Strings – Frances Folsom Cleveland, Jack of Clubs
1998, oil and acrylic on canvas, 64 x 70”
Frances was the daughter of Oscar Folsom, Grover Cleveland’s long-time friend. When Frances was eleven, Oscar died. Grover was appointed administrator of his estate and guided young Frances’ education. Forty-nine-year-old President Grover Cleveland married twenty-one-year-old Frances Folsom on 2 June 1886 in the White House. She became the youngest First Lady and the object of much curiosity. When Grover was asked why he hadn’t married before, he replied he was waiting for his wife to grow up.
Despite baseless rumors that Frances was unhappy and abused, she delighted in her role as First Lady. When Grover was defeated in the 1888 Presidential campaign, she defiantly announced that she would be First Lady again in four years. In 1892, Grover became the only President to win two nonconsecutive terms, and Frances returned triumphantly to Washington. She was a very popular public figure and held a great deal of influence over her robust husband. In Frances’s portrait, it is clear who is pulling the strings. Five years after Grover’s death, Frances became the first presidential widow to remarry.