Presidential History Blog

  Just as the Madison parlor was always full, so was their dining table.

The Early Madison Years

When the young widow Dolley Payne Todd became Mrs. James Madison in 1794, their first two years were spent in Philadelphia, then capital of the United States, where Dolley had lived since she was fifteen.Taught as a Quaker to scorn frivolity and fashion, Dolley Payne was accustomed to the “plain” image: gray gowns and bonnets, plain house accoutrements, and plentiful but plain menus.

Congressman Madison, on the other hand, seventeen years older than his 25-year-old wife, came from wealthy planters in central Virginia. While his personal style was plain enough, befitting his small-in-stature persona, he was also accustomed to participating in the gracious company of his elegant peers.

Having waited so long for the pleasure of marital happiness, Madison wanted to shower his pretty new bride with the best he could…

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