Kurt's Historic Sites

Cleveland wreath-laying

Grover Cleveland

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Princeton, NJ June 12, 2004 9th President visited

Photographed April 23, 2010.

A 15-minute walk from the Ivy League university, Princeton Cemetery is the final resting place of several notables. They include Declaration of Independence signer John Witherspoon, theologian Jonathan Edwards, and his grandson — U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr. The 22nd and 24th U.S. president is there too, along with First Lady Frances Cleveland and their eldest daughter, Ruth.

In today’s age Grover Cleveland most often comes to mind because he was the lone U.S. president elected to non-consecutive terms, not because of his policies. It is an ironic fate for a man who is reputed to have said, “Someday I will be better remembered.” This alleged quotation inspired the creation of the Colorado-based Grover Cleveland Art Appreciation Society, which collects and promotes contemporary renditions of the man it has dubbed “America’s Most Average President.” The society holds an annual Inktober-inspired event called Grovtober, a month-long celebration in which people submit creations that correspond to daily prompts — many of which are zany, like “Grover as a ladybug.” In 2021 I submitted a drawing for the 27th prompt of Grovtober: “Grover as a skeleton.” This image of me at the Democrat’s gravesite inspired my artwork, which you can view on Instagram by clicking here.

Photographed June 12, 2004.
Photographed April 23, 2010.

Though Cleveland is relatively obscure to the population at large, tokens left at his grave demonstrate that he is not entirely forgotten. On our second visit in 2010, my father and I were told these shells and other gifts were left by Indigenous Hawaiians grateful for Cleveland’s refusal to annex their kingdom after it was overthrown by white American capitalists with support from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1893. Cleveland’s imperialist successor, William McKinley, approved Hawaii’s annexation in 1898 and it became the 50th U.S. state in 1959 during the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration.

The residence where Cleveland died, Westland Mansion, is a privately-owned home 0.6 miles from the Princeton Cemetery gate. The manse where he was born in the city of Caldwell is open for tours and is operated by the Grover Cleveland Birthplace Memorial Association. It attracts approximately 6,000 visitors in an average year.

Photographed April 23, 2010.

Fast Facts

Born: March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey

Spouse: Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston (m. 1886-1908)

Political Affiliation: Democratic Party

Gubernatorial Term: 1883-1885

Presidential Term: 1885-1889, 1893-1897

Vice Presidents: Thomas A. Hendricks (1885); Adlai E. Stevenson I (1893-1897)

Died: June 24, 1908 in Princeton, New Jersey

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

Age: 71

Last Words: “I have tried so hard to do right.”

Interment: Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, New Jersey

"The Constitution which prescribes his oath, my countrymen, is yours; the Government you have chosen him to administer for a time is yours; the suffrage which executes the will of freemen is yours; the laws and the entire scheme of our civil rule, from the town meeting to the State capitals and the national capital, is yours. Your every voter, as surely as your Chief Magistrate, under the same high sanction, though in a different sphere, exercises a public trust. Nor is this all. Every citizen owes to the country a vigilant watch and close scrutiny of its public servants and a fair and reasonable estimate of their fidelity and usefulness."
- Grover Cleveland

March 4, 1885 in his first inaugural address

Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Brockell, Gillian. “Why do we celebrate Labor Day? So Grover Cleveland could own the left.” Washington Post. September 5, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2022/09/05/labor-day-may-grover-cleveland/.

Cleveland, Grover. “Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1885. Transcript. From University of Virginia, Miller Center. https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/march-4-1885-first-inaugural-address.

Grover Cleveland Birthplace Memorial Association. “Building a Better Birthplace.” Accessed January 11, 2022. https://presidentcleveland.org/building-a-better-birthplace/.

Lamb, Brian and the staff of C-SPAN. Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. Rev. ed. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

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