The self-educated Cleveland came from a poor family. After reading law and clerking at a Buffalo, New York law firm, he was admitted to the bar in 1859. A Democrat, he entered Buffalo’s political arena in 1862 and was elected mayor in 1881 and governor of New York State in 1882. As governor, his opposition to patronage raised his national standing, even as it rankled New York City’s Democratic machine.
Cleveland brought his belief in clean government to the White House in 1885. The first Democrat to hold the office after the Civil War, Cleveland’s term was marked by significant efforts toward civil service reform. While he won the popular vote in his bid for a second term as president, he failed to secure the majority of votes in the Electoral College and Benjamin Harrison won the 1888 election. Cleveland returned to New York and the practice of law.
Cleveland did not abandon politics, however, and he was renominated for another presidential bid in 1892, this time winning over Harrison. Cleveland became the only U.S. chief executive to serve two nonconsecutive terms. His second administration was plagued by economic instability and social unrest. Within months after Cleveland regained the presidency, the nation suffered the worst economic downturn in its history. Believing the Sherman Silver Purchasing Act largely responsible for economic woes, Cleveland called Congress into session and lobbied successfully to repeal the act.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, economic depression persisted. The violent Pullman Strike in Chicago, the rise of a third political party (The People’s Party or Populist Party) and the Free Silver Movement all signaled growing dissatisfaction with the status quo. In 1896, Cleveland lost the Democratic nomination to William Jennings Bryan. Cleveland retired to Princeton, New Jersey. He was elected a trustee of Princeton University in 1901; he lectured there and had an active role in the university community until his death in 1908.
- Grover Cleveland: A Resource Guide compiles links to digital materials related to Cleveland such as manuscripts, broadsides, government documents, and images that are available throughout the Library of Congress Web site.
- The Library of Congress digital collections include a wide variety of primary source materials documenting presidential inaugurations, including Cleveland’s 1885 and 1889 inaugurations.
- Learn a Grover Cleveland song! Search the collection Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, ca. 1870 to 1885 on the keyword Grover Cleveland to locate songs written for and about the president including “Here’s a Health to Grover Cleveland.”
- Search on Grover Cleveland in Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera for broadsides and leaflets relating to the president.
- Search Chronicling America to locate newspaper articles about Grover Cleveland. In addition, the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room has created a series of topic guides to the newspapers included in Chronicling America, including guides on the Cleveland Administration and Frances Clara Folsom Cleveland.
- The Gottscho-Schleisner Collection contains ten photographs of Grover Cleveland’s birthplace in Caldwell, New Jersey.