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Letitia Christian Tyler

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Letitia Christian Tyler

Letitia Tyler
First Lady of the United States
In office
April 4, 1841 – September 10, 1842
Preceded by Anna Harrison
Succeeded by Priscilla Cooper Tyler
Second Lady of the United States
In office
March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841
Preceded by Floride Calhoun
Succeeded by Sophia Dallas
Personal details
Born (1790-11-12)November 12, 1790
New Kent County, Virginia, U.S.
Died September 10, 1842(1842-09-10) (aged 51)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Spouse(s) John Tyler

Letitia Christian Tyler (November 12, 1790 – September 10, 1842), first wife of John Tyler, was First Lady of the United States from 1841 until her death.

Early life and marriage

Born at the Cedar Grove plantation in New Kent County, Virginia, Letitia Christian was the daughter of Colonel Robert Christian, a prosperous planter, and Mary Brown-Christian. Letitia was shy, quiet, pious, and by all accounts, utterly selfless and devoted to her family.

She met John Tyler, then a law student, in 1808. Their five-year courtship was so restrained that not until three weeks before the wedding did Tyler kiss her—and even then it was on the hand. In his only surviving love letter to her, written a few months before their wedding, Tyler promised, "Whether I float or sink in the stream of fortune, you may be assured of this, that I shall never cease to love you."

They married on Tyler's 23rd birthday at Cedar Grove, her family's home. Their 29-year marriage appears to have been a singularly happy one. Mrs. Tyler avoided the limelight during her husband's political rise, preferring domestic responsibilities to those of a public wife. During his congressional service, she remained in Virginia except for one visit to Washington during the winter of 1828-1829. In 1839, she suffered a paralytic stroke that left her an invalid. As First Lady, she remained in the upstairs living quarters of the White House; she came down just once, to attend the wedding of her daughter (Elizabeth) in January 1842.


John and Letitia Tyler had four daughters and three sons live to maturity:

  • Mary Tyler-Jones (1815–1848) - In 1835 she married Henry Lightfoot Jones, a prosperous Tidewater planter.
  • Robert Tyler (1816–1877) - lawyer, public official. Having served as his father's private secretary in the White House, he settled in Philadelphia, where he practiced law and served as sheriff's solicitor. He also was chief clerk of the state supreme court. He married Priscilla Cooper Tyler, an actress, who at the age of 24 assumed the position of White House hostess, and she served as official hostess at the White House during the first three years of the Tyler administration. As a leader of the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania, Robert Tyler promoted the career of James Buchanan. At the outbreak of the American Civil War, he fled Philadelphia when an antisouthern mob attacked his home. He returned to Virginia, where he served as register of the Treasury of the Confederacy. Penniless after the war, he settled in Montgomery, Alabama, and there regained his fortunes as a lawyer, editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, and leader of the state Democratic Party.
  • John Tyler, III (1819–1896) - lawyer, public official. Like his older brother, he also became a lawyer, served as private secretary to his father and campaigned for James Buchanan. During the Civil War, he served as assistant secretary of war of the Confederacy. After the war, he settled in Baltimore, where he practiced law. Under the Grant administration, he was appointed to a minor position in the IRS in Tallahassee, FL.
  • Letitia Tyler-Semple (1821–1907) - educator. In 1839, she married James Semple, whom her father appointed a purser in the U.S. Navy. The marriage was an unhappy one. At the close of the American Civil War, she left her husband to open a school, the Eclectic Institute, in Baltimore.
  • Elizabeth Tyler-Waller (1823–1850) - At a White House wedding in 1842, she married William N. Waller. She died from the effects of childbirth at age 27.
  • Alice Tyler-Denison (1827–1854) - In 1850 she married the Reverend Henry M. Denison, an Episcopal rector in Williamsburg. She died suddenly of colic at age 27.
  • Tazewell Tyler (1830–1874) - doctor. During the Civil War, he served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army.

Death and legacy

External video
America's First Ladies, Anna Harrison, Letitia Tyler & Julia Tyler, 2013, C-SPAN[1]

The first President's wife to die in the White House, Letitia Tyler died peacefully in the evening of September 10, 1842 from a stroke.[2] She was taken to Virginia for burial at the plantation of her birth. At the time of her death, she was 51 years old, making her the youngest First Lady to die. Tyler, along with Caroline Harrison (1892) and Ellen Wilson (1914) are the only First Ladies to have died in the White House.

Her daughter-in-law Priscilla Cooper Tyler remembered her as being "the most entirely unselfish person you can imagine...Not withstanding her very delicate health, mother attends to and regulates all the household affairs and all so quietly that you can't tell when she does it."

Tyler appears on a 28p (£0.28) commemorative postage stamp from the Isle of Man Post Office, issued May 23, 2006, as part of a series honoring Manx-Americans.[1] She also appears on a one-half ounce gold coin issued by the United States Mint on July 2, 2009. [2]


  • Original text based on White House biography
  1. ^ "America's First Ladies, Anna Harrison, Letitia Tyler & Julia Tyler".  
  2. ^ Jeffrey M. Jones, Joni L. Jones. "Presidential Stroke: United States Presidents and Cerebrovascular Disease". CNS Spectrums. Retrieved August 31, 2014. 

External links

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Floride Calhoun
Second Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Sophia Dallas
Preceded by
Jane Irwin Harrison
First Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Priscilla Cooper Tyler
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