Julia Gardiner Tyler
Julia Gardiner Tyler
|First Lady of the United States|
June 26, 1844 – March 4, 1845
|Preceded by||Priscilla Tyler (acting)|
|Succeeded by||Sarah Polk|
May 4, 1820 or July 29, 1820
Gardiners Island, New York, U.S.
|Died||July 10, 1889 (aged 68 or 69)|
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
|Resting place||Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, U.S.|
(m. 1844; died 1862)
|Children||7, including David Gardiner Tyler, John Alexander Tyler and Lyon Gardiner Tyler|
Julia Tyler (née Gardiner; May 4 or July 29, 1820 – July 10, 1889) was the second wife of John Tyler, who was the tenth president of the United States. As such, she served as the first lady of the United States from June 26, 1844, to March 4, 1845.
Julia Gardiner Tyler was born on either May 4 or July 29, 1820. Sources differ about her date of birth, her grave states the July date but several biographies give the May date; including that by her son and biographer Lyon Gardiner Tyler.[a] She was born on New York's Gardiner's Island, one of the largest privately-owned islands in the United States. She was the daughter of David Gardiner, a landowner and New York State Senator (1824 to 1828), and Juliana MacLachlan Gardiner. Her ancestry was Dutch, Scottish, and English.
She was raised in the town of East Hampton and the small hamlet of Bay Shore, and educated at the Chegary Institute in New York. In 1839, she shocked polite society by appearing, posed with an unidentified man and identified as "The Rose of Long Island", in a newspaper advertisement for a middle-class department store. Her family took her to Europe to avoid further publicity and allow her notoriety to subside. They first left for London, arriving on October 29, 1840. They visited England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, and Scotland before returning to New York in September 1841.
Courtship with President Tyler
On January 20, 1842, the 21-year-old Julia was introduced to President John Tyler at a White House reception. After the death of his first wife, Letitia Christian Tyler, on September 10, 1842, Tyler made it clear that he wished to get involved with Julia. Initially, the high-spirited and independent-minded northern beauty felt little attraction to the grave, reserved Virginia gentleman, who was thirty years her senior. He first proposed to her on February 22, 1843, when she was 22, at a White House Masquerade Ball. She refused that and later proposals he made. The increased time spent together prompted public speculation about their relationship.
Julia, her sister Margaret, and her father joined a Presidential excursion on the new steam frigate Princeton. During this excursion, her father, David Gardiner, along with others, lost his life in the explosion of a huge naval gun called the Peacemaker. Julia was devastated by the death of her adored father. She spoke often in later years of how the President's quiet strength sustained her during this difficult time. Tyler comforted Julia in her grief and won her consent to a secret engagement, proposing in 1844 at the George Washington Ball.
First Lady of the United States
After a wedding trip to Philadelphia, a White House reception, and a stay at Sherwood Forest, an estate the president had recently acquired for his retirement, the newlyweds returned to Washington D.C.. Although her husband was often visibly fatigued, his youthful wife thoroughly enjoyed the duties of First Lady.
The anthem "Hail to the Chief" had been played at a number of events associated with the arrival or presence of the President of the United States before Julia Tyler became First Lady, but she ordered its regular use to announce the arrival of the President. It became established practice when her successor, Sarah Polk did likewise.
In the last month of the Tyler administration, she hosted a grand White House ball for 3,000 guests.
The Tylers retired to Sherwood Forest, where they lived tranquilly until the Civil War. Although a northerner by birth, Mrs. Tyler soon grew accustomed to the leisurely routines of daily life as the wife of a wealthy plantation owner.
Julia wrote a defense of slavery titled "The Women of England vs. the Women of America", in response to the "Stafford House Address" petition against slavery which the Duchess of Sutherland had helped to organize.
After her husband's death in 1862, she lost her 60 slaves and 1,100 acres of land due to military events. Julia moved north to Staten Island with several of her children, although family relations were so strained that her brother David Gardiner refused to travel to Virginia to escort her to New York and eventually moved out of his mother's house, where Julia had settled.
In 1865, her brother David sued to prevent her from inheriting the bulk of their mother's estate valued at $180,000, charging that Julia Tyler had exerted "undue influences" on their mother to execute a will despite her "mental incapacity". The court supported his claim on August 25 and refused to accept the will. After two appeals, David Gardiner won the case in 1867. David then asked the courts to partition the estate as if no will existed. Julia asked for a jury trial on the issue, and the jury declined to consider the contested will as an argument in her favor. The New York Times thought Julia was treated unfairly and that the dispute could be traced to "the political antagonisms of the rebellion, which have divide many a household besides that of Mrs. Gardiner".
|America's First Ladies, Anna Harrison, Letitia Tyler & Julia Tyler, 2013, C-SPAN|
She and her daughter Pearl, both converted to Roman Catholicism and were conditionally baptized in May 1872.  The depression that followed the Panic of 1873 depleted her finances. She returned to Virginia to live with the aid of her grown children.[when?] She lobbied Congress for a pension and was granted a monthly allowance in 1880. Following the assassination of President James Garfield in 1881, Congress granted an annual pension of $5,000 to widows of former presidents.
Her residence is listed as Williams Landing in Hamilton County, Tennessee on page 342 of the 'List of Pensioners on the Roll, January 1, 1883' where she is shown as receiving $416.66 per month as a widow.
