Who was Ruth Cleveland?
Ruth Cleveland was the first child and daughter of President Grover Cleveland and First Lady Frances Cleveland. She was born on October 3, 1891, in New York City, and became a national sensation as the first baby born in the White House. She was nicknamed “Baby Ruth” or “Babe Ruth” by the public and the media, and inspired many products and songs named after her. She had two sisters, Esther and Marion, and a brother, Richard. She lived in the White House, Gray Gables (the family’s summer home on Cape Cod), and Westland Mansion (the family’s residence in Princeton, New Jersey).
What is diphtheria?
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection that affects the nose and throat. It causes a thick gray membrane to form in the throat, making it hard to breathe and swallow. It can also produce toxins that damage the heart, kidneys, and nervous system. Diphtheria can be prevented by vaccination, but it was a common and deadly disease in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
How did Ruth Cleveland die?
Ruth Cleveland contracted diphtheria on January 2, 1904, when she was 12 years old. She was staying at Westland Mansion with her mother and siblings, while her father was in New York City. Her case was initially thought to be mild, and she was treated with antitoxin, a serum derived from horses that neutralized the diphtheria toxin. However, her condition worsened rapidly, and she died of heart failure on January 7, 1904. Her father rushed back to Princeton, but he was too late to see her alive.
Ruth Cleveland was buried in Princeton Cemetery, next to her aunt, Rose Cleveland, who had died of influenza a few months earlier. Her mother did not attend the funeral, following the doctor’s advice. Woodrow Wilson, who was then the president of Princeton University, was among the mourners
What is the legacy of Ruth Cleveland?
Ruth Cleveland will be remembered as the first and youngest child of President Grover Cleveland and First Lady Frances Cleveland, who charmed the nation with her innocence and beauty. She will also be remembered as the namesake of the Baby Ruth candy bar, although the Curtiss Candy Company claimed that it was named after Ruth Cleveland, not Babe Ruth, the famous baseball player. The candy bar was introduced in 1921, 17 years after Ruth’s death and the same year that Babe Ruth broke the single-season home run record.
Ruth Cleveland’s death was a tragic loss for her family and the country, and raised awareness of the dangers of diphtheria. Her story also illustrates the advances in medicine and public health that have reduced the mortality and morbidity of infectious diseases.