Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893)

Figure 1.-- .

Hayes was 19th president and one of two presidents to lose in the popular election, but still become president through a narrow victory in the electoral college. He urged badly needed civil service reform. He was an honest moderate reformer, but his administration marked the removal of federal troops from the South and thus the end of Reconstruction and the berginning of Jim Crow segregation laws. The first telephone was installed in the White House during 1879. At first it was hardly used, because there weren't many other phones in Washington to call. While Hayes is an often over-looked president by historians, there are several associatiions which make him an interestuing president in terms of children and clothing. The Hayes lovd childrem had a large family and were endulgent parents. They were great fans of Frances Hodgson Burnett, especially her book Little Lord Fauntleroy. And it was during the Hayes presidency of a graet Washington tradition for children began--the White House Waster Egg Roll. Here Mrs. Hayes was probably more responsible than her husband.



Hayes' mother, Sophia Birchard Hayes, of Dummerston, Vermont, was a remarkably self-reliant and cheerful woman, despite many vicissitudes. She owned property and was able to afford a quality education for her son. Hayes' mother hated slavery on religious grounds.


His father, Rutherford Hayes, Jr., the attractive, virile son of a tavern keeper in Brattleboro, Vermont, managed a store in Dummerston. In the hard times after the War of 1812, Hayes' father yielded to "western fever" and in 1817 took his wife, their son Lorenzo, an infant daughter, and his youngest brother-in-law, Sardis Birchard, to Ohio. At Delaware, Ohio, he labored hard as a farmer and a distiller of whiskey, and at first he prospered. Another girl, Fanny, was born there. Then came misfortune--economic depression, the death of his first daughter, and finally, his own death, 10 weeks before the future president was born on October, 4, 1822.


Rutherford was born October 4, 1822 in Delaware, Ohio. He was called Rudd. Young Rutherford and sister Fanny Arabella were raised by their mother and her younger bachelor brother Sardis Birchard who was a successful businessman in Lower Sandusky (later Fremont), Ohio. When little redheaded, blue-eyed, and, at first, sickly Rud Hayes was only 2 years old, his brother Lorenzo was accidentally drowned, falling through the ice. Thus Hayes grew up as the only male in a household in which his widowed mother and his sister Fanny idolized him. They were extremely protective. He wasn't allowed outside until he was 5 years old and wasn't permitted to play sports until he was 9. His favorite activity as a boy was making sugar and cider.


Rud was the fourth of five children. One brother, also named Rutherford, died in infancy. Another older brother drowned tragically when he fell through the ice. Rud was devoted to his older sister, Fanny, who he saw as perfect. She later tried to play match maker for him.His sister, out of an unusually strong affection for him, also acted as a relentless spur to his ambition--a major cause, no doubt, of his suffering well past his adolescence from "nervousness almost to the point of disaster." But thanks in large part to the steadying influence of his uncle Sardis Birchard, he overcame this so fully that he matured into a model of a manly individual.

Boyhood Clothing

I have little information on Rutherford's clothing as a boy. I have seen an image of him as a teenager wearing a longpants suit with a small bowtie-like stock. While in college, he wrote his mother:

DEAR MOTHER:-- Your letter was very acceptable. I was glad to hear that Uncle had found so good a friend. I hope he will soon be well. Do not make me more than one or two shirts now. Make them the same as my others, except much larger cuffs and necks, as my others choke me rather much. My clothes are not shabby but I have not enough. If it continues warm, I shall be obliged to get a pair of pantaloons. I can get thin clothes here much better than at home. I can get a "decent" pair for two dollars and fifty cents. If it is not hot long I shall not get them. My expenses here this term are more than I expected. For my first year here the expense will be one hundred and eighty-nine dollars. I never will or can get along as cheap again. The term so far at least has been to me very pleasant. One of the very worst and most profane fellows in college have been con- verted by Dr. Sparrow's lectures and it was truly a great change. I remain this time your affectionate son (not brother),


Hayes attended school in Delaware and Norwalk, Ohio, and Middletown, Connecticut. His teachers described him as well informed and polite. He was well-respected by his peers. Hayes was given an unusual amount of schooling for one then living in Ohio. He attended a Methodist seminary at Norwalk, Ohio, and then Isaac Webb's private school at Middletown, Conn. (later absorbed into Wesleyan University) and Kenyon College. He graduated from Kenyon College at Gambier, Ohio in 1842 where he graduated in 1842 as class valedictorian. After a year of study in a Columbus law office, he entered Harvard Law School. He decided to become a lawyer, mainly to satisfy his sister, he entered Harvard Law School and finished in 1845, having become an interesting mixture of New England "gentleman" and Ohio "Buckeye."


