June 26, 1844 – President Tyler Marries His Second Wife

Virginian John Tyler was elected vice president on the 1840 Whig ticket with presidential candidate William Henry Harrison. After Harrison’s death in April, 1841, Tyler became the tenth President of the United States.

President John Tyler

President John Tyler

Tyler’s first wife Letitia had a stroke and became paralyzed, dying in September 1842. Even before her death Tyler met the then-21 year old Julia at a White House reception and indicated his interest in her. He first proposed to her in February of 1843, and she refused that proposal as well as later proposals. However, after the accidental death of her father, Tyler comforted her and finally won her consent to be married.

On this day in history, the two wed in a small ceremony in New York City. President Tyler was 54 years old, and Julia was just 24. Tyler’s oldest daughter, Mary, was 5 years older than her father’s new wife.

Letita Tyler

Letita Tyler

Tyler had more children than any other American president in history, including eight children by his first wife, and seven with his second. It was also alleged that he had fathered several children with his slaves, and later sold his offspring, but no firm evidence has ever surfaced.

When the newlyweds returned to Washington, there was an elaborate celebratory wedding feast, described in The Presidents’ Cookbook by Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks, 1968, as having included:

Cold woodcock, pigeons, chicken salad, oysters prepared in various ways, but no wines, this being strictly forbidden by the bridegroom and assented to by the bride…Breakfast appears to have been even more elaborate. Omelets, spring chicken, pigeons and woodcock, ham and eggs, salmon, beefsteaks, kidneys boiled eggs, and young duck……”

With only eight months left of Tyler’s term of office, Julia decided to make the most of it, hosting grand dinners and balls. Because Tyler was a great fan of puddings, there were also always plenty of those on hand. The Presidents’ Cookbook includes recipes for two of them that the president apparently favored:

Tyler Pudding-Pie

Butter
Eggs
Granulated sugar
Heavy cream
Fresh coconut, grated
Unbaked puff pastry

Cream 1/2 cup butter with 6 cups sugar. Then add 6 well-beaten eggs, along with 1 cup heavy cream and 1 grated coconut. Mix well, and then pour into 4 pie pans lined with puff pastry. Bake in a hot (450 degrees F.) Oven for 10 minutes, until pastry sets. The reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. And cook another 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pudding-pie is firm. Makes 16 servings.

A Grateful Pudding

White bread
Flour
Eggs
Milk or cream
Raisins
Currants
Sugar
Ginger, ground

Grate a 1 pound loaf of white bread and add to it 1 pound flour. Beat 8 egg yolks and 4 egg whites until light and mix them with 1 pint cream (much better than milk, if available). Stir in the bread-flour mixture. Mix well. Add 1 pound seedless raisins, 1 pound currants, 1/2 pound sugar, and a dash of ground ginger. Mix thoroughly, pour into a greased baking dish, and bake in a moderate (350 degrees F.) Oven. Cook until it sets, about 1/2 hour. Serves 8.”

At the end of his presidency, the Tylers and their children retired to Virginia, where they lived tranquilly until the Civil War. Although a northerner by birth, Mrs. Tyler apparently grew to like being tended to by slaves, and became an ardent supporter of the South.

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