James Buchanan, the only bachelor president, installed his 27 year-old niece Harriet Lane as First Lady when he came to the White House in 1857. Known as the “Democratic Queen,” she enlivened the capital with her elegance and social grace. But she wasn’t entirely frivolous either – “people who felt they lacked representation elsewhere sometimes appealed to her for help, and her papers indicate that she tried to comply. Indians who turned to her for assistance showed their gratitude by naming many of their daughters “Harriet.” She intervened to get jobs for friends and she interspersed artists with politicians at White House dinners to give more importance to cultural subjects.” She later donated her own art collection to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, which later became the basis for the National Collection of Fine Arts at the Smithsonian.   
Facts from First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama by Betty Boyd Caroli. C-SPAN is exploring the influence of First Ladies in its new series
Image: Harriet Lane Johnston. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

James Buchanan, the only bachelor president, installed his 27 year-old niece Harriet Lane as First Lady when he came to the White House in 1857. Known as the “Democratic Queen,” she enlivened the capital with her elegance and social grace. But she wasn’t entirely frivolous either – “people who felt they lacked representation elsewhere sometimes appealed to her for help, and her papers indicate that she tried to comply. Indians who turned to her for assistance showed their gratitude by naming many of their daughters “Harriet.” She intervened to get jobs for friends and she interspersed artists with politicians at White House dinners to give more importance to cultural subjects.” She later donated her own art collection to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, which later became the basis for the National Collection of Fine Arts at the Smithsonian.   

Facts from First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama by Betty Boyd Caroli. C-SPAN is exploring the influence of First Ladies in its new series

Image: Harriet Lane Johnston. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.