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EXIT 5, I-287e in New Jersey, to Livingston and the Caldwells
"Caldwell is part of "The Caldwells", the group of three Essex County municipalities. These communities are named after the Reverend James Caldwell, an American Patriot during the Revolution. During early years of the war when the Americans barely had shoes much less ammunition, the pastor is said to have supplied American soldiers pages from hymn books to use as wadding for their musket bullets. Talk about spreading the word of God!
Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. President Cleveland was born in Caldwell in 1837.
In Caldwell you can even still see President Cleveland's wedding cake. That may be because Grover was at the time the only President to marry in the White House and yet another distinction, his wife Frances still holds the record for being the youngest First Lady ever. Frances married her husband at age 21. Frisky rotund Grover was just shy of his fiftieth birthday. Nevertheless, they wasted no time and went on to have 5 children.
Fast rewind. The fifth of nine children himself, Grover Cleveland's mother was the daughter of a Caldwell bookseller and his father was a Presbyterian minister. The Grover Cleveland birthplace - the church's rectory - is now a museum nearby and is open to the public. Here you can witness the blessed wedding cake from the 1886 ceremony.
Later Grover headed west to Buffalo, New York where he served as a lawyer, sheriff, and mayor. He then ascended to become the Governor of New York.
For a President, not a lot in Buffalo commemorates Mayor Cleveland’s service except that he is known for having an affinity for all things German — especially German food like sausages and potato pancakes and of course beer. He loved hanging out in German taverns swilling beer. No doubt this enamored him to the large German immigrant population who reliably voted him into office. No doubt beer itself made him quite large. By modern standards he was obese.
As a Presidential Candidate in 1884, Cleveland was the leader of the pro-business Bourbon Democrats who were known more for what they opposed than what they supported. The Bourbon Democrats opposed high tariffs, Free Silver, inflation, international expansionism, and free subsidies to business, farmers, or even Civil War Veterans.
Almost exactly 100 years later in the 1980’s, President Cleveland became a ROLE MODEL OF RONALD REAGAN’s. His fiscal conservatism and passion to control federal spending made him an icon for American conservatives then and now.
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Grover Cleveland won praise for his honesty and commitment to fiscal restraint. During the so-called Gilded Age of Robber barons, Grover relentlessly fought political corruption.
As a reformer in the Democratic Party his prestige was so strong that the like-minded group of the Republican Party, called "Mugwumps" switched sides in the 1884 election to support the Democrat. The love affair did not last and Cleveland was defeated in his second term by Republican Benjamin Harrison.
Then four years later, Cleveland decided to run again and this time he won. As his second term began, disaster hit the nation when the Panic of 1893 produced a severe financial depression which Cleveland was unable to reverse. It ruined his second Presidency, opening the way for a Republican landslide in 1894 which led to the Republican Presidencies of William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt.
Yet another Caldwell New Jersey celebrity was Johnny Sylvester. Johnny is best known as the handicapped boy for whom Babe Ruth promised that he would hit a home run in the 1926 World Series.
Little Johnny Sylvester grew up in Caldwell suffering from a blow to his head which impaired his mobility and was deemed by doctors as a mortal affliction. Somewhat remarkably, The Babe’s home run visibly improved Johnny who in fact went on to live a long and productive life. After attending Princeton University, Johnny Sylvester from Caldwell served as a lieutenant in the navy during World War Two then became a successful businessman.
Unfortunately for Grover Cleveland he did not witness the Babe hitting the home run for his fellow Caldwell native in 1926. Grover Washington died in 1908, but he did not die from eating the wedding cake. He died from a heart attack.
Quick aside, after Grover’s death, his own babe and widow, Frances Cleveland campaigned AGAINST women's right to vote, contending that "women weren't yet intelligent enough to vote”. She was however young and intelligent enough to marry again, and she lived until after the Second World War dying in 1947.
Post script: Her alma mater of Wells College has a building named for Frances Cleveland. It houses classes for women’s studies. Indeed. "
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