As did so many Presidents before and after him (and in between – Cleveland was the only President to serve 2 non-consecutive terms) President Grover Cleveland had several pets while he was in the White House. Along with the dogs, exotic fish, and ponies, Cleveland and his family also had birds.
A mockingbird and several canaries; to be precise. These birds really belonged to First Lady Frances “Frank” or “Frankie” Cleveland. According to Margaret Truman in White House Pets, birds were not a favorite pet of the President himself:
“Unlike Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Cleveland found the birds annoying on occasion, especially the mockingbird. One evening when he was up late working, the mockingbird’s antics kept interrupting his concentration. He had the bird moved. Sudden silence and the fact that the bird might have been placed in a draft worried him even more. Mr. Pendel, an aide, spent part of the night moving the mockingbird from place to place trying to find a compromise where the bird wouldn’t catch cold, and where it’s warbling could not be heard by the President.”
At least one canary was owned by daughter Ruth Cleveland, who used to hang her canary’s cage in the front upper nursery window of the White House. Unfortunately, Ruth was never in the best of health and she died of diphtheria when she was 12 years old.
While there is no record to show exactly how many birds resided in the White House during this time, Frances Cleveland had so many birds that she “lost track of their numbers, although she knew each one by name,” say Dorothy and Carl J. Schneider in First Ladies, A Biographical Dictionary.
Frances’ way with animals was often remarked upon, and she was often labelled as an animal lover with an affinity for all animals.