Question of the Week
From 1794 to 1797, Dolley and her husband James Madison lived in Philadelphia at what address?
Answer: 429 Spruce Street
Dolley Payne was born in North Carolina to John and Mary Payne. The family moved between North Carolina and Virginia during Dolley's younger years, and the family eventually moved to Philadelphia in 1783. At the age of 21, Dolley married local lawyer John Todd and the couple lived at 4th and Walnut Streets. They enjoyed only three years together since Todd succumbed to Yellow Fever in 1793. About a year later, Dolley married again, this time to Virginia Congressman James Madison. Dolley and James remained in Philadelphia at his house at 429 Spruce Street until he retired from Congress in 1797.
They moved to Virginia where Dolley became unofficially involved in politics and government by assisting President Jefferson with dinners, fundraising for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and other social affairs. This experience prepared her for the role that we now call “First Lady,” when her husband was elected President in 1808. Dolley is the first president’s wife to formally associate her position with a public project, where she helped found a home for orphaned girls. A lady of firsts, Dolley was approached by the Washington Navy Yard to have a dinner and dance that became the first Inaugural ball, with more than 400 people in attendance. Years later, Samuel F. B. Morse gave Dolley the honor of being the first private citizen to transmit a message via telegraph. Dolley died in 1849 in Washington, D.C., at the age of 81.
Image: "Jas. And Dolley Madison house, 429 Spruce Street," photograph (circa 1930)
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.