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Grover Cleveland
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Zorn’s painting shows Grover Cleveland after his presidential terms in his Princeton, New Jersey home.

A heavy set man, some say he loved to eat but some say he’s full of secrets, that’s why his frame is so big. Although historians considered Cleveland’s presidential terms subpar, his love life is as scandalous as the Kardashians’. His wife Frances Clara Folsom, twenty seven years younger and his best friend’s daughter, was the youngest first lady to enter the white house. A previous article has already covered the creepiness of this story, but it seems this 1886 wedding, covered extensively by the media, silenced an even more scandalous story.

In July 21, 1884, the Buffalo Evening Telegraph published a story stating ten years ago, Cleveland fathered a child with widow, Maria Halpin, who was later admitted to an asylum and her child adopted by another family. This story broke out in the midst of the 1884 campaign and Cleveland, true to his “honest” reputation, admitted the child might be his giving him an honesty pass with the public.

Cleveland’s PR team took this yes, but like, maybe answer to spin the story to hint that the child could have been fathered by any few married attorneys in Cleveland’s circle. They claimed that Cleveland had obviously been gracious enough to take the blame to protect his friends. If only DNA testing existed then, what a dream case for the Maury show.

Maria Halpin had a different story to tell. According to Halpin’s 1874 affidavit referenced in a Chicago Tribune article, Cleveland had pursued her aggressively and the child was born of after an incident that wasn’t consensual. When the child, Oscar Folsom Cleveland was born, he was placed in an orphanage and she was placed in an asylum. After being evaluated and deemed perfectly sane, she was released from the asylum and attempted to file a case of assault and abduction against Cleveland. She presented a letter said to be in Cleveland’s handwriting demanding she surrender her son for $500, a hefty sum at the time, and forget the whole thing.

Even the child’s name seems to have been considered a hint at the child’s “real” father, Cleveland’s friend Oscar Folsom, who had conveniently passed in 1875 in a carriage accident. Halpin also claims this was an attempt by Cleveland’s PR team to falsely link Oscar Folsom to the child. This is the same Oscar Folsom whose daughter, Frances Clara Folsom, Cleveland married in 1886. Cleveland still won the presidential election as more people believed his story over Halpin’s. Halpin remarried and lived a quiet life. Halpin’s child was adopted by a Buffalo family and is said to have changed his name.

Many still make the case for Cleveland’s story and think Halpin was a loose, unfit, and alcoholic mother. Whichever story we choose to believe, we have to admit history tends to take the side of the rich and powerful. The real winners of this story is Cleveland’s PR team. Were they still alive, they would certainly still have a job spinning and giving alternative truths to political scandals.

 

Sources

Sources

  1. Dare, Laren. “Age Ain’t Nothing but a number to Mr. and Mrs. Grover Cleveland.” Sartle. Accessed: September 23, 2017. https://www.sartle.com/artwork/portrait-of-mrs-grover-cleveland-anders-zorn
  2. Dunlap, Anette. Frank: The Story of Frances Folsom Cleveland, America's Youngest First Lady. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2009. PDF e-book. http://goo.gl/1L1csy
  3. NCC Staff. “10 Fascinating Facts about Grover Cleveland the Only Double President.” Constitution Daily. March 18, 2017. Accessed: September 23, 2017. https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/10-fascinating-facts-about-grover-cl...
  4. Serratore, Angela. “President Cleveland’s Problem Child.” Smithsonian. September, 26, 2013. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/president-clevelands-problem-child...
  5. Lachman, Charles. “Grover Cleveland's Sex Scandal: The Most Despicable in American Political History,” Daily Beast, May 23, 2011. Accessed: September 23, 2017. http://www.thedailybeast.com/grover-clevelands-sex-scandal-the-most-desp...