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  Gardiner Tyler, Julia
NameJulia Gardiner Tyler
, Virginia , United States
Born May 04, 1820
DiedJuly 10, 1889 (69 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedThomas Walker
Oct 01, 2008 10:57am
InfoBorn: May 4, 1820 - Gardiner�s Island, New York

Died: July 10, 1889

Father: Senator David Gardiner (d. 1844)

Mother: Juliana McLachlan Gardiner

Siblings: 1 sister, 2 brothers. Margaret Gardiner, her younger sister, often stayed with Julia in the White House

Religion: Episcopalian, later Roman Catholic

Physical Description: She was 5�3� tall, with dark black hair, usually worn parted in the middle; gray eyes, beautiful shoulders and a good figure. She was flirtatious, prone to be indiscreet, and very daring for her day. Impulsive and reckless at times, the young Julia Gardiner was one who loved being �center stage.�

Education: Brought up in a world of money, wealth and position, Julia and her sister were educated at Madame N.D. Chagaray�s Institute for young ladies in New York City. Julia studied French, arithmetic, literature, history and composition. By fifteen, she was already seeking an advantageous marriage and was something of a trail to her staid parents. In 1839, at age nineteen, she allowed her image to be used for an advertisement for a dry goods store, under the title �The Rose of Long Island.� Extremely angry, her parents took her to Europe where she added to her string of suitors and was presented to King Louis Philippe and Queen Marie Amelia. All the images of royalty that she saw gave the young Julia Gardiner a severe case of �Queen fever� that would be reflected during her time in the White House.

Husband: John Tyler (1790-1862)

Courtship and Marriage: By 1841, Senator Gardiner�s two daughters had taken Washington by storm, so much so that, by 1843, he had to take a few extra rooms in their boarding house to entertain the gentlemen callers. Sometimes Julia entertained her guests by playing the guitar and singing. In 1842, she met her future husband at a White House reception. Between 1841 and 1844, Julia received proposals from no less than 2 Congressmen, one Supreme Court Justice and one from President Tyler, now a widower. Christmas Eve 1843 the Gardiner�s were invited to the White House. By February 1844, the gossips were making much of the friendship between President Tyler and Julia. Tragedy interrupted the talk. Dolley Madison had arranged a trip up the Potomac on the gunboat, The Princeton, on February 28, 1844. Among the guests were President Tyler, most of his cabinet, and the Gardiners. One of the guns that was fired while passing Mount Vernon exploded, killing the Secretary of State and Senator Daniel Gardiner, among others. Julia, hearing the explosion, fainted into the arms of the President. She said later that, after her father�s death, the President seemed to fill the void that no younger man ever could. Amidst great secrecy, John Tyler married Julia Gardiner on Gardiner�s Island on June 26, 1844. Dolley Madison prided herself on the role she played in helping the romance along.


1. David Gardiner Tyler (1846-1927)

2. John Alexander Tyler (1848 �1883)

3. Julia Tyler Spencer (1849 � 1871)

4. Lachlan Tyler (1851-1902)

5. Lyon Gardiner Tyler (1853 � 1935)

6. Robert Fitzwalter Tyler (1856 � 1927)

7. Pearl Tyler Ellis (1860 � 1947)

First Lady (June 26, 1844 � March 4, 1845): Though Julia Tyler did not have long in the White House, she nonetheless made quite an impact. Like Angelica Van Buren before her, Julia�s impact was not always a positive one. She often gave offense by appearing �too regal� or �queenlike�. Also like Angelica Van Buren, Julia preferred royalist trappings: a dais of several steps, ostrich plums and royal purple, for example. Unlike Angelica Van Buren, however, Julia Tyler found it impossible to stay on her dais, but rather would come down and lead the dancing on the arm of her gallant husband. There was no doubt that Julia enjoyed her position and had a deep love for her husband, who was some 30 years her senior. At twenty-four, Julia was the youngest First Lady to date and was immensely wealthy as well. She was able to bring a certain style and opulence to a rather dull and staid White House. She, still mourning her father, wore either white, black lace or royal purple (also a mourning color), and in her hair, ending on her forehead, a headpiece made of black jet beads, later changed to diamonds. She often appeared in public with the greyhound given to her by her husband.

It was Julia who had �Hail to the Chief� played for the President at state occasions. Later it was briefly banned by Sarah Polk, who very soon realized her mistake (her husband was being overlooked) and had it restored. Julia also had a �court� of ladies in waiting made up of her sister Margaret, two cousins and one of Tyler�s younger daughters by his first marriage. Perhaps one reason this worked was due to their youth and beauty. Julia once noted that much could be forgiven is one is young and pretty. Julia introduced both the polka and the waltz, but would never dance outside the White House, unless she arrived early enough to open the ball herself. No wonder she was often called �Lady Presidentress� or �Her Loveliness�. Julia even hired a press agent to sound her praises fair and wise and, though some like John Quincy Adams made fun of the Tylers, it made good news.

