Letitia Tyler First Spouse Gold Coins
Letitia Tyler First Spouse Gold Coins are the tenth commemoratives to be issued in a series that honors American First Ladies, and the second set of coins for 2009. The United States Mint released the $10 denominated gold pieces on July 2, 2009.
In total, both coins combined have a maximum mintage of 40,000 as outlined in the the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005 — the law that authorized the series.
The Letitia Tyler First Spouse Gold Coin’s obverse (heads) side depicts a portrait of her designed and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill.
Letitia Tyler Biography (1790-1842)
Having suffered a stroke two years earlier, Letitia Tyler assumed all but the ceremonial duties of First Lady when her husband unexpectedly succeeded to the Presidency in 1841. This would further deteriorate her health, however, and she became the first wife of a president to die while her husband was still in the White House.
Born to a prosperous plantation owner on November 12, 1790, Letitia Christian would not receive much of a formal education. Instead, she would be taught the techniques of running a household and raising a family. This training would serve her well as she would eventually become the wife of a politician.
Having met a young law student named John Tyler, they assumed a courtship that would last over five years. Being extremely religious, they maintained a cordial relationship. It is said that Tyler did not even kiss Letitia until a few weeks before their marriage, and then only on her hand.
Finally married, Letitia would be satisfied with running the household while her husband made his way up the political structure of the country. When John served as a congressman in Washington D.C., Letitia would remain behind in Virginia to raise her family. She only joined John once in D.C. during these years during the winter social season.
The separations did not hurt their relationship, and the Letitia would give birth to several children. Of these, 4 girls and 3 sons would reach maturity.
In 1839, Letitia suffered a paralytic stroke that left her an invalid. Constrained to a chair, she refused let that stop her from directing household affairs.
John Tyler was nominated and won the Vice Presidency under William Henry Harrison. They took office in 1841, but Letitia once again remained at her home in Virginia. In fact, John preferred to remain there as well, and intended to carry out his duties from home.
Fate would not comply with their plans as Harrison died a mere month after taking office. John assumed the Presidency, and invalid Letitia joined him in the White House. Unable to walk, Letitia orchestrated the household affairs from the upstairs residence. Only once did she appear downstairs in public, and that was for her daughter Elizabeth’s wedding in 1842.
For ceremonial requirements, Letitia’s daughter-in-law Priscilla would offer her services. Happy to do this, Priscilla remarked about Letitia:
"…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."
This arrangement would not last, as Letitia suffered another stroke in 1842, and passed away peacefully on September 10 at the age of 51.
The death of Letitia would mark the first time a president’s wife would die while he was still in office. Her remains were buried at the plantation where she was born.
- United States Mint information/order page
- Letitia Tyler First Spouse Gold Coin images
- Letitia Tyler First Spouse Medal Images
- Letitia Tyler First Spouse Coin Designs
- White House Biography