Overall, nine single presidents in U.S. history. But some were widowers to begin with or became widowers in office. Grover Cleveland and James Buchanan were the only true bachelors to be elected president.
A singular occasion
On June 2, 1886, something remarkable occurred in American history when Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, broke tradition by becoming the first U.S. president to marry while in office.
In a private ceremony held at the White House, Cleveland exchanged vows with Frances Folsom, a woman 27 years younger than him. This event captivated the public’s attention and set a new precedent for presidential marriages.
Single presidents are rare
Before Cleveland, James Buchanan held the distinction of being the only unmarried president. Throughout his tenure as the 15th president from 1857 to 1861, Buchanan remained a lifelong bachelor, a unique status that fascinated many. His unmarried status stood out amidst the expectations of the time and became an intriguing aspect of his presidential legacy.
Cleveland’s marriage to Frances Folsom became a source of great interest and fascination for both the public and the media. The significant age difference between the two further fueled curiosity. Cleveland, aged 49 at the time, married Frances, who was a mere 21, making her the youngest first lady in U.S. history. Their wedding, held in the Blue Room of the White House, attracted attention nationwide and garnered extensive media coverage.
Even more eyebrow-raising was the fact that Cleveland was expected to marry Frances’ mother when she became a widower!
A rare presidential wedding
Cleveland’s decision to marry while serving as president challenged the traditional perception of the presidency. It showcased a more personal and relatable side of the president, emphasizing his capacity for love, companionship, and family life. The public’s reception of their union reflected evolving societal norms, recognizing the president as an individual capable of forming personal connections and balancing personal and public responsibilities.
Frances Folsom Cleveland’s presence as the first lady injected youthfulness and charm into the White House. She quickly became a popular figure, admired for her grace and elegance. Her involvement in social and public activities added a touch of glamour to the political arena. The Cleveland marriage symbolized unity and hope, bridging generational and social gaps within the country.
While Grover Cleveland’s marriage broke new ground, it is essential to highlight the contrasting story of James Buchanan. Buchanan’s lifelong bachelorhood remains a topic of intrigue in presidential history. His personal choice to remain unmarried added an air of mystery to his presidency, setting him apart from his contemporaries.