"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."
"Take care of the place [the White House], we'll be back."
—Frances Folsom Cleveland
"Grover Cleveland served another term." Grover Cleveland
—"The Presidents," again
(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
), 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: