Useful Notes: Grover Cleveland

"Cleveland made the railroad people squirm."
—"The Presidents" by Jonathan Coulton

"Big deal! When I was a pup, we got spanked by Presidents till the cows came home. Grover Cleveland spanked me on two non-consecutive occasions."
Abe Simpson

"Take care of the place [the White House], we'll be back."
Frances Folsom Cleveland

"Grover Cleveland served another term."
—"The Presidents," again

Grover Cleveland (March 18, 1837 — June 24, 1908), born Stephen Grover Cleveland, was the only American president to hold two non-consecutive terms, as the 22nd and 24th president (1885-89, 1893-97), preceded initially by Chester A. Arthur, then followed by Benjamin Harrison, then followed, in his second term, by William McKinley. He was the seventh Democratic President. Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president, winning a bizarre race in 1888 in which Cleveland won the popular vote but Harrison prevailed in the Electoral College. Cleveland was also the second American president to get married while in office (after John Tyler), and the only one to marry in the White House itself. Alongside Woodrow Wilson, he was one of the only two Democratic Presidents from a period of Republican dominance in the White House lasting from 1861 to 1933. He used to be on the $1,000 dollar bill, but these have been discontinued since 1969.

He was drafted during the American Civil War but paid $150 for a substitute (entirely legal at the time), making him America's first draft-dodger President. This, and his refusal to grant bonuses to Civil War veterans, probably helped him lose to the aforementioned Harrison.

Started his political career as the Sheriff of Erie County, New York, where he handled the execution of several prisoners himself.

May or may not have fathered a child out of wedlock. During his campaign for his first term, the Buffalo Telegraph published a story about how he had an affair with a widow named Maria Halphin, who had borne a child. Cleveland wasn't certain that the child was his, but since denying it would be mean accusing his married friends of infidelity (Halphin, by all accounts, was known to really get around), he paid child support to Halphin regularly and never claimed anything to the contrary. His opponents took the story and ran with it, heckling Cleveland with chants of "'Maw, Maw, where's my Paw?' 'Gone to the White House, haw haw haw!'" For what it is worth, Halphin's accounts of their encounter mention that he forcibly had sex with her without her consent. The scandal may well have ruined Cleveland's bid for the presidency had it not been for the fact that his opponent, James G. Blaine, had two scandals to deal with; one involving railroad money, and another just days before the election when one of his spokesmen gave an inflammatory, anti-Catholic speech in New York City, which virtually destroyed Blaine's support in the city and threw the election to Cleveland.

At the start of his second term as president he discovered a tumor on the roof of his mouth; he had the tumor removed in a secret operation on the presidential yacht which was never revealed until well after his death.

Met Franklin D. Roosevelt when he was just five years old and reportedly said, "My little man, I am making a strange wish for you. It is that you may never be President of the United States."

He is considered by libertarians to be a highly underrated President, as he mostly stayed within the Constitutional bounds of his office and of Federal power, and also because he generally opposed the growth of labor unions. He fought against waste and corruption by using the veto more than any President before him and kept America on the Gold Standard at a time when it was politically unpopular, which is considered a big reason for the astounding economic growth in the late Nineteenth Century (with the exception of the Panic of 1893). He still remains acclaimed for his honesty.

Cleveland was the President who dedicated the Statue of Liberty when it was completed in 1886.

During the start of his second term, a huge economic crisis developed, arguably the first of America's industrial age. It was caused by business overspeculation, shaky loans, and bank failures. Unemployment rose to over 18%, over 8,000 businesses collapsed within months, and people all over the country had wait in food lines for hours so that they could feed their families. It was often known as the Great Depression before an even worse one happened. Unemployed workers from the Midwest marched to the capital, and over 150,000 railroad workers went on strike (the quote at the top of the page references Cleveland using federal troops to forcibly end the strike). Cleveland pointed to the Sherman Silver Purchase Act passed during Harrison's term as the root cause. He successfully had the act repealed, but this caused the Treasury's gold supply to drop below $100 million. Overwhelmed, he turned towards banker J. P. Morgan to bale out a lot of government bonds. Many people criticized the President for apparently looked out for the money of the wealthy and not taking care of the suffering poor.

Meanwhile, American sugar planters in the Hawaiian islands overthrew Queen Liliuokalani and created the Republic of Hawaii. They petitioned the American government to annex them, but Cleveland realized the scheme that had taken place and refused. The guy after him, William McKinley, would do so.

