A Secret Life
Press Release



Famed as a pugnaciously honest leader, Grover Cleveland set the tone for what a politician should do when caught in scandal: “Whatever you say, tell the truth.” But to save himself from career-ending allegations involving a rape and violence, he lied — and won election to two terms as president of the United States.

Now, in his gripping work of nonfiction, A SECRET LIFE: The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland (Skyhorse Publishing; July 25, 2011; $24.95), acclaimed author Charles Lachman reveals that Cleveland led a secret life that previous histories and biographies have overlooked. Lachman’s heavily researched, engrossing work of investigative history will rewrite the way history looks at one of our most esteemed presidents.

When he ran for the presidency in 1884 – an election considered by many to be the dirtiest national campaign in U.S. history – Grover Cleveland faced down accusations that as a young lawyer in Buffalo, New York, he fathered an illegitimate son. Cleveland’s opponents taunted him with the rallying cry, “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?” but the candidate and his allies successfully deflected the scandal by claiming that the woman in question, Maria Halpin, was a harlot. The Cleveland campaign argued that Grover Cleveland — as the only bachelor among Halpin’s many paramours — had valiantly assumed responsibility for the child, trying to protect his married friends.

This version of the Cleveland-Halpin story has come to be accepted as historical fact. But as A SECRET LIFE shows, almost none of it is true. Among Charles Lachman’s discoveries:

Maria Halpin was the victim of a malicious smear campaign that destroyed her life and defames her to this day. Far from wanton, she was, in fact, a church-going widow and mother of two young children. In a sworn affidavit obtained by the author and ignored for more than 125 years, Maria Halpin claims that Cleveland raped her in her apartment.

Cleveland’s illegitimate son, Oscar Folsom Cleveland, was born on Sept. 14, 1874 at a Buffalo hospital for unwed mothers. In a cruel injustice straight out of a Charles Dickens novel, Cleveland arranged to have Maria Halpin thrown into the Providence Lunatic Asylum and had the child forcibly removed from his mother and placed in the Buffalo Orphan Asylum.

Solving one of the great riddles of presidential lore, A SECRET LIFE tells how Cleveland’s illegitimate son, Oscar, was adopted by a distinguished Buffalo family, in cahoots with Grover Cleveland, and given the name James King Jr. In adulthood, he became a physician, and died at age 71 in 1947.

Rose Elizabeth Cleveland, Grover’s sister who served as First Lady before Cleveland married, harbored a politically explosive secret of her own: She was a lesbian, as revealed in a collection of private correspondence that Lachman discovered, written to her lover whom she called “my Viking.”

Frances Folsom was the daughter of Cleveland’s best friend, Oscar Folsom, who died when the girl was 11. At 21, she became Cleveland’s wife and the youngest First Lady in U.S. history. A SECRET LIFE explores as never before Cleveland’s sordid and furtive romancing of Frances, 28 years his junior and also his surrogate daughter.

A SECRET LIFE is the story of a president haunted by his past. Lachman builds a page-turning narrative that finally sets the record straight on an American president, his illegitimate son and the woman who has been so wrongly vilified in history, Maria Halpin.