One of my reference books, as I am writing the new America the Beautiful, is a children’s book about presidents’ mothers. I don’t particularly like the book. It is too disrespectful in its attempts at humor for my taste, but it does give me interesting tidbits that I can pursue from more reliable sources. This book about mothers and the story I recently shared with you about Harry Truman saying that his father couldn’t be a failure if his son became president of the United States have prompted me to make a few additions to this curriculum.
The curriculum is to contain a one-page biography of each president. I tell tidbits about the parents of many presidents, but now I am making sure that I at least mention the names of every president’s mother and father. It’s a small thing that I can do to honor their fathers and mothers. I hope that many of the stories will encourage students to honor theirs.
I’d like to share with you the biography of President Grover Cleveland. Keep in mind that one page is not much space to tell about the entire life of a president and that the biography comes in a unit where the student has already learned about his election and his years as president. The students have also already learned about his marriage because he is the first and only president to be married in the White House. He was 49 and his bride was 21.
Stephen Grover Cleveland
America’s 22nd President — March 4, 1885 – March 4, 1889
America’s 24th President — March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897
Stephen Grover Cleveland was born in New Jersey in 1837. He was the fifth of nine children. His father, Richard Cleveland, was a Presbyterian minister. His mother was Ann Neal Cleveland. When the future president was four years old, his family moved to New York state. There he learned at home and in village schools. His father died when he was 16. The grieving Cleveland moved to New York City to work with his brother at the New York Institute for the Blind, where he began his lifelong friendship with Fanny J. Crosby.
Cleveland studied law and became an attorney. He practiced law and held local political offices, including county sheriff and mayor of Buffalo, New York. He worked to clean up political corruption in local government. In 1882 he was elected governor of New York. After his election as governor, Cleveland wrote to his brother about their mother, saying “I have always thought her prayers had much to do with my success.”
Cleveland became one of America’s hardest-working presidents. He usually worked until after midnight, sometimes until two or three o’clock in the morning. He paid for his own expenses and rejected usual presidential luxuries such as the presidential yacht. He hated the fancy White House cooking, and said he would prefer pickled herring, Swiss cheese, and a pork chop.
Cleveland’s much younger wife, Frances Folsom Cleveland, was the daughter of his friend and former law partner. Cleveland had bought her a baby carriage when she was a baby. When the Clevelands left the White House in 1889, she told a servant that they would be back. Four years later, he was reelected. When the Clevelands returned to the White House in 1893, they had a baby daughter named Ruth. Like her mother, Ruth became popular across the country. The Clevelands had two more children during his second term in office.
After Cleveland left office, he invested in the stock market, gave speeches, practiced law, and became a trustee of Princeton University. He and Frances had two more children. Two years after Cleveland left the White House, Swedish artist Anders Leonard Zorn came to his home and painted the portrait above. Cleveland liked it. He said “As for my ugly mug, I think the artist has ‘struck it off’ in great shape.” In 1904 Cleveland published Presidential Problems. Grover Cleveland died in 1908. His last words were, “I have tried so hard to do right.”
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice,
And he who sires a wise son will be glad in him.
Let your father and your mother be glad,
And let her rejoice who gave birth to you.