As for her stepfamily, Julia had her troubles with them but, in the end she won them all over, with the exception of Letitia Tyler Semple, who never forgave her. Of course all the Tyler men like her. As a New Yorker married to a Virginian, Julia Tyler soon took on all of her husband�s views and lobbied, though not very subtly or well, for the annexation of Texas. Three days before leaving office, Julia watched as her husband signed the joint Congressional resolution for the annexation of Texas. When Tyler gave her the pen he used to sign the document, she turned it into a necklace and wore it on formal occasions.

Over 3,000 people, who watched as the young Mrs. Tyler opened the dancing on the arm of the Secretary of State, attended her last ball on February 18, 1845. It was a huge success, and the evening closed with the ladies dancing a cotillion with the ambassadors from Russia, Prussia and Austria. John Tyler noted wryly that �no one could now say he was a President with no party!� One the day they left, the staff, guests and ambassadors formed two lines to say farewell. Though short, Julia Gardiner Tyler�s stay had been colorful, hectic and remarkable.

Later Years (1845-1889): Because she was still so young when she left the White House (25), it is important to make a few observations of what Julia did later. Living up to her motto �The full extent or nothing�, Julia redid their plantation home, Sherwood Forest, with her own money and made it into a showplace. She bore seven children which, along with the eight children borne by Letitia Tyler, made Tyler the president with the most children. Their years at Sherwood Forest were marred only by Julia�s over-spending and by imprudent loans made by John Tyler to his children and to friends. He was cash poor, which added to his troubles before his death. In 1853, Julia Tyler wrote a letter to the Southern Literary Messenger rejecting the pleas by English women to Southern women to help end slavery. Instead she praised it as a civilizing influence and noted that their slaves lived better than the poor of London. Though John Tyler had long fought for the preservation of the Union, when Virginia seceded in 1861, the Tyler�s went with it. Julia eagerly supported the Confederacy and encouraged all her sons who were old enough to join the army.

The death of John Tyler on January 18, 1862 in Richmond, Virginia left Julia a heart broken widow at 41. Sherwood Forest was captured by Union forces. Julia tried to settle in New York but, because of family arguments, went back to Virginia. The war made the sale of Sherwood Forest impossible. By the late fall of 1862, Julia was back in New York. Her mother, siding with Julia in the family argument, evicted her son, David Gardiner and made Julia welcome. After her mother�s death in 1864, her estate was divided between her children, and Julia received a 3/8ths share. Though never a wealthy widow, Julia was able to have her children educated in Canada and Germany. After the Panic of 1873, Julia had further financial difficulties. She resorted to selling her New York property and returned to Sherwood Forest. She did return to the White House on several occasions. She would present her portrait by Von Anelli to the nation, which was the first portrait of a First Lady to hang in the White House. Later First Lady Lucy Hayes would invite Julia to receive with her at a White House reception. In 1881 she won her battle to receive a pension as a president�s widow. She received $1,200 a year, which was later raised to $5,000 a year. Settling in Richmond, Julia Tyler�s last years were happy, especially after her conversion to the Roman Catholic faith in 1872.

Death: July 10, 1889 at the age of 69. She died in the same hotel room that her husband had died in 27 years before.

Burial: Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia by the side of her husband.

Legacy: After the sadness of Letitia Tyler�s long illness and death, and the political turmoil of the Tyler administration, Julia Gardiner�s bursting on the Washington scene was both dramatic and colorful. She had youth, beauty, wit, charm and an obvious enjoyment of that she did, which disarmed the would-be critics. Unlike the hapless Mary Lincoln, Julia Tyler�s sometimes bumbling attempts at treading the political waters caused little comment. Her nepotism, however, was another matter. Her �royalty touches� were ill-advised, but not motivated by malice or a real sense of snobbery. Young was her failing, but her attempts to add to the dignity of the office were more lasting. Especially notable was her introduction of use of �Hail to the Chief� to signal the entrance of the President. Her later years were filled with ups and downs, but her loyalty to John Tyler and all he stood for, never faltered or wavered.


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Husband John Tyler Jun 26, 1844-Jan 18, 1862
Son David Gardiner "Gardie" Tyler 1846-1927
Son John Alexander "Alex" Tyler 1848-1883
Daughter Julia Tyler Spencer 1849-1871
Son Lachlan Tyler 1851-1902
Son Lyon Gardiner Tyler 1853-1935
Grandson Harrison Ruffin Tyler 1928-
Son Robert Fitzwalter Tyler 1856-1927
Daughter Pearl Tyler Ellis 1860-1947
Father In-Law John Tyler, Sr. 1747-1813
Stepdaughter Mary Tyler Jones 1815-1848
Stepson Robert Tyler 1816-1877
Stepson John Tyler, Jr. 1819-1896
Stepdaughter Letitia "Letty" Tyler Semple 1821-1907
Stepdaughter Elizabeth "lizzie" Tyler Waller 1823-1850
Stepdaughter Anne Contesse Tyler 1825-1825
Stepdaughter Alice Tyler Denison 1827-1854
Stepson Tazewell Tyler 1830-1874

  11/05/1844 US First Lady Lost 0.00% (-61.82%)
  06/26/1844 US First Lady - Presidential Marriage Won 100.00% (+100.00%)