Some claim that the "Baby Ruth" candy bar is not named after baseball star Babe Ruth, but after first daughter Ruth Cleveland, born between her father's first and second terms. However, since the candy bar was named "Baby Ruth" in 1921—17 years after Ruth Cleveland's death at the age of 12 and 24 years after her father left the White House, but right at the time that Babe Ruth was rocketing to superstardom—it seems more likely that the Curtiss Candy Company was simply avoiding paying Babe Ruth royalties.

Grover the muppet was named after him.

Tropes relating to President Cleveland:

  • Body Horror: He got a cancer of the upper jaw and palate in 1893 which needed surgery by rather primitive means and a hard rubber prosthesis inside the mouth to allow him to speak normally.
  • Determinator: Well, come on. He's so far the only President to be undeterred by losing his reelection bid, enough to run and win again after his successor's term was up!
  • Draft Dodging: Bought a substitute so he could avoid service in The American Civil War. In Cleveland's defense, this was perfectly legal.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: At 250 lbs., he was the heaviest President elected until William Howard Taft eclipsed him in 1908, and his rotund figure earned him the sobriquet "Uncle Jumbo."
  • Hanging Judge: A literal example. As Sheriff of Erie County he oversaw the hanging of two men, personally applying the hood and noose.
    • It should be noted that Cleveland personally put a stop to the spectacle aspect of the executions he carried out. He put up curtains that prevented the hangings from being viewed by the public (as that had become a pass-time in the county), so that the condemned could die with a little dignity.
  • Joisey: Was born in Caldwell, New Jersey and died in Princeton, New Jersey.
  • Mood-Swinger: Cleveland biographer Allan Nevins wrote, "To the end of his life his intimates were struck by the gulf which separated the exuberant, jovial Cleveland of occasional hours of carefree banter, and the stern, unbending Cleveland of work and responsibility, whose life seemed hung round by a pall of duty."
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Locally famous, anyway. The first minister of Caldwell's First Presbyterian Church was the Rev. Stephen Grover, a Revolutionary War veteran who served as church pastor for 46 years and was highly regarded in the community. More than two dozen local children are believed to have been named after him, including the future President.
  • Wife Husbandry: Following the death of her father, Cleveland had a major part in the upbringing of his future wife Frances Folsom.

Grover Cleveland in fiction:

  • Casey and Andy has him compete with Andy for the romantic attentions of Frances Folsom, who actually turns out to be Satan.
  • American Dad!. In the episode about the peanut brittle conspiracy, Stan refers to Grover as "America's greatest president"(Which is odd, seeing as Cleveland was a democrat, and Stan is a hardcore, right wing Republican). He left the peanut butter on George Washington Carver's doorstep.
    • It's actually not surprising at all. He was a conservative Democrat. It's inverse to how Theodore Roosevelt was a progressive/liberal Republican. Most modern Republicans actually tend to speak favorably of President Cleveland's policies.
    • Of course, the joke is that no one, conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, would refer to Grover Cleveland as "America's greatest president", with him being a relatively obscure president, mainly known for having served two non-consecutive terms and being generally ranked straight down the middle (20th or so) in historical rankings.
  • The Simpsons and Futurama writer Ken Keeler has apparently worked a joke referencing the fact the Grover served two non-consecutive terms into every show he has written for, for instance in the episode 'Two Bad Neighbors' (the one with George H.W. Bush).
    Abe: Grover Cleveland spanked me on two non-consecutive occasions.
    • When asked to explain why this trademark joke involving Cleveland was funny he replied, 'Oh, it's not funny!' and then explained the facts about Cleveland for those not aware.
    • In Futurama, the crew visit the Hall of Presidents in the Head Museum. First there is Grover Cleveland's head, then Benjamin Harrison's head, then a second Grover Cleveland's head.
  • In the TV reunion movie The Wild Wild West Revisited, Cleveland is one of a collection of world leaders suspected of being replaced with a robotic duplicate: "He looks like Grover Cleveland. He sounds like Grover Cleveland. He bumbles around ineptly like Grover Cleveland..."
  • In an episode of Murphy Brown, Phil complains that George Bush and his entourage never stop by his resturant while they're jogging. "What we need's another President like Grover Cleveland! Nice and fat and slow."
  • The Disney film The One And Only Genuine Original Family Band is about a politically divided family during the election of 1888. The family patriarch, played by Walter Brennan, is a hardcore Democrat who writes a campaign song for Cleveland, which we hear performed by the family twice during the film.
  • An episode of The Venture Bros. features a brief line referring to "Grover Cleveland's Presidential Time Machine". To date, it has not been mentioned again since, but the show's creators are fond of revisiting that kind of thing.