Johnston, Harriet Lane

Niece of bachelor James Buchanan and his 1857-61 White House hostess, Baltimore & Washington philanthropist

Price: $225.00

Description:
(1830-1903) Niece of lifelong bachelor President James Buchanan, acted as First Lady of the US 1857-61, one of the few women to hold that position while not being married to the President. Her family was from Franklin County, Penna. She lost her mother at 9; when her father died 2 years later making her an orphan, she requested that her favorite uncle, James Buchanan, be appointed her legal guardian. Buchanan, a bachelor Democratic Pennsylvania US Senator, indulged his niece and her sister, enrolling them in boarding schools in Charles Town, Virginia and the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., and introduced her to fashionable circles as he had promised. In 1854 she joined him in London, where he was Minister to the Court of St. James's. Queen Victoria gave her the rank of ambassador's wife. The capital welcomed its new "Democratic Queen" to the White House in 1857. She was a popular hostess during Buchanan’s presidency. Women copied her hair and clothing styles (especially when she lowered the neckline on her inaugural gown by 2.5 inches), parents named their daughters for her, and a popular song ("Listen to the Mockingbird") was dedicated to her. She used her position to promote social causes, such as improving living conditions of Native Americans in reservations. She also invited artists and musicians to White House functions. The presidential yacht was named for her, the first of several ships to be named for her, one still in service today. As sectional tensions increased, she worked out seating arrangements for her weekly formal dinner parties with special care to give dignitaries their proper precedence and still keep political foes apart. Buchanan retired from office and returned with his niece to his home, Wheatland, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She waited until she was almost 36 to marry, and chose, with her uncle's approval, Henry Elliott Johnston, a Baltimore banker. Within the next 18 years she lost her uncle, both her young sons, and her husband. Thereafter she lived in Washington. She had acquired a sizable art collection, largely of European works, which she bequeathed to the government. Accepted after her death in 1903, it inspired an official of the Smithsonian Institution to call her "First Lady of the National Collection of Fine Arts". In addition, she dedicated a generous sum to endow a home for invalid children at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. It became a renowned pediatric facility; the Harriet Lane Outpatient Clinics serve thousands of children today, and the widely used manual for pediatric house officers, The Harriet Lane Handbook, bears her name. She added a codicil to her will in 1899 directing that a school building be constructed on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral property and asked that it be called the Lane-Johnston Building. A 1903 codicil increased her gift by one third but said that only half the total was to be spent on the building. The remainder was "specially to provide for the free maintenance, education and training of choirboys, primarily those in service of the Cathedral." This bequest founded the prestigious boys' school today called St. Albans School, which opened in October 1909. The US Coast Guard has had 3 cutters named in her honor; the 3rd, the USCGC Harriet Lane (WMEC-903), commissioned in May 1984, is still in active service. Frameable autograph sentiment signed (“Believe me-/Yours very sincerely/ Harriet Lane Johnston”) on undated 3 ˝ x 4 ˝ black-bordered (mourning) card with black-bordered envelope addressed by her to a Chester County, Penna. physician, stamped and postmarked Washington DC, March 21 1889.

Condition: Very good
Type:Autograph Sentiment Signed






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