I found this cabinet card in an antique shop in Blissfield, Michigan. I was so attracted to the image of this bewitching couple that the name Rutherford B. Hayes did not register until I was home and began my research.
There are plenty of biographies about the accomplishments of the 19th United States President and the First Lady, Lucy Ware Webb. I’d like to instead share excerpts of a love letter from Rutherford to Lucy before they were married.
COLUMBUS, June 22, 1851. DEAREST LUCY:-- I know it is very wicked to spend this holy Sabbath morning writing sweet nonsense to my lady-love, in- stead of piously preparing to go to church with mother, as a dutiful son ought to do, but then I'm hardly responsible. This love is, indeed, an awful thing; as Byron said, "it interferes with all a man's projects for good and glory." Besides, I am only fulfilling my scriptural destiny in "forsaking father and mother" -- and all that -- and -- and -- I can't quote any farther. But the pith of it is -- leaving your mother to go alone to church, and stealing off up into a quiet chamber to spoil good paper with wretched scribbling to puzzle the eye of the dearest girl of all the world. Well, you'll forgive the sin I hope. I know you will if you have thought a tithe as much about me -- but you haven't --as I have about you, the five or six days past,--and with a pardon beaming from your -- I was a-going to say deep, and then sweet, but no one adjective can describe it -- eye, I shall feel a heathenish indifference as to any other forgiveness. For "at this present," that eye has become to me, and I trust will ever continue, "like a star in the mariner's heaven"--an eye which is to give color, shape, and character to all my future hopes, fancies, and "reveries." . . . . To think that I am beginning to realize that revery [before the glowing anthracite] ! To think that that lovely vision is an actual, living, breathing being, and is loved by me, and loves in return, and will one day be my bride--my abiding, forgiving, trustful, loving wife--to make my happy home blessed indeed with her cheerful smile and silver voice and warm true heart! I don't know, Lucy dearest, what you think of it, but -- if I could quote Tom Moore I would-- ". . . if there be an Elysium of bliss It is this,--it is this !"*
So, Lucy, good-bye for a week or ten days longer. I think of you constantly, and the more I think of you the deeper I am in love with you. . . . . Believe me faithfully yours, RUTHERFORD.
To read the complete letter, as well as other letters and diary entries, you can visit the ohiohistory.org site. Rutherford kept a diary from the age of twelve until his death.
I believe the couple had a love of a lifetime!