Our city is rich with a history that can be viewed in the form of plaques and monuments at sites of significance, and this week brings another addition to the fold. Allentown is acquiring a new marker honoring Frances Folsom Cleveland, the wife of former President Grover Cleveland.
A true Buffalo girl, Frances was born and raised at 168 Edward Street before marrying President Grover Cleveland and becoming First Lady of the United States in 1893. Her White House terms were streaked with famous firsts–her wedding to President Cleveland was the first presidential wedding held inside the White House. Her daughter Esther was the first child to be born in the White House, and Frances was the first presidential wife to experience two non-consecutive terms. All of these factors contributed to an 1890’s version of a media frenzy.
Modern First Ladies are outspoken champions of their own causes, no strangers to public scrutiny. The Obama’s recent vacation to Maine received ample coverage, and even their more private moments have been digitized and shot through cyberspace thanks to the ever-increasing persistence of media photographers. While this is expected in today’s society, a country insatiable for news of the President’s young wife became yet another of Frances’ first experiences.
Frances was the subject of admiration and imitation. Her face adorned advertisements, marketing and household products (much to the Cleveland family’s chagrin), and the “Baby Ruth” candy bar may have been named after Frances’ daughter Ruth, who was born in the gap between President Cleveland’s terms. While she kept a quiet presence as a First Lady, choosing not to speak out or foster any specific causes, her terms were marked with subtle but significant detail. She held reception times on weekends at the White House specifically to cater to the hours of working women, and planned her actions and public appearances carefully so that they became statements in their own right.
On Wednesday morning, Buffalo Common Council Members David Franczyk, Michael P. Kearns and Curtis Haynes, Jr. held a dedication ceremony at 168 Edward Street in Frances’ honor. They were joined by George Cleveland, the grandson of Frances Folsom Cleveland and Grover Cleveland. The marker will stand in front of the red brick house so that passers by can read about its significance, and learn about the First Lady’s early presence in our city.
If you’re in the Allentown area (Garden Walkers, take note!), take a stroll down Edward Street and be sure to enjoy a bit of one of Buffalo’s greatest gifts–it’s lasting history.