Hayes was a lawyer and politician. He began his law practice in Lower Sandusky. After 5 years of law practice in Lower Sandusky, not finding many opportunities there, he left in 1849 for Cincinnati, where he became a successful lawyer. Hayes ardently supported Whig candidates like Zacary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Considerable prominence in Cincinnati came early to Hayes from several criminal cases. As volunteer counsel for the "underground railroad" he helped fugitive slaves win their freedom. Like many Whigs, he had been avoiding a strong stand on the slavery issues for politicl reasons, but his acceptance of these cases revealed that he had made up his mind. Hayes was anti-slavery having traveled to Texas as a young man and seing the evils of slavry first hand. His opposition to slavery drew him into the Republican Party as the Whig Party collapsed. He helped found the Ohio Republican party (1856). He began his public life by running for and being elected city solicitor (1858). His successful legal careeer and entrance into political life was cut short by South's seccession and the outbreak of the Civil War.

Military Service

Hayes served as officer during the Civil War. He was 39 years old and had two childred, but believed passionately in the Union. He was courageous in battle and wounded five times in action. Hayes in 4 years service during he War saw more front-line action than any other American president. (Other presidents wre generals like Washiton, Taylor, Grant, and Eisenhower and were not commonly in the front line.) He fought as a colonel, but ws raised to the rank of brevet major general at the end of the War. One particularly serious wound at the battle of South Mountain kept him out of critical battle of Antitem. He almost lost an arm and was reported dead. The Union victory at Antitem enabled Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclimation in 1862. No president experienced so much front line service or was wounded so many times or so seriously. Future President McKinley also served in his regiment. Lucy sometimes acted as a nurse.

Political Career

While Hayes was still in the Army, Cincinnati Republicans ran him for the House of Representatives. He accepted the nomination, but would not campaign, explaining, "an officer fit for duty who at this crisis would abandon his post to electioneer... ought to be scalped." Hayes was elected to United States House of Representatives at the end of his Army career, by a large majority. Hayes entered Congress in December 1865, troubled by the "Rebel influences ... ruling the White House." (Of course meaning President Johnson.) Between 1867 and 1876 he served three terms as Governor of Ohio. Governor of Ohio, 1868-72 and 1876-77. He worked to improve education. He also sought to improve care for the mentally ill and to modernize the prison system. His wive Lucy came from a family with abolitionist sentimnts and her fervent anti-slavery views strengthened his view. As a cononel in the Union Army he had protectd run-away slaves. [Hoogenboom]

Presidency (1877-81)

Nominated by Republicans in 1876, Hayes' liberalism, party loyalty, and a good war record made Hayes an acceptable Republican candidate. The election was the most disputed in history. It was decided by a special bipartisan commission in March 1877. Hayes thus was the beneficiary of the most fiercely disputed election in American history, but brought to the Executive Mansion dignity, honesty, and moderate reform. Hayes insisted that his appointments must be made on merit, not political considerations. Hayes pledged protection of the rights of Negroes in the South, but at the same time advocated the restoration of "wise, honest, and peaceful local self-government." This meant the withdrawal of troops. President Hayes was a moderate reformer. He promoted both civil service and prison reform. Hayes liberally used the veto power. Democrats tried to undermine the 14th and 15th amendments, in part by denying funding forenforcement. They would also attach riders to needed funding bills. Hayes had announced in advance that he would serve only one term. As part of his reformist principles, he believed in only one term, thinking it was enough time for any one president. In practice this meeant he did not get many of his programs enacted.


Hayes married Lucy Webb (1852). She was the first president's wife with a college degree. She graduated from the Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati at 18. She was a lady of strong pashions, especially temperance and abolitionism. She was extremely influential helping to win him over to abolitionism and temperence. She in turn aseeded to his wishes on women's sufferage. The Hayes celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in the White House. She died in 1889 and is buried in Fremont.

Lucy Ware Webb Hayes (1831-89)

