Obtained directly from a Harding/Britton descendant and never before offered for sale .
The idea of the Presidential personal scandal is well known today. But in the 1920s, this was not the case. The personal lives of public figures were largely kept private. Scandals revolved around corruption and other areas of political influence. But that changed with the Presidency of Warren G. Harding, an affable...
The idea of the Presidential personal scandal is well known today. But in the 1920s, this was not the case. The personal lives of public figures were largely kept private. Scandals revolved around corruption and other areas of political influence. But that changed with the Presidency of Warren G. Harding, an affable man known for his love of leisure and women. By the far the most famous such scandal involved Nan Britton, thirty years younger than Harding. Their affair began in 1917, when the moonstruck teenager from Harding’s hometown of Marion wrote him asking for a job. Harding put her to work in a clerical position at the U.S. Steel Corporation in Washington, D.C. They continued their affair (often seeing each other in the Oval Office) until his death. Nan gave birth to a baby girl on October 22, 1919, named Elizabeth Ann Christian.
After his death, Britton sued Harding’s estate to gain a trust fund for her daughter. Failing that, she wrote a best-selling book, The President’s Daughter, dedicated “to all unwed mothers, and to their innocent children whose fathers are usually not known to the world.” It recounted the specific logistics of the affair in great detail and is the first “tell-all” book, a sensation in its time that, according to John Dean, of Watergate fame but also a Harding biographer, did more to define Harding’s legacy than anything else. Britton failed to get multiple publishing companies interested in the story and eventually, in 1927, self published it. According to her mother’s book, Elizabeth Ann was conceived on a couch in Harding’s Senate office and was born in New Jersey. Britton wrote that Harding personally gave her money to support herself and the child. After he took office, he arranged for Secret Service agents to hand-deliver regular child-support payments. But he refused to meet the girl. Britton wrote that she visited Harding at the White House in 1923, surprising him with the news that their 3-year-old daughter was sitting on a park bench in Lafayette Square, visible from the second-floor window, but he refused to look. When Harding took office in 1921, Britton’s sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Scott Willits, adopted Elizabeth Ann for appearance’s sake, and she was thus raised in the family.
Signed photograph, as President, inscribed to the Mrs. Willits who was raising Harding’s own love child, “With greetings and good wishes to Mrs. S. A. Willits, with that high regard which goes to a daughter of a valued friend. Warren G. Harding.” A remarkable association.
Elizabeth Ann grew up in Illinois. After World War II, she moved to Glendale, California where she lived quietly for decades with her husband, last name Blaesing, and their three sons. From her Glendale home, she gave one of her first interviews; her mother was secretly living nearby. “Mother wasn’t bitter,” she told The Times in 1964, in an article whose headline referred to her as Harding’s “love child.” “All through the years she never spoke badly of Harding. It was all love, adoration and affection. She told me she loved him very much. She still does…. I had a normal childhood. But then I didn’t go around telling people” about her father.
Although Britton was never able to prove without a doubt that Harding was in fact her daughter’s father, the lurid details and the conviction she inspired has left little doubt to posterity. It was generally believed that she was in fact telling the truth, and this feeling was bolstered by Harding’s long time friend and aide, George Christian, who confirmed it as true.
This piece comes directly from a Harding/Blaesing descendant and has never before been offered for sale.
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