It’s Valentine’s Day and we sure do love history. On this day of cards, flowers, and chocolate, we wanted to take some time to celebrate stories of love and romance in the museum’s collections.
Grover Cleveland's wedding invitation
What’s more romantic than a wedding? A White House Wedding of course! In 1886, President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom in a private White House ceremony, making him the only president whose wedding took place at the White House. While Cleveland was the only president to do it, plenty of First Kids have also been married at the White House. More about their stories can be seen in The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden.
Ruth Hensinger's wedding dress
And speaking of weddings…nothing says love like making your own wedding dress out of the very parachute that saved your husband-to-be’s life. When Major Claude Hensinger, a B-29 pilot, had to bail out of his plane after an engine caught fire over Yowata, Japan, in 1944, his parachute cushioned his landing. He then used it as a blanket and pillow while spending the night outside. When Major Hensinger proposed in 1947 to his wife-to-be, Ruth, he presented her with this parachute and suggested she use it to make her wedding gown. Not only did she wear it, but Mr. and Mrs. Hensinger’s daughter and their son’s bride also wore the dress on their wedding days.
The Gunboat Philadelphia
Of course, some objects tell a hidden story of romance. The oldest surviving American fighting vessel, the Gunboat Philadelphia, sunk in Lake Champlain in October 1776 during the Battle of Valcour Island. Benedict Arnold (yes, that Benedict Arnold) led the Continental Army in this battle and, although the battle was a defeat, his leadership is seen as a success because it delayed Britain’s planned invasion of Lake Champlain and the Hudson Valley. You may know Benedict Arnold as America’s most famous traitor, but before he attempted to give the British the plans to West Point in 1780, it was his wartime romance with loyalist Peggy Shippen that landed him in hot water. Some say, although Arnold denied it, that his love for Shippen influenced his decision to turn traitor. The two, brought together in Revolutionary War-torn Philadelphia, married in 1779 and had five children.
Kermit the Frog
Up until summer 2015, no couple better stood the test of time like Kermit the Frog and his lady love, Miss Piggy. On screen, this puppet duo solved crimes, hosted TV shows, traveled to space, and much more. Out of respect during this sensitive time, our curators aren't commenting on personal interactions between the puppets in our collection. All things considered, while it might not be easy being green, Kermit and Miss Piggy have long taught us that love takes dedication and the occasional high kick or song. Who knows? Perhaps it's not the end for this superstar couple.
R2-D2 and C-3PO
Sometimes, the greatest love is the love of friendship. These buddies took care of each other through thick and thin, and the costumes used in the Star Wars films are now cared for as part of the museum’s collections. In this case of a loving friendship, R2-D2 was most certainly the droid C-3PO was looking for. What are your favorite historical romances?
Susan Evans is the Daily Programs and Theater Coordinator in the Office of Education and Public Programs at the National Museum of American History.