Although born in New Jersey, Cleveland made his mark in New York politics. He served as Mayor of Buffalo, after serving as Sheriff of Erie County. His success as Mayor swept him into the governorship of New York in 1882. His meteoric rise to the Presidency was nearly derailed when it was revealed that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock. Cleveland confronted the issue head on and it quickly became a non-issue.
Once he became President, the first Democrat elected after the Civil War and the only Democrat to serve between 1860 and 1912, he quickly moved to do away with corruption, party politics and scandal. During his administration the Interstate Commerce Commission was established to regulate railroads and later trucking in the United States. The ICC was abolished in 1995.
Cleveland, who had been a lifelong bachelor, married Frances Folsom in 1886 in a grand White House wedding (the only president to be married in the White House). Folsom was twenty-seven years younger than Cleveland, but the marriage was seemingly a happy one and Folsom became a very popular First Lady.
After losing to Benjamin Harrison in 1888, Cleveland returned to New York City to practice law and planning his return to Washington. Frances Cleveland is reported to have told a White House staff member in March 1889, "Now, Jerry, I want you to take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house, for I want to find everything just as it is now, when we come back again. We are coming back four years from today." He easily defeated Harrison in 1892. Cleveland's second term was marked by a severe economic depression, which Cleveland believed had been caused by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. Cleveland called Congress into special session and arranged for the law's repeal, which had been passed in 1890. However, the depression deepened and Cleveland was forced into a deal with J.P. Morgan, which was viewed by ordinary Americans that Cleveland had sold out and had lost touch with everyday America. These views were reinforced by Cleveland's handling of the Pullman Strike in 1894, when he sent U.S. troops to stop the violence at the Pullman facility in Chicago.
Cleveland went to the 1896 Democratic convention and faced a deeply divided party. William Jennings Bryan rose and gave an impassioned speech on the Gold Standard ("You shall not crucify mankind upon a Cross of Gold") and the party nominated Bryan to be their standard-bearer in 1896, though he lost the election to Republican William McKinley (come back next week!).
- born March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey
- died June 24, 1908 in Princeton, New Jersey (age 71)
- Party: Democrat
- Grover Cleveland / Thomas Hendricks (D) - 4,874,621 (48.5%) / 219 EVs
- James G. Blaine / John Logan (R) - 4,848,936 (48.25%) / 182 EVs
- Benjamin Harrison / Levi Morton (R) - 5,443,892 (47.82%) / 233 EVs
- Grover Cleveland / Allen Thurman (D) - 5,534,488 (48.62%) / 168 EVs
- Grover Cleveland / Adlai Stevenson (D) - 5,553,898 (46.02%) / 277 EVs
- Benjamin Harrison / Whitelaw Reid (R) - 5,190,799 (43.01%) / 145 EVs
- James Weaver / James Field (Populist) - 1,026,595 (8.51%) / 22 EVs
- Cleveland won the popular vote in 1888, but lost in the Electoral College. All three of the elections in which he was involved we decided by 3 percentage points or less.
- In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, although it was Cleveland's administration that passed the nation's first immigration exclusion laws.
- Cleveland was born Stephen Grover Cleveland (see also Woodrow Wilson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Gerald Ford).
- Cleveland and Wilson are also linked in that, during his retirement, Cleveland sat on the Board of Trustees at Princeton University at the time when Wilson was serving as its President.
- As Sheriff of Erie County, he was also Chief Executioner and personally hanged two murderers.
- Cleveland answered his own phone in the White House.
- Cleveland vetoed more than 400 bills in his first term, more than double the number of vetoes cast by all previous presidents. Cleveland used his veto powers 584 times during his two terms, which is exceeded only by Franklin Roosevelt, who served longer than Cleveland.
- Cleveland was distantly related to the general Moses Cleaveland, for whom the city of Cleveland is named.
- Cleveland had significant oral surgery to remove cancer in his mouth during his second term. The President was operated while on the presidential yacht and it was not until 1917, when one of the surgeons wrote an article about the procedure that the truth was known.
- In the current series of Presidential $1 coins, Cleveland will be honored with two coins to mark his two discontinuous terms.
- Grover and Frances Cleveland's daughter, Esther, was the first child born in the White House