How many of you went to Cleveland High School or Cleveland Elementary, or ever lived on Cleveland Street? Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey.
With the American Civil War raging, Congress passed the Conscription Act of 1863, requiring able-bodied men to serve in the army if called upon, or else hire a substitute. Grover Cleveland (1837 – 1908) chose the latter, paying $150 (equivalent to $3,500 in 2019) to George Benninsky, a 32-year-old Polish immigrant, to serve in his place. Cleveland never paid the promised second payment of $150 to Benninsky for “surviving the war”. In 1885, a destitute Brinski, who could no longer work due to a war related injury, went to Cleveland for help, and the president refused any assistance. Ironically, Cleveland had already written: “The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune...” and “I have tried so hard to do right.”
When Cleveland was 49-years-old, he married Frances Folsom at the White House becoming the only president to do so. Their daughter, Esther, was the only president’s child to be born in the White House. Frances was an Instagram influencer and set trends with hairstyles and clothing choices. Her image was used without her permission to advertise many products and she became quite litigious. After Cleveland died in 1908, Frances became the first president’s wife to remarry.
Cleveland was nominated as the Democratic candidate for president in 1884. His opponent was Republican James Blaine.
During the campaign, the Republicans used Cleveland’s past against him. Maria C. Halpin gave birth to a son in 1874 and named Cleveland as the father. He agreed to pay child support, eventually paying for him to be put into an orphanage. The Republicans used this bit of dirt against him. It backfired, his honesty when dealing with this issue made him more popular with the voters. Even more than 100 years ago, out-of-wedlock was no barrier to political support. Cleveland won the election with just 49 percent of the popular vote and 55 percent of the electoral vote.
Cleveland ran for reelection in 1888 and lost. When he ran again in 1892, he won by only ten electoral votes. He remains the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.
Soon after Cleveland became POTUS for a second time, the Panic of 1893 occurred, creating a deep economic depression resulting in millions of unemployed Americans. Riots occurred with many Americans asking for government help. Cleveland believed government’s role was not to help people harmed by the economy. Remember, this was back when Democrats were Republicans and Republicans were Democrats. I know, it is all a bit confusing.
Cleveland’s portrait was on the U.S. $1000 bill of series 1928 and series 1934. The U.S. Treasury now only prints currency up to $100 bills. It is believed that there are still about 165,000 Cleveland $1000 bills.