#22 & #24: Review of “Grover Cleveland” by Henry Graff (1885-89 & 1893-97)

#22 & #24: Review of “Grover Cleveland” by Henry Graff (1885-89 & 1893-97)

This guy was a good dude compared to the like of a James Buchanan or, I hate to admit it, Grant. I didn’t realize or maybe didn’t want to admit that Grant’s administration was pretty darn corrupt, especially during his 2nd term. Cleveland was a pretty straight-laced dude. He seemed to practice (not perfectly of course) what he preached that “public office is a public trust.” 

He was born in Caldwell, NJ to a Presbyterian minister. There’s a lot of cool things that I learned in this book, one of which is how quickly Cleveland became President. He was elected Mayor of Buffalo, NY in 1881, Governor of NY in 1883, and President in 1885…wow. How ‘bout that for a resume? Quick philosophical musing: you know how society pushes that your resume’s SUPER IMPORTANT…I wonder what current & former Presidents feel about having the best resume one can have, ya know? Was it as satisfying as they thought it’d be? 

Back to the facts. Cleveland was a bachelor up until he married Frances. Cleveland was 49 & Frances was 21 when they got married. Several big political issues that Cleveland confronted were civil service reform (which was basically an effort to curb political corruption like people getting jobs in return for their vote), the tariff, and trying to figure out if the country should run on a gold or silver standard. 

Overall, I liked Cleveland. He wasn’t that flashy of a dude like I’m hoping Teddy will be, but I usually admire someone like Cleveland that kept his head down in pursuit of the greater good. He also died on June 24, 1908 (the day I finished reading the book so it felt like a double-whammy death…death of my book & the man).

6 fun facts about Grover Cleveland from the book

  1. Cleveland had a tumor in his mouth while President. Being a very modest man & not wanting to worry the country, he secretly had his tumor removed aboard a wealthy friend’s yacht. They did it off of Long Island inside the boat so no reporters or randos could break the news!
  2. Anybody like Baby Ruth’s?? Like the candy. It got its name from Cleveland’s 1st daughter, Ruth, who unfortunately passed away at the age of 13. Upon further examination I learned that this fact might be questionable as the candy came out only 1 year after Babe Ruth hit 54 home runs. Regardless, it’s still a fun fact! As the adage goes, “truth is stranger than fiction.” 
  3. Oh yeah…there’s a Presidential yacht OR there was one, called the Dispatch. Hayes was the 1st President to have a recommissioned Naval ship at his disposal for getting places quickly, reviewing the Naval fleet, and escaping the crowds. According to this article, every President had a yacht available to them until Jimmy Carter discontinued it in 1977. It was on the Dispatch that Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty in 1886. I want a yacht! 
  4. Cleveland was a Chicago White Stocking fan, so he invited the team to the White House. When the player-manger, Cap Anson, invited him to a game, Cleveland said this hilarious quote, “What do you think the American people would think of me if I wasted my time going to a ball game? No thanks.” My how the Presidency has changed! This is not a shot at Trump…I’m sure Presidents have been doing this kind of thing for a long time. 
  5. Ever stayed at the Willard Hotel in DC? It’s a super famous hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. where many famous people including Lincoln & Cleveland both stayed. The reason I’m including this is that this is where Cleveland ate breakfast on the morning of his 2nd inauguration. The book talked about how legendary it’s breakfast bar was. If you know me well, you know I LOVE BREAKFAST. Breakfast, next to McKay’s Used Books & frozen custard, are next to godliness for me. I just thought it was awesome that a hotel’s breakfast bar got a shoutout in a Presidential biography. 1st time this has happened in all of the books I’ve read so far! What are your favorite breakfast foods? 

Further learning:

-oh yeah…Cleveland wrote 2 articles for The Atlantic…that’s super cool to me.

-one thing that I’d never heard of that took place during Cleveland’s time in power was the HayMarket Square Riot in Chicago in 1886. Basically some very upset workers (mostly Germans) who were striking threw a bomb into the midst of all the rioting. It set off wide-spread fear of foreign people. Some of this reminds me of our time today.

-speaking of riots, as a student of the Chinese language (I minored in it at Wake), probably the most famous Chinese riot was the Tiananmen Square Protest in 1989. While at Wake I got to meet a Wake alum that was on Tiananmen Square when the protest erupted…hearing her tell her experience of it was nuts!! Were any of you at Tiananmen Square when the protests began or have any of you been out protesting in the last few weeks? Would love to hear more about your experience of it!

-I’d love to read a book about the history of journalism in America. Seems like all we talk about sometimes is “the media.” What even is “the media?” And what’s legit & not legit about it? If you know of any good books on this topic, let me know. Thanks!

Shoutouts/updates FROM YOU:

-major shoutout to my sister-in-law & fellow Presidential History aficionado, Rose Dorman. Guys!! She was bored, so decided to watch that video of how to memorize all the President in order & DID IT!! I was so impressed. Major good vibes to you, Rosie!! We’re working on memorizing the 66 books of the Bible next if you want to join us…let me know

Peace, love, and pizza (what’s your favorite kind??),


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