Buchanan’s Liberty First Spouse Gold Coins
As dictated by the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005, James Buchanan’s Liberty First Spouse Gold Coin features an obverse design emblematic of the mythical figure Liberty, as it would have appeared on a coin during his Presidency. This is because Buchanan was a life-long bachelor, and consequently no official First Lady was tied to his administration.
The Buchanan Liberty is the sixteenth coin in the First Spouse series and is struck from 1/2 ounce of 24 karat gold with a face value of $10. The coins come in proof and uncirculated finishes and have a combined maximum mintage of 15,000.
The coins were issued by the United States Mint on September 2, 2010. While prices for each can change weekly based on the cost of gold, the proof debuted at $799 and the uncirculated at $766.
The figure of Liberty on the obverse is a reproduction of the one found on the Liberty Head Quarter Eagle that was minted from 1840 through 1907 and designed by Christian Gobrecht. On the reverse we see a young Buchanan in the family’s small country store doing bookkeeping. It was designed by David Westwood and sculpted by Joseph Menna.
Harriet Lane Biography (1830-1903)
As there was no official First Lady during Buchanan’s tenure, it is only appropriate to have some biographical information on the woman who most consider to be the un-official first lady and who served as the hostess of the White House during this time. This distinction falls on Harriet Lane, niece of President Buchanan.
Harriet was born in 1830 and became an orphan at age 11 when her father died (her mother passed away a few years earlier). At her own request, her uncle (mother’s brother) James Buchanan was appointed her guardian.
Intent on insuring a good education for his new charge, James sent Harriet to private schools ending with a two year enrollment at the Academy of the Visitation Convent in Washington, D.C. Upon the end of her schooling, James was already quite successful in his political endeavors and was pleased to introduce Harriet to the social world that it involved.
In 1854, James was the minister to the Court of St. James and had Harriet join him in London where Queen Victoria gave her the rank of “ambassadors wife.” Then, in 1857 she joined her uncle in the White House after he was elected President of the United States.
Following the sober Pierce administration, Harriet immediately went about the task of re-introducing fun and frivolity to the social functions of the Buchanan tenure. She proved to be a popular hostess and even used her position of power to influence social causes including the living conditions on American Indian reservations.
The country was slowly being torn apart by this time leading up to the Civil War. Despite this, Harriet did her best to organize the White House parties so that all would be given their correct level of respect while insuring that rivals were kept at a distance from each other.
Following Buchanan’s term in office, Harriet joined the former President at his home in Pennsylvania. Several years later she finally married at the age of 36 and had two sons. Both died before reaching adulthood, and Harriet also lost her husband and her loving uncle James.
In the following years, she used her accumulated wealth to build a collection of art which she bequeathed to the Smithsonian. She also endowed money for the creation of a home for invalid children at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and the St. Albans Boys School in Washington D.C. Jane passed away on July 3, 1903.