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Grover Cleveland Biography

22nd and 24th President of the United States

Years Served as President: 1885-1889 and 1893-1897

Vice President: Thomas Andrews Hendricks, Adlai Ewing Stevenson

Party: Democrat

Age at Inauguration: 47, 55

Grover Cleveland

Home State: New Jersey

Date of Birth: March 18, 1837

Died: June 24, 1908

Married: Frances Folsom

Children: Ruth, Esther, Marion, Richard, Frances

Nickname: The Beast of Buffalo, Uncle Jumbo

What is Grover Cleveland known for?

Grover Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

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He was president from 1885-1889, then lost the following election. He came back to win again in the election after that, serving four more years from 1893-1897.

Early Life

Stephen Grover Cleveland was born in New Jersey in 1837. He was the fifth of nine children to his parents Richard, a Presbyterian minister, and Anne.

The family moved to upstate New York, where Cleveland’s father died in 1853. Cleveland left school to help support his family. He worked as a teacher in a school for the blind, then a clerk in a law firm.

He couldn’t afford a college education. After working as a law clerk for several years, however, Cleveland passed the state bar exam in 1859. He established his own law firm in 1862.

practicing lawyer

Political Career

Cleveland’s political career began in 1871 when he became the sheriff of Erie County, New York. He returned to his law practice in 1873 and was persuaded to run for the mayor of Buffalo in 1881.

He won the election and quickly gained a reputation for being an honest man. People knew that Cleveland did not participate in the corrupt politics and dealings of the time period, and he became very popular.

Soon, Cleveland was asked to run for governor of New York, and he became the governor in 1883. He fought against unnecessary government spending and vetoed eight bills in his first two months.


Although he made some political enemies, Cleveland became even more popular with voters. He was soon seen as a possible presidential candidate.

Presidential Election

In 1884, Cleveland won the Democratic presidential nomination. He was up against the Republican James Blaine, a U.S. Senator from Maine.

Related: Democracy facts

Blaine was seen as a corrupt politician, so the Democrats believed Cleveland had a great chance to win the election.

In a close election, Cleveland won and became the 22nd president.

James G Blaine
James G Blaine

Presidency-First Term

As president, Cleveland tried to reduce government spending and political corruption. He vetoed far more congressional bills than any president who had served before.

In 1886, he married Frances Folsom, a student at Wells College. Cleveland became the first president to have his wedding ceremony in the White House. The couple went on to have five children.

Between Terms

Cleveland ran for reelection in 1888. However, he lost a close race to Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland won the popular vote, but Harrison won the electoral vote.

For the next four years, Cleveland returned to his law firm in New York City.

statue of liberty copper
Statue of Liberty seen from the Circle Line ferry, Manhattan, New York

During the presidential campaign of 1892, President Harrison’s wife was dying of tuberculosis. President Harrison did not campaign personally, so Cleveland chose to do the same.

Cleveland won the election. He returned to the White House as the only president to serve non-consecutive terms.

Presidency- Second Term

Near the start of Cleveland’s second term, The Panic of 1893 hit the United States. It was a financial crisis marked by railroad bankruptcy, bank failures, a credit crisis, and a stock market crash.

stock market crash and panic

Many people lost their jobs. Unemployment rose to 19 percent. Cleveland’s efforts to bring the country out of recession were mostly unsuccessful.

The country didn’t recover until around 1897. Although some Democrats did want Cleveland to run for a third term, he was unpopular with many others and declined.

pay and money

He’s remembered as an honest and hard-working president. However, he is often criticized for not having a clear vision for the country.

After the Presidency

Cleveland retired to Princeton, New Jersey. Beginning in 1901, he served as a trustee of Princeton University until his death.

He died of a heart attack at age 71 on June 24, 1908.

the heart veins & arteries

Fun Facts About Grover Cleveland

In total, Grover Cleveland vetoed 414 bills during his first term. This was twice as many as the 21 presidents who had served before him combined.

Some people called Cleveland “The Veto President,” which had also been the nickname of President Andrew Johnson.

At age 21, Cleveland’s wife Frances is still the youngest First Lady in U.S. history.

Frances and Grover Cleveland

When leaving the White House after Cleveland’s first term, it’s said that Frances told the staff she would be back in four years. Of course, she turned out to be right.

The Panic of 1893 is still the second-worst financial crisis in U.S. history. Only the Great Depression in 1929 was worse.

The Baby Ruth candy bar was named after President Cleveland’s daughter Ruth.

Baby Ruth bar

When Cleveland died, his last words were, “I have tried so hard to do right.”

US Presidents

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