The Rosenbach Podcast: Episode 27

Tea with President James Buchanan and First Lady Harriet Lane: The Remarkable Public Life of a Bachelor President’s Niece

Photograph of Harriet Lane, ca. 1857-1861. JB-03-45-02. Courtesy of LancasterHistory, Lancaster, PA.

Born into a middle-class family and stricken by tragedy early in life, Pennsylvanian Harriet Lane ascended to the summit of American and British social life as the official hostess of her uncle, U.S. President James Buchanan. In this interview with Patrick Clark, director of James Buchanan’s Wheatland estate in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, we consider Lane’s remarkable public life—and how delaying marriage enabled her to achieve a level of influence and freedom that evaded most married women in her eraAs the Rosenbach gears up for an exhibition devoted to the history and future of the American presidency in 2023, this episode of The Rosenbach Podcast sets the stage for a consideration of the importance of family life—and public image—to the executive officeholder.    

Letter from Dorothy Blomfield to James Buchanan, written at Fulham Palace, London, JBFP Courtesy of LancasterHistory, Lancaster, PA. In the letter, Bishop of London Chales J. Blomfield and his wife invite James Buchanan, then United States Minister to the United Kingdom, and his niece, Harriet Lane, to tea.