Climbing Up the White House Stairs
DESCRIPTION: "Oh, the fourth of march is coming, And the cannons will be bumming, Climbing up the White House Stairs. Cleveland will be there, to occupy the chair." The song lists various women "climbing up the white house stairs" to court the bachelor president
EARLIEST DATE: 1953 (Browne)
KEYWORDS: political humorous marriage
Sep 1874 - Birth to the widowed Maria Halpin of Oscar Folsom Cleveland, the illegitimate son of Grover Clevelend (making it obvious that Cleveland was interested in women)
Mar 4, 1885 - Cleveland, who was not married at the time, inaugurated president for the first time
Jun 2, 1886 - 49-year-old Cleveland marries 23-year-old Frances Folsom at the White House (not the first time a President had gotten married while in office -- John Tyler had done it -- but he was the first to get married in the White House)
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Browne 136, "Climbing Up the White House Stairs" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES [508 words]: The existence of Grover Cleveland's illegitimate son was an issue in his presidential campaigns -- witness the anti-Cleveland jingle, "Ma! Ma! Where's my pa? Gone to the White House, ha! ha! ha!" (Henry F. Graff, Grover Cleveland [a volume in the American Presidents series edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.], Times Books, 2002, p. 64) -- so little wonder that someone thought he was looking to find a wife.
I'm not sure I would have wanted to be Cleveland's wife; apart from being quite overweight ("at least 250 pounds," according to Graff, p. 60), he had had the mother of that child put in an asylum (Graff, pp. 60-61). Graff thinks Maria Halpin, the mother of the child, was a loose woman who was put away because she was an alcoholic, but when *I* hear about a politician putting a woman away, I don't think "drunken woman," I think "concealing something worse that he did." Although, to be fair, the next source I checked, William A. DeGregorio, The Complete Book of U. S. Presidents, fourth edition, Barricade Books, 1993, p. 322, tells exactly the same story.
Later, Cleveland robbed the cradle, at age 49 marrying his 21-year-old ward Frances Folsom. According to Graff, p. 78:
"[I]t was long known to Cleveland's close associates that in 1875, in the course of managing the estate of his late law partner Oscar Folsom [who had also been associated with Maria Halpin -- she had named her child Oscar Folsom Cleveland], he had grown close to Mrs. Folsom, the widow, and to their daughter, Frances, then eleven years old. He became virtually her guardian. She knew him as 'Uncle Cleve.' Her name was actually Frank, because she had been named for an uncle, and that was how Cleveland always addressed her. She took the name Frances as she grew up, regarding it as more proper for a woman. In time the newspaper people would refer to her as 'Frankie,' an appellation she detested.
"Cleveland's relations with the Folsoms were so intimate that the gossipmongers were not sure whether his close friend was the widow or the daughter. When Frank was at Wells College in Aurora, New York, Cleveland obtained the mother's permission to correspond with her. In 1885 Cleveland and the pretty, spirited young woman became betrothed. The engagement had followed a series of letter exchanges in which the president proposed marriage. But mum was the word to the public."
The wedding was originally planned for the home of Frances's grandfather, but he died shortly before the marriage and the ceremony had to be shifted to the White House. It was an odd event; John Philip Sousa himself conducted the Marine Band -- but there were only 31 guests (Graff, p. 79). Fascinatingly, Frances did not promise to love, honor, and obey, but to "loev... honor, comfort, and keep" (Graff, p. 80).
If the papers had known about their courting, no doubt speculations like this song would not have come about. But Cleveland, although known for his rigid honesty, had a frigid relationship with the press and never let out any information he could conceal. - RBW
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