The hotel, by the way, is now part of the University of Tampa. You can still experience its turn-of-the-century grandeur by visiting the Henry B. Plant Museum inside the main building.
|President and Mrs. Cleveland in Rockledge, Fla., 1888.|
Credit: Florida Memory
In those days before Internet, movies, TV, or radio, a president and First Lady were bonafide celebrities. A visit by such a prominent couple would bring out an entire town.
Women couldn't vote for president in 1888 (not 'til 1920), but it's safe to assume that a good number of women in Rockledge wanted to see the young First Lady that day. She was popular throughout the nation. The National First Ladies' Library says American women copied her hairstyle, dress style, and even tried to mimic the way she posed in photos. The C-SPAN First Ladies Influence & Image series features a segment on her as a fashion icon.
The trip to Rockledge was part of a campaign tour that also included stops in Winter Park, Jacksonville, Sanford, and other cities. Author and blogger Ray Osborne's ebook, President Cleveland's Florida Trip 1888, notes the media's fascination with Frances Cleveland. I found the book - and Osborne's history blog named Time Passages - while digging for information on the domestic details of that long-ago visit. I'll report back about the fashion and food after some more research. In the meantime, you can read what Osborne blogged about the trip. No such thing as too much history!