19th President: 1877-1881
Just the Facts:
- Rutherford Hayes won the presidency by one electoral vote – the closest race in history.
- His nickname was “His Fraudulency.”
- The White House got its very first telephone during his term.
- First Lady Lucy refused to serve alcohol in the White House – her nickname became “Lemonade Lucy.”
- They hosted the first Easter Egg Roll at the White House.
- He liked to play croquet on the White House lawn.
Rutherford Hayes was born in Ohio. His father was a shopkeeper and died before Rutherford was born, so he was raised by his mother and uncle. Rutherford was very smart and went to some of the best schools in the country. He went on to practice law in Cincinnati and became quite successful. He became an abolitionist after meeting his wife, Lucy, and even defended escaped slaves in court. Hayes enlisted in the Union army when the Civil War began. After the War, he entered politics – he represented Ohio in Congress and served as Ohio’s governor.
Rutherford Hayes becomes president through a hotly contested election. When it appeared that his opponent, Samuel Tilden, might win the most popular votes, the Republicans asked for a recount. The result of the recount was that Hayes won by ONE electoral vote. The Democrats were in an uproar and claimed election fraud. Hayes tried to appease the Democrats by agreeing to withdraw all federal troops from southern states. This was called the Compromise of 1877 and ended the Era of Reconstruction in the South.
President Hayes was hurt by the accusations that he cheated and spent much of his presidency trying to prove he was an honest man. A goal as president was to change the way the government operated. He wanted to reform how government employees and officials were hired – so that they were chosen based on ability, not based on who they knew. He refused to run for re-election, in part because of the fraud accusations.
Rutherford Hayes met his wife, Lucy, in Cincinnati. They married when Rutherford was 30 years old and had 8 children (7 boys and 1 girl). Lucy was the first First Lady to have a college education. She was intelligent and cultured, and accompanied President hayes on his visits to reform schools, hospitals, and prisons. Lucy was a popular First Lady and enjoyed entertaining at the White House, especially informal parties. She was involved in the the temperance movement and refused to serve alcohol at the White House.
After his presidency, Rutherford and Lucy returned to their Ohio estate, which was called Spiegel Grove. He lived there for 12 years before passing away.
“The progress of society is mainly the improvement in the condition of the workingmen of the world.”
“Conscience is the authentic voice of God to you.”
“The bold enterprises are the successful ones. Take counsel of hopes rather than of fears to win in this business.”
“To vote is like the payment of a debt, a duty never to be neglected, if its performance is possible.”