Grover Cleveland (b March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, N.J; d June 24,1908 in Princeton, N.J.) was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms, that of 1885-1889 and of 1893-1897. William Steinway became acquainted with Cleveland in 1869 when he was a client of Cleveland’s law practice in Buffalo concerned with settling his mother-in-law’s estate. He was an early political supporter in Cleveland’s bids for governor of New York State and for president of the United States.
Cleveland was a Democrat, elected mayor of Buffalo, N.Y. in 1882 on a ticket to reform the city administration, which he did. (3). He served as governor of New York State from 1883 to 1885 (1). Cleveland was elected to his first term as President in 1884, and inaugurated in 1885. In 1887, his administration created the Interstate Commerce Commission, the first federal regulatory agency (2). He was nominated for a second term in 1888, but was defeated in the general election by his Republican opponent, Benjamin Harrison (1). Cleveland was nominated for the Presidency again in 1892. The issue of reducing the country’s high tariffs dominated his campaign (1). Unfortunately, the first year of his second term in office coincided with the business downturn and banking crisis of 1893. The economic downturn put the gold standard in jeopardy, there not being enough gold reserve to redeem paper specie backed by gold. Cleveland ordered the Treasury to sell bonds to increase the government’s gold reserves. This bold action "saved the public credit"(4). Also, Cleveland was successful in obtaining passage of the silver repeal bill, as he argued the silver purchase provision of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 was responsible for an alarming drain on the country’s gold reserves. Although he had pledged to reform the tariff, his initiative to substantially lower the tariff was defeated. As a tariff reduction bill made its way through Congress, various senators added duties on a variety of goods, so that the overall reduction was insignificant, much to the President’s distress (1).
William Steinway became an early political supporter of Cleveland in the campaign for governor of New York (Diary, 1882-11-09) and the two campaigns for the presidency. In recognition of his political support in organizing German-Americans for Cleveland, William was given the honor of being an elector for the Cleveland ticket in 1892 (Diary, 1892-11-08). Electors are members of the Electoral College who meet in state capitals and formally ratify the election results. While in office, Cleveland invited William to the White House several times to consult on political appointments (Diary, 1887-06-11; 1887-06-13). William backed the President on both the silver repeal (Diary, 1893-08-08) and tariff reduction issues, and followed their progress through the Congress with interest.
Grover Cleveland was the only president to be married in the White House. He was a bachelor when elected President, 49 years old, and his bride, Frances Folsom, was 21. They were married during his first term, in 1886. Frances Cleveland charmed politicians and the press. She was the country’s youngest First Lady. Their first child, Ruth, was born in 1891 (Diary, 1891-10-10), between the two presidential terms. The press eagerly reported news of the child, referring to her as Baby Ruth (which later became the name of a candy bar). A second child, Esther, was born during Cleveland’s second term (Diary, 1893-09-09). William felt especially honored to be invited to functions that included Mrs. Cleveland (Diary, 1894-01-10).
1. Brodsky, Alyn. Grover Cleveland, A Study in Character. New York: St. Martin, 2000, pages 51, 221-222, 274, 322-323, 350-352.
2. Malone, Dumas, ed. Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Scribner, 1936, "Cleveland,Stephen Grover" volume IV, pp. 205-212.
3. Degregorio, William. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Wings, 1993, pp. 319-329 & 345-351.
4. "All Unite to Praise Cleveland’s Memory," The New York Times, Jun 25, 1908, p.3.