The 2007 White House Christmas ornament celebrates the first administration of Grover Cleveland, the 22nd (1885-1889) and 24th (1893-1897) president of the United States. The first Democrat to become president in 24 years, he was the only chief executive to leave the White House and return for a second term four years later. The 49 year old bachelor was also the only president to be married in the White House.
Cleveland’s First Term (1885-1889)
One of nine children of a Presbyterian minister and his wife, Grover Cleveland was born in New Jersey in 1837 and raised in upstate New York. As a reform candidate he was elected mayor of Buffalo in 1881, and later, governor of New York. His political prominence carried him into the White House just three years later. In the White House, Cleveland became one of the hardest working presidents ever, doing his own paperwork and routinely working past midnight. He paid his own expenses, dispensed with luxuries such as the presidential yacht, and bemoaned the fancy White House cooking.
To many he seemed like a new Andrew Jackson. He had the same toughness and incorruptibility, and the same courage to stand up to an obstacle. As with Jackson, Cleveland’s power struggle as president would be with the Senate over what has become known as an early form of “executive privilege.” He won the battle and used his powers liberally, vetoing legislation nearly 600 times. The pension and drought relief bills he vetoed were popular with the people, and gradually he lost their support and reelection bid in 1888.
A Presidential Romance and Wedding
The early Cleveland White House was a lonely bachelor’s house. The picture changed on Wednesday, June 2, 1886, when Grover Cleveland married 21 year old Frances “Frank” Folsom in a small ceremony in the Blue Room. The courtship had been conducted secretly and largely by mail. The president included his proposal of marriage in a letter to his ward Frank, the daughter of his late law partner. The formal announcement of the engagement was made on May 28, 1886 and they were married five days later. The public was captivated and the White House bride earned nation-wide respect.
The wedding ceremony portrayed on this year’s ornament is a reproduction of an engraving that appeared in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Magazine in 1886 showing the bride and groom exchanging vows. The gold-plated frame showcases design elements from the Cleveland’s’ wedding album and the groom’s monogram anchors a border of orange blossoms from the bride’s wedding gown while her monogram appears on the reverse.
The second term of the Cleveland presidency will be featured on the 2009 ornament.
Of the previous White House Christmas ornaments, 19 honored presidents, starting with George Washington. The 1989 ornament pays tribute to the bicentennial of the American presidency while the bicentennial of the White House as home of the president was commemorated in 2000. The 2002 ornament honored the centennial of restoration of the White House and the building of the West wing.
The cost of the ornament is $16.95 plus packing and delivery and can be ordered from the White House Historical Association, P.O. Box 96586, Washington, D.C. 20090-6586, or you may call toll free 1-800-555-2451, or visit online at www.whitehousehistory.org. Each of the 26 ornaments (from 1981 to 2006) is also available, along with educational brochures.
The White House Historical Association was established in 1961 as a non-profit organization to enhance the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the White House. All proceeds from its trusts and sales of ornaments, publications and other association products are used to fund acquisitions of historic furnishings and art works for the permanent White House collection, assist in the preservation of the public rooms, and further its educational mission.