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Presidential Love Child

A new DNA test shows that Nan Britton was telling the truth when she told the world her affair with President Warren G. Harding produced a daughter.

Actually, the daughter, Elizabeth Ann, was produced while Harding was a United States senator. The affair lasted six and a half years, including during Harding’s short presidency. Nan Britton told the world about it in a 1927 memoir, The President’s Daughter. She said they “made love” in a closet in his senate office, and Elizabeth Ann was born in 1919. Her reward was harsh media attention and vilification by Harding’s family and supporters.

Now it’s more than 99 percent certain that Nan was telling the truth, something her family says they knew all along. The DNA test involved her grandson, Jim Blaesing, and two descendants of Harding’s — in fact, it was the Harding descendants who initiated the test as a way to solve the longstanding mystery.

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Warren Harding was 31 years older than Nan Britton. She had a schoolgirl crush on him back in Ohio (his sister was her teacher), and she claimed they first hooked up in a New York hotel in 1917, when she was 20 years old.

Harding died halfway into his presidency, at the age of 57, and made no provisions for his daughter with Britton. He never met the child, but apparently helped out financially, getting money to Britton by way of the Secret Service or Harding’s sister. After Harding died, Britton self-published her tell-all book in an effort to earn money and to tell her story.

Nan Britton settled in Oregon, where she died in 1991 at the age of 94. Her daughter with Harding, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing, died in 2005.

For the New York Times story on the DNA results, go here.

For more on Harding, go to the Who2 biography, or read about his sex scandal(s) in our feature, Common Bonds: Presidential Sex Scandals.

For a feature in The Atlantic that delves into what a lousy president Warren G. Harding was, go here.

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