Lucy Ware Webb Hayes was the youngest daughter of Dr. James and Maria Cook Webb. They were a progressive family, devout Methodists and ardently anti-slavey. The family were methodists. Lucy was born in Chillicothe. Her father inherited slaves in Kentucky. He died on the trip south to free them. They were not wealthy and the sales of slaves would have meant financial security when Dr. Webb died. Lucy's mother is reported to have declared that she would take in laundry first. Lucy was only 2 years old at the time. The Webbs also strongly supported educatin at a time that educatng women was still seen as rather frivolous. Lucy was just a young teenager when her mother moved to Delaware so she could enroll her boys in the new Ohio Wesleyan University. Lucy also studied there. Lucy thus received a excellent education, even graduating from Cincinnati's Wesleyan Women's College. She thus would become the first presidential wife to be a college graduate. Hayes knwn as Rud had moved to Cincinnati at age 27 and set up a law practice there. He soon made it a succss and met Lucy Webb. He begn calling at the Webb home. He began writing about Lucy in his diary. Her low sweet voice is very winning ... a heart as true as steel.... Intellect she has too.... By George! I am in love with her!" Rutherford married Lucy Ware Webb of Chillicothe (1852). At the time he was a successful lawyer, but had not yet begun his political career. They continued to live in Cincinnati until the Civil War. Hayes was anti-slavery before meeting the Webbs, he became increasingly committed to abolition as a result of Lucy's religious-based devotion to the cause. It was from the beginning a successful marriage and the Hayes had eight children of which five survived childhood. Hayes entered the White House under the cloud of the Electoral College deadlock. Hayes and Lucy left Ohio for Washington nit entirely sure of the final results of the election.


The Hayes had eight children, seven boys and a girl. Five of the children survived to adulthood. The children were raised at Spiegel Grove, the home of President Hayes which is in (what was rural but what is now central) Fremont, Ohio. Three of their children died in infancy. This experiencde even with an affluent family shows the still poor state of public health and limitations of contemprary medical science. We have few details yet on the childhood of the Hayes children, but I believe they were friends with the Burnettes and Vivian (the real Little Lord Fauntleroy) and his older brother Lionel played together in the White House, but this was before the publication of Mrs. Burnett's book. The Hayes children included:

Birchard Austin (1853-1926)

Birchard was caled Birch. He attended Harvard Law School. He worked 36 years as a tax and real estate lawyer in Toledo, Ohio. He married Mary Sherman and they had five children.

James Web Cook (1856-1934)

James was called Webb. He worked as a secretary for his father. After the White House years he went into business and anmassed as fortune. He reorganized a company that became today's giant Union Carbide Corporation. He married Mary Otis Miller, but there were no children. He was fascinated by the military. Despite his wealth, he was constantly risking his life as a soldier of fortune in foreign countries

Rutherford Platt (1858-1927)

Rutherford was called Rud. In a large family he did not always get the attention that he needed. His parents did not find him especially bright. Ironiclly, Rud went on to play a major role, however, in American libraries. He helped found the American Library Association and was a major force in the creation of a national library system. He married Lucy Hayes Platt and they had three children.

Joseph Thompson (1861-63)

Joseph was called Jody. Hayes remember thinking when Joe died in infancy during the Civil War. His wife had written him that Jody looked just like him. Away from home in military campaigns, Hayes arranged for the family to meet him at a camp along the Kanawha River in West Virginia. The baby, however, died from dysentary. The planned jouous reunion became a somber funeral for little Jody. Hayes later remembers that he was more concernd about the battle of Chickamagua than his son's death.

George (1864-66)

George was described as a "sweet, bright" boy. He sucumed to scarlet fever before he was 2 years old.

Fanny (1867-1950)

Fanny was the only daughter and had to put up with seven brothers. She was devoted to her father. After her father left the presidency and with the death of her mother. Fanny assisted her father as hostess and traveling companion. She did not marry until her father died. She wed naval ensign Harry Eaton Smith who taught at the Anapolis Naval Academy. They had one child. When her husband died, she changed her last name back to Hayes.

Scott Russel (1871-1923)

Scott was the first presidential child to participate in an event which has become an American tradition--the White House Easter Egg Roll. I participated in it myself as a boy. Moms and dads would dress up their kids and they would roll eggs and participate in other events on the South Lawn of the White House. Now adays kids no longer dress up for the event. Scott as an adult lived in New York and worked as a railroad executive. He married Maude Anderson, but there were no children. He died of cancer.

Manning Force (1873-74)

Manning died as a small child after his first birthday.

Family life

Hayes was a loving father, a typical letter to his wife read, "Love to all. Birtie and Webb are in my mind constantly. How is the other little customer?" The Hayes were a very child-centered family. They were endulgent with the children. Visitors to the family reported a great deal of noise and banging of drums when Rud and Web were young. The family in the evening would get together and Lucy and her husband would read. Two of the boys were still young in the White House years. The Hayes made an unprecedent trip to the west coast, taking two of the five children with them. He was the first president to travel to the west coast. He traveled by train and was called "Rutherford the Rover"

Sister's Family

Hayes beloved sister Fanny died leaving children. They were cared for by his mother. He often advised her to relent and not to be as strict with them as she tended to be.

White House Easter Egg Roll

Mrs. Hayes began the "Easter Egg Roll" for children on the White House Lawn during 1878--a tradition which still continues on the Monday every Easter. It is one of the oldest and most colorful presidential traditions and the one most associated with children. history. The actuall curcumstances are somewhat cinfused. One account is that outraged egg rollers gathered at the White House gates when the Congress closed Capitol Hill to them and insisted that the children be allowed to roll their eggs on the ample Presidential lawn. There was no garnd hill, but at least their was plenty of grass. Another account is that Mrs. Hayes alerted her husband to the disappointment of the children, and ordered that the White House gates be opened so the children could use the expansive South Lawn. So the first White House Easter Egg Roll was held in 1878 and presidential kid Scott Russell, 6 years old at the time, had a fine time. Children at the time dressed very formally even for outings to the park. For an event like the Easter Egg Roll, many would have been dressed in their best part suit. She was first lady before the Fauntleroy craze of the late 1880s, but by the late 1870s fancy velvet suits, lace collars, and large floppy bows. Other outfits like kilts and sailor suits would have also been seen.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

There were many references to Mrs. Burnett's novel, Little Lord Fauntleroy in his Hayes diary. This would have been a few years after he left the presidency.

January 13. -- Read yesterday Mrs. Burnett's charming story "Little Lord Fauntleroy." The little lord is a fairy too good for real life. -- Do you say an incredible or impossible character? My niece Laura can show a boy who in mind and character paral- lels Lord Fauntleroy. John [Grant Mitchell] is fully his equal. Our Fanny was as tender in regard for the poor and needy. I read also Lowell's speech, "Democracy," [and] Lincoln's history article in January Century. Finished also a good article on meteors and comets. [p. 305]

July 22. Monday. - Lucy read a great deal. She read aloud well, and was fond of reading favorite passages, usually character scenes, to a circle of her friends or family, such as "Old Town Folks," "Little Lord Fauntleroy," from Dickens, etc. My father died July 22, 1822, of bilious fever at Delaware, Ohio. One of the sickly years. [p. 491]

January 13.--A happy day. Correspondence. Lucy read aloud to the family "Little Lord Fauntleroy," or rather she read selections from the book and read them beautifully. All of us had read the book, of course. I read, or finished, Mr. Howells' last book, "Annie Kilburn." It opens the democratic side of the coming questions. I do not find a ready word for the doctrine of true equality of rights. Its foes call it nihilism, communism, socialism, and the like. Howells would perhaps call it justice. It is the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence, and of the Sermon on the Mount. But what is a proper and favorable word or phrase to designate it? [p. 434]

January 1, 1889. Tuesday. -- Letters -- letters! More than two hundred last month to be replied to. A pleasant day with Birchard and Mary. In the evening Scott had a dancing party of his young friends (sixteen), a feast and happy time. At 4:30 P. M. Lucy and I with Patterson and the team took our pastor Mr. Mills out to Scott Township--ten miles or more to a home mission meeting, in which Mrs. Inman, Mrs. Gossard, and others led. A fine supper at Henry Ludwig's. Promised their son, A. C. Ludwig, and daughter one each of "Robinson Crusoe," "Swiss Family Robinson," "Little Lord Fauntleroy," or "Prince and Pauper"; that is, I promised myself to give these presents. After supper we drove in the dark over to the church (Methodist Episcopal) south of Greensburg where an audience packed it full. They were having recitations, songs, etc. Rev. Mr. Mills delivered an excellent home missions ad- dress of thirty or forty minutes. After this I spoke with good emphasis a few minutes. Altogether a successful meeting. Drove home by eleven P. M. Found Scott's dancing party still on and merry. [p. 432]


Some important sources on Hayes include:

Barnard, Harry. Rutherford B. Hayes and His America (1954; reprint, Russell & Russell 1967).

Bishop, A., ed. Rutherford B. Hayes, 1822-1893 (Oceana Pub. 1969).

Fitzgerald, Carol B., ed. Rutherford B. Hayes (Meckler Pub. 1991)

Geer, E. A. First Lady (Kent State Univ. Press 1984)

Hayes, Rutherford B. Hayes: The Diary of a President, 1875-1881, ed. by T. Harry Williams (McKay 1964)

Hoogenboom, Ari. Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President.

Hoogenboom, Ari. The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes (Univ. Press of Kansas, 1988).

Hoogenboom, Ari. Book TV, C-Span 2, April 28, 1994.

Howells, William D. Sketch of the Life and Character of Rutherford B. Hayes (1876; reprint, R. West 1980).

Wead, Doug. All the President's Children: Triumph and Tragedy in the Lives of America's First Familirs (Atria: New York, 2003), 456p.


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