Letitia Christian Tyler

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Letitia Christian Tyler
Letitia Tyler2.jpg
Tyler's White House Portrait (1842)
10th First Lady of the United States
In role
April 4, 1841 – September 10, 1842
President John Tyler
Preceded by Anna Harrison
Jane Harrison (Acting)
Succeeded by Priscilla Tyler (Acting)
Second Lady of the United States
In role
March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841
President William Henry Harrison
Preceded by Floride Calhoun (1832)
Succeeded by Sophia Dallas (1845)
Personal details
Born Letitia Christian
(1790-11-12)November 12, 1790
Cedar Grove, Virginia, US
Died September 10, 1842(1842-09-10) (aged 51)
Washington, D.C., US
Spouse(s) John Tyler (m. 1813)

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[edit]

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, selfless and devoted to her family.

She met John Tyler, then a law student, in 1808, their five-year courtship was restrained and it was three weeks before the wedding that Tyler first kissed her — 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 happy one. Letitia 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 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[edit]

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

The first first lady to die in the White House, Letitia Tyler died peacefully, aged 51, in the evening of September 10, 1842 from a stroke,[2] she was taken to Virginia for burial at the plantation of her birth. Tyler, 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 "the most entirely unselfish person you can imagine. Notwithstanding 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.[3] She also appears on a one-half ounce gold coin issued by the United States Mint on July 2, 2009.[4]


  1. ^ "America's First Ladies, Anna Harrison, Letitia Tyler & Julia Tyler". C-SPAN. 2013. Retrieved April 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ Jeffrey M. Jones, Joni L. Jones. "Presidential Stroke: United States Presidents and Cerebrovascular Disease". CNS Spectrums. Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Title last held by
Floride Calhoun
Second Lady of the United States
Title next held by
Sophia Dallas
Preceded by
Anna Harrison (de jure)
Jane Harrison (de facto)
First Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Priscilla Tyler
De facto