On a recent visit to New Hampshire’s state Capital of Concord, we wanted to learn more about the only US President to come from New Hampshire: Franklin Pierce and his estate, the Pierce Manse. America’s 14th president, serving one term from 1853 to 1857, Franklin Pierce was born in Hillsboro, New Hampshire and later served as a lawyer in Hillsboro. The seventh of nine children, Pierce’s father was a two time New Hampshire Governor in the 1820s. Pierce graduated from Maine’s Bowdoin College, where he met lifelong good friend, author Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Pierce is known as a Brigadier General during the Mexican American War, and the youngest Speaker of the NH House and the youngest member of the US Congress in history. Pierce was (arguably) most known for his support for the Kansas- Nebraska Act, which allowed settlers in these areas to decide whether or not to allow slavery, although Pierce personally opposed slavery. The Act led to violent fighting between supporters on both sides of the issue or slavery and eventually led to the Civil War. However, during his presidency, Pierce had great success in promoting Western Expansion, reducing the national debt, reducing the national debt, modernizing the Army and Navy, signing over 50 treaties, and strengthening US relations with various countries which led to international peace.
Pierce’s home was built in 1838 and had no plumbing, no electricity, and no heating (only by fires in the fireplaces). Pierce and his wife, Jane, lived in the house from 1842-1847, after Pierce had resigned his US Senate seat and focused on his law practice. Pierce sold the house when he left to fight in the Mexican War and when he returned, his family lived in Concord until his inauguration in 1953. In 1966 a group of local citizens called the Pierce Brigade saved the mansion from demolition and had it moved about a mile from its original location. Today, visitors can tour the Pierce Manse and explore exhibits celebrating the life and legacy of America’s 14th President.
Playing “I Spy” in the Pierce Manse:
- The rug beater in the laundry room
- The policeman’s flashlights (from the early 1800s!) and the Skater’s Candle (used to light the pond where family members used to skate at night) in the kitchen.
- The massive apple peeler in the dining room.
- A replica piece of White House china in the china cabinet in the dining room.
- A copy of the menu from the night celebrating Pierce’s election as President, December 22, 1852 in the dining room.
- The sofa that was part of Jane’s dowry when she married Franklin in the parlor (mainly used to greet guests).
- The boot scrapers outside the front door.
- The chamber pot under the guest room bed.
- The original footstools that were made by Jane in the guestroom.
- Embroidered linens on the master bedroom bed.
- The slipper case on the wall of the master bedroom (used to hang slippers so certain creatures wouldn’t crawl in them and surprise the wearer!)
- Pierce’s travel toiletry kit and shaving kit (that he actually used!) in the master bedroom.
- The potty chair in the nursery.
- The baby shoes worn by two of Pierce’s three sons. All three boys died before adulthood (Franklin Jr. was two days old, Franky was four years old, and son Benny was 11 years old)
- The top hat Pierce wore for his inauguration in the Campaign Room. Franklin Pierce was the only president to never have a Vice President in office (William R. King was sworn in while recovering from tuberculosis in Cuba but died before getting to Washington DC to begin his term and Pierce never replaced him).
Looking for other adventures in Concord? Check out our posts featuring the Canterbury Shaker Village and the McAuliffe Shepard Discovery Center. And if you’re interested in other presidential sites, check out our posts featuring the FDR Presidential Library, Museum, and National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York; Theodore Roosevelt’s Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, New York; Eisenhower National Historic Site in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock Arkansas; George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas; and George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. And follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.