May 4, 1820, on Gardiner’s Island, New York


July 10, 1889, in Richmond, Virginia


John Tyler’s first wife, Letitia, died in 1842 in the midst of his presidency. Two years later the 54-year-old Tyler remarried in a secret ceremony on Gardiner’s Island, New York, and the 24-year-old Julia Gardiner became first lady in 1844. Of all the presidential marriages, the Tyler couple had the greatest age difference. Julia served as first lady for only a few months, but she apparently relished her role and hosted regular dinner parties and receptions. Julia instituted the practice of having “Hail to the Chief” played when the president entered the room during state occasions. During the next administration First Lady Sarah Polk banned music at the White House, including “Hail to the Chief,” but she quickly realized that the omission resulted in her husband being ignored, and she reversed her decision. In the years after the Tylers left the White House, Julia signed her letters “Mrs. Ex-President Tyler.”


Tyler and Julia both shared a significant loss in their lives: his first wife had died, and her father had been accidentally killed. The mutual losses seemed to reinforce their attraction. Julia commented, “After I lost my father, I felt differently toward the President. He seemed . . . to be more agreeable . . . than any younger man.”

[Back to First Lady Fact Files]