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From the October Capital by Rick Closson

“It seems to me that a leading question ought to be: do the American people want a common libertine for their president?” As topical as this question may seem, it’s not a quote from the recent campaign despite what you may think. It’s the lead sentence from a 2013 article in Smithsonian Magazine referring to a 19th century American election. The paragraph concludes, “So wrote a preacher from Buffalo, New York, to the editor of the Chicago Tribune on the eve of the 1884 presidential election.” The then-candidate (and ultimately, president – twice) was Grover Cleveland.

Thirty-six years later, the 1920 campaign of Warren Harding escaped similar scandal headlines because his paramour became pregnant only after his election. Nan Britton was the mother of “The President’s Daughter,” also the title of her book written after Harding’s death in office when the president’s family refused to acknowledge or provide for the child. DNA evidence has confirmed the child to have been Harding’s.

medallionAlden Freeman, donor of Franceschi House and Park to Santa Barbara in 1931, supported Britton’s cause and funded the publication of her tell-all book and national speaking tour. Freeman commissioned and mounted a 1927 plaster medallion in honor of Britton on the exterior of Franceschi House. That full story was told in a 2001 issue of The Capital. A 1930 edition of the medallion was mounted in the courtyard of Casa Casuarina (aka the “Versace Mansion”) in Miami Beach.

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