I Heart Indies

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 25 Presidential Losers: Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland, 1888

In 1888, Grover Cleveland was a newlywed, which has nothing to do with the election one way or the other, but is so interesting a situation, I record it here.  The only president ever to have a wedding in the White House, he married Frances Folsom, twenty-seven years his junior, the daughter of his close friend Oscar Folsom.  Folsom died when Frances was 11, and Cleveland had been appointed executor of the estate and overseen her education.  (Don't get creeped out; they didn't start dating then.)  It gets just a little bit weirder still.  Cleveland’s presumed first child had been born out of wedlock 1874 to Maria Crofts Halpin, but Cleveland’s supporters maintained that he might not have been the father; Ms Halpin was doing the mattress dance with more than one man during this period, but that as the only bachelor, Cleveland had magnanimously assumed responsibility.  The child wasn't named, like, Grover Halpin Cleveland, Jr. or somehting, but Oscar Folsom Cleveland. Did I mention that one of Halpin’s other dance partners was Oscar Folsom?
Cleveland’s second run at the presidency did not go as well as his first, but it was certainly just as entertaining.  In addition to having fathered a child out of wedlock, Cleveland, it transpired, had avoided military service during the Civil War by paying, George Benninsky, a Polish immigrant, $150  to take his place. 2  It didn’t help matters that Cleveland was running against a bona-fide Civil War hero, Benjamin Harrison, who’d commanded a brigade at the Battle of Atlanta.  Maybe it would have looked better if Benninsky had distinguished himself in battle, but he suffered a back injury shortly after enlisting, and spent the war on the sidelines. This wasn't Cleveland's fault that he'd hired a dud.  Certainly Cleveland had already demonstrated sufficient patriotism in the first place by shelling out $150.   Cleveland won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College by a wide margin, in part thanks to the Tammany Hall Machine that took New York from him.  But Frances Cleveland, at any rate, was unfazed.  As she left the White House, she said, "Now, Jerry, I want you to take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house, for I want to find everything just as it is now, when we come back again four years from today."


Benjamin Harrison: 233
Grover Cleveland: 168
1. It's uncertain what became of this child.  Some maintain that he died of alcoholism, others that he became a lawyer.  So either way, he came to a bad end.
2. These days we just join the National Guard.

No comments:

Post a Comment