Query - Buchanan administration era social circles in Washington DC

Matthew Gilmore's picture

This query is from H-SHEAR--I'm sure the querant would appreciate suggestions:

Most recent part...

Having had little success with this posting last year, I'm trying again. Anyone else trying to reconstruct Washington D.C. circles? I don't care if your input deals with the Indian Office intrigues; I'd love anything at all that helps pinpoint the power brokers, especially of the Buchanan Administration.

I have two new tidbits to offer others who are working on reconstructing social relationships at Washington...

I. This a part of "Documenting the American South," a project of the University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

This is A Belle of the Fifties; Memoirs of Mrs. Clay, of Alabama, Covering Social and Political Life in Washington and the South, 1853-66:Electronic Edition .

II. The finding aid for the Stephen A. Douglas Papers at University of Chicago contains some intriguing leads for the intrepid gossipmonger: If you work back and forth between correspondents, including those of the Cutts family, you might find something helpful. Be sure to go all the way to the end--there are secondary lists of chronological stuff as well as the main list. Copies of the originals are $.25 per page, plus additional costs.

Linda Bryan Maplewood MN

Following up on....

I need background on Wisconsin Territory and Minnesota Territory political issues, esp. in association with the Interior Dept. and the Indian Agency.

Wisconsin statehood and Minn. Territory coincided with the transition time when the Indian Agency was removed from the War Department's caseload and put into the caseload of the new Interior Dept., or "Home Dept" as it was first called. Minnesota Territory lasted 1849-1857. Minnesota's Territorial Delegate to Congress during much of the the Filmore, Pierce, and Buchanan Administrations was Henry M. Rice, whose career is of special interest to me. Rice joined with John C. Breckenridge and Stephen A. Douglas to build a 3-unit rowhouse at Washington sometimes called "Douglas Row" or "Minnesota Row" and social events there are vaguely referenced in materials I have located. Rice was also a colleague and admirer of Rob't Toombs of Georgia, but I've also had trouble locating documentation of Rice's involvement with Toombs and other Southerners or pro-South Westerners. Rice's wife may have had family connections to the social life of Washington and Richmond, but I'm unsure how to validate my hunch. 

It would be very helpful for me to find good sources of gossip of the time, especially dealing with Indian delegations, other Westerners at Washington, various Territorial officers who left the West to lobby at Washington, Interior and Indian Agency contractors, insiders, and lobbyists, and sets of Congressional allies. I've found recently one gossipy source that covers a great deal of the 19th Century, should you also be seeking similar sources: Court Circles of the Republic, or the Beauties and Celebrities of the Nation by Mrs. E.F. Ellet. The book is available free online through the HathiTrust...https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.b4765718;view=1up;seq=13

I solicit recommendations of other resources. I also would enjoy exchanging 19th century gossip with other junkies of this sort of thing. Anyone got any dirt on Orlando Brown of Taylor's Indian Agency or Luke Lea of Filmore's Indian Agency, or Mr. Chas. E. Mix, the longterm clerk of the Agency who was occasionally allowed to be pro temp Commissioner of Indian Affairs? 

Linda Louise Bryan
Maplewood MN


You might explore the relationship between President Buchanan and Jacqueline Pendleton, daughter of architect Robert Mills and wife of gambler Edward Pendleton. Edward Pendleton was on close terms with much of D.C.'s political elite and was a lobbyist as well. Jacqueline Pendleton was a close friend of Buchanan, who attended her funeral and wrote a eulogy for her, which appeared in the National Intelligencer. She traveled to France and was rumored to have carried on discreet diplomacy between the French and U.S. governments.
M. Herlong

Here are a few suggestions for the context of 1850s Washington DC.


This book may prove insightful

Washington Brotherhood

Politics, Social Life, and the Coming of the Civil War

By Rachel A. Shelden



This too, as more of a primary source:


Sara Agnes Rice Pryor, 1830-1912

My Day: Reminiscences of a Long Life.

New York: The Macmillan Company, 1909.


and this:

Outbreak in Washington,: The 1857 Mystery of the National Hotel Disease

By Kerry Walters

Published in 2014.