In the course of searching for a specific photograph of President Woodrow Wilson for a reference question, I came across the image below, and couldn’t resist it! Between the heart-shaped frames, the huge grins on both the President and the First Lady, and the addition of a cupid holding up two hearts perched in the corner, the image is charming and seemed appropriate to share on a day for sweethearts: Valentine’s Day. But why was this image created? I looked at the original item and saw that it was copyrighted on December 11, 1915 – and all became much clearer. One week later, on December 18, President Wilson and Edith Bolling Galt were married in the White House during Wilson’s first term, a second marriage for both.
Wilson was not the first President to marry in the White House. That milestone goes to Grover Cleveland, who entered his first term as a bachelor, but soon met young Frances Folsom. On June 2, 1886, twenty-one-year-old Frances became the youngest First Lady in U.S. history when she married President Cleveland in the Blue Room of the White House. Imagine my surprise when I found that Cleveland and his bride also inspired a heart-shaped tribute, also copyrighted within days of the wedding. This photo – where Frances Folsom is simply referred to as “President Cleveland’s Bride” also includes the romantic inscription: “Two hearts that beat as one.”
I was now on a mission to see if we had any other such images of our former Presidents and First Ladies and found one more example. Here President Theodore Roosevelt and his second wife, Edith, are shown surrounded by flowers in a heart shape. Roosevelt married Edith, a childhood and family friend, in December 1886. This flowery photo was produced in December 1902, about a year after Roosevelt became President.
- The Prints and Photographs Division’s Popular Graphic Arts Collection includes examples of vintage Valentines, including the card at right with a somewhat heart-shaped ring of flowers.
- Enjoy more examples of Valentines from various other small collections of greeting cards in the Prints and Photographs Division.
- In a previous Picture This post, our thoughts turned to another popular way to mark Valentine’s Day: chocolate and other sweets. Revisit this entry in our series about food: Feast Your Eyes: Sweets in Store.
- Explore Library of Congress blogs and other social media channels, many of which are featuring content related to Valentine’s Day.