thing good happen. He vetoed 414 bills in his first term (twice the 204 veto's by ALL the presidents before him). In total, he voted 584 bills (the second highest after F.D.R. who served one more term). Cleveland biggest opposition was against protective tariffs, which he believed were against natural law of economy.
In the Election of 1888, Cleveland ran against Republican Benjamin Harrison in a campaign that centered around the tariff issue. Both parties freely bribed voters around the country in what is considered the most corrupt presidential election in history. Despite carrying the popular vote (5,447,129 to 5,537,857), Cleveland lost the Electoral Vote (233 to 168). Cleveland spent the next four years practicing law in New York City.
In the Election of 1892, a third party or Populist Part appeared that advocated the use of silver coins and abandonment of the gold standard (which Cleveland opposed). They did well, capturing 22 Electoral Votes. However, Cleveland rebounded in the election, defeating Harrison (277 to 145 electoral votes). Unfortunately, within a year of his election, the Panic of 1893 plunged the country into a major depression. Cleveland thought that it was not the responsibility of the government to help the economy and concentrated on lowering tariffs. He was unsuccessful in this endeavor. In 1894, he sent in troops to put down the Pullman Strike which was stopping the railroads from running. Cleveland was seen as anti labor and his popularity started to drop.
In a strange related fact, Cleveland discovered a cancerous growth on the roof of his mouth in the middle of the economic crisis of 1893. So that his illness would not cause a greater panic, he and several doctors snuck aboard a pleasure boat in Manhattan's East River and secretly removed the growth and his upper jaw and replaced it with a rubber jaw. The public thought he was on a fishing trip and never knew the truth until 1917.
Cleveland left the White House in 1897 and moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where he built a large home called "Westland" and became a trustee of Princeton University. As president, Cleveland did little to improve the country, he did return integrity and impartiality to government. He pointed out the evils of protective tariffs and the importance of staying on the gold standard. He is considered among our greater presidents and by far the most distinguished between Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.
Cleveland holds too distinctions, the only man to serve non-consecutive terms and the only president to marry in the White House. In his later years, Cleveland's health was bad; inflamed kidneys, swollen joints, blood clots in the lungs and dropsy. He even had to pump his own stomach to relieve stomach pains. On June 23, Cleveland's condition worsened as he passed in and out of consciousness. His heart gave out at 8:40 the following morning in his home, at the age of 71. His funeral was held in his house and was very simple. There were no eulogy for him and no music, just some prayers and a poem. A half hour later, he was taken to Princeton Cemetery. He was buried next to his daughter Ruth, who had died two years earlier.
Frances Folsom was born in Buffalo in 1864, the only child of Cleveland's law partner, Oscar Folsom. Strangely enough, Cleveland, who was 28 years older, bought Frances her first baby carriage (another presidential first?) After her father's death, Cleveland looked after her education. When Cleveland was serving his first term, he married Frances in a White House ceremony on June 2, 1886. There first child, Ruth, was born after his first term. Ruth was claimed to be the namesake of the "Baby Ruth" candy bar by the company that made them. However, many people felt that it was in reality named after baseball great Babe Ruth. His other daughters Esther and Marion were born in the White House (only presidential children born in the White House) during his second term. After his presidency, they had two sons, Richard and Francis (Francis just passed away in 1995). After her husbands death, she married Thomas J. Preston, Jr., a professor of archeology at Princeton University in 1913. She died in 1947 at the age of 84 and is buried alongside Grover in Princeton Cemetery.
Here are some webpages of interest: