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Julia Tyler

by John T. Marck

First Lady: 1844 to 1845

Second Wife of President John Tyler

Born: May 4, 1820 Died: July 10, 1889

Julia Gardiner was born on Gardiner's Island, New York, the land owned by her family. Her family moved to New Hampshire where she grew up except for two years in New York at a finishing school. Being bored in New Hampshire, she went to work for a dry-goods store endorsing clothes. She was featured in many advertisements using the name "The Rose of Long Island." Her parents, afraid of a scandal, took Julia to Europe for a year, followed by two years in Washington. While in Washington, she enjoyed the society life, and courted John Tyler. It has been said that she was more interested in being the wife of a President, then the President himself. John Tyler was however courting Julia in earnest. They became even more apparent during a disaster in February 1844. President Tyler was aboard the frigate Princeton, as was Julia, her father David, and her sister Margaret, for a social cruise down the Potomac River. During the cruise the Princeton was showing off its new twelve-inch gun, when on the last firing, the gun blew up, killing her father and eight others. Julia upon learning the news of her father's death, fainted and was comforted by President Tyler. His sincerity and tenderness touched her greatly, and soon thereafter married on June 26, 1844.

With only eight months remaining to Tyler's term, Julia managed to revive the White House with lively receptions and parties. Following his term, John and Julia retired to their plantation on the James River, called Sherwood Forest. They lived happily here and had seven children. The Civil War however ended their joy. In 1862, John Tyler died and Julia and her children fled Virginia and went North. Sherwood Forest, was badly damaged in the war.

After the end of the Civil War, Julia returned to Sherwood Forest with her family and found it vandalized and damaged. Part of the house was restored enough to make it livable. Julia spent her last years there, dying from a stroke on July 10, 1889.

Copyright 1990-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. From The First Ladies of the Unites States by John T. Marck.