Because of the circumstances surrounding her father's death, Julia and John agreed to marry with a minimum of celebration. On June 26, 1844, the President slipped into New York City, where the nuptials were performed by the Right Reverend Benjamin Treadwell Onderdonk, fourth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, at the Church of the Ascension, not too far from the Gardiner's residence on LaGrange Terrace.
President Tyler was 54 years old, while Julia was just 24. Tyler's oldest daughter, Mary, was 5 years older than her father's new wife. The marriage made Julia the first First Lady to marry a President who was already in office at the time of the wedding.
The bride's sister, Margaret, and brother, Alexander, were bridesmaid and best man. Only the President's son, John Tyler III, represented the groom's family. Tyler was so concerned about maintaining secrecy that he did not confide his plans to the rest of his children. Although his sons readily accepted the sudden union, the Tyler daughters were shocked and hurt. The news was then broken to the American people, who greeted it with keen interest, much publicity, and some criticism about the couple's 30-year difference in age.
It was awkward for the eldest Tyler daughter, Mary, to adjust to a new stepmother five years younger than herself. One daughter, Letitia, never made peace with her stepmother.
Between 1846 and 1860, Julia and John had seven children together:
- David Gardiner Tyler (July 12, 1846 – September 5, 1927), a lawyer and public official.
- John Alexander "Alex" Tyler (April 7, 1848 – September 1, 1883), an engineer who, like his older brother, dropped out of Washington College to join the Confederate army and, after the war, resumed his studies in Germany. There he joined the Saxon Army during the Franco-Prussian War and took part in the occupation of France in 1871. For his service he was decorated by the Prussian government. He became a mining engineer and, returning to the United States, was appointed U.S. surveyor of the Interior Department in 1879. While working in that capacity in New Mexico, he drank contaminated water and died at 35.
- Julia Gardiner Tyler (December 12, 1849 – May 8, 1871), who married William H. Spencer, a debt-ridden farmer of Piffard, New York, in 1869. She died from the effects of childbirth at age 22 at the Spencer home, Westerly.
- Lachlan Gardiner Tyler (December 2, 1851 – January 2, 1902), a doctor who practiced medicine in Jersey City, New Jersey, and in 1879 became a surgeon in the U.S. Navy. From 1887, he practiced in Elkhorn, West Virginia.
- Lyon Gardiner Tyler (August 24, 1853 – February 12, 1935), an educator.
- Robert Fitzwalter "Fitz" Tyler (March 12, 1856 – December 30, 1927), a farmer of Hanover County, Virginia.
- Margaret Pearl Tyler (June 12, 1860 – June 30, 1947), who at the age of 12 converted to Roman Catholicism along with her mother. She married William Munford Ellis, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and lived near Roanoke.
Julia Tyler suffered a stroke in Richmond and died there at the Exchange Hotel on July 10, 1889, aged 68. John had died 27 years earlier in the same hotel, of a stroke as well. Julia was buried next to him at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. Her funeral was held in Richmond at St. Peter's Cathedral on July 12, 1889, and was attended by Governor Fitzhugh Lee and Mayor James Taylor Ellyson, with the absolution performed by Bishop Augustine Van de Vyver.
In Bay Shore, Gardiner's Park, a wide expanse of virgin land with trails leading to the South Shore, Gardiner Drive and Gardiner Manor Elementary School are all named after her family. In 2009, the United States Mint honored the former First Lady with the issuance of a 24 karat gold coin. The papers of the Tyler family, including Julia Gardiner Tyler, are held by the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William and Mary.
Their son Lyon, like his father, married his second wife late in life, and as of 2021, one of the Tylers' grandsons is still alive; the other died in September 2020.
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- "LAW REPORTS.; Court Calendar THIS DAY. The Gardiner-Tyler Will Case Important Opinion by the Surrogate of Richmond County The Widow of Ex President Tyler Not Entitled to Any Portion of the Gardiner Estate Undue Influences Brought to Bear on the Testatrix, &c.SURROGATE'S COURT RICHMOND COUNTY. Court of Special Sessions. Before Justices Kelly and Dowling. A CASE OF SHOPLIFTING. Criminal Business. COURT OF GENERAL SESSIONS. Before Judge Russel. Decisions. SUPREME COURT CHAMBERS SEPT. 7. By Justice Ingraham". The New York Times. September 8, 1865. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
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- "THE GARDINER-TYLER WILL.; The ease Finally Terminated-Important Opinion of the Court of Appeals--An Interesting Family HistoryJudgment of the Supreme Court at General Term Reversed, and the Decree of the Surrogate, Rejecting the sill, Affirmed--Motion for Re-Argument Denied". The New York Times. January 27, 1867. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
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- Todd, Charles Burr (1907). Stiles, Henry Reed (ed.). In olde New York; sketches of old times and places in both the state and the city. The Grafton historical series. New York, NY: The Grafton press. pp. 174–175. OCLC 3985699. Retrieved February 25, 2012.
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- "DR. LYON TYLER, 82, DEAD IN RICHMOND Former Head of William and Mary College Was Son of Nation's 10th President | WELL KNOWN AS AUTHOR | Wrote Many Volumes on History of Virginia - Was Elected to State Legislature in 1887". The New York Times. February 13, 1935. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
- Times, Special To The New York (December 31, 1927). "ROBERT FITZWALTER TYLER; Youngest Son of Tenth President of United States Dies at 70". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
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- "FUNERAL OF MRS. TYLER.; FATHER VAN DE VIVER'S TRIBUTE TO THE DECEASED LADY". The New York Times. July 13, 1889. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
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