Miss Nancy and Auntie Fancy

Oct 2014
430
Las Vegas NV
I came across information in Wikipedia that contemporaries of James Buchanan and William Rufus King referred to them as Miss Nancy and Auntie Fancy. The two men shared a room in a boarding house for ten years and often appeared at public events together. When King assumed as diplomatic post in France in 1844, Buchanan [who was effeminate] wrote a letter of lament to a female friend stating he was unsuccessful in wooing other men. Since sodomy was a crime in every state, I find it difficult to believe these high-profile men would have given cause for gossip or did not sue for slander.

The sexuality of Abraham Lincoln has also been debated because he was reportedly awkward around women and shared a bed with a younger man, Joshua Speed, above Speed’s general store from 1837 to 1841. Lincoln, however, never concealed his personal friendship with Speed; and he married Mary Todd in 1841. I do not believe anyone with political aspirations would have an openly homosexual relationship in the 19th century.

Although sodomy with teenage drummer boys in the Civil War, or with the ‘’Little Mary’’ [cook’s helper] on the cattle drives from 1865 to 1885, may be within the realm of plausibility, I have yet to find any credible evidence of widespread open homosexuality. There were plenty of prostitutes in the army camps as well as the cow towns and mining towns of the Old West at a cheap price [ten cents to fifty cents].

Does anyone have any credible evidence on these topics?
 

Salah

Forum Staff
Oct 2009
23,284
Maryland
Buchanan has always struck me as being asexual, and I think Lincoln was rather obviously heterosexual. Though if a closet homosexual has been elected thus far in presidential history, I'd guess it must have been Old Buck.

A lot of the controversy about Lincoln's sexuality arises from how masculine culture has changed since Victorian times. Sharing a bed with other men was a part of life if you were on the road, or if you were staying in a boarding house in some frontier or backwater town. Bromances with tenderly-worded expressions of love and affection were common in Victorian times, and were to be seen between men who were absolutely heterosexual. Its modern people who are funny about these kinds of things and assume they're proof of "gayness".
 
May 2013
1,696
Colorado
We will never know the extent of homosexuality in the 18th and 19th century since it was on the side - many who preferred men still got married, but the evidence is that it was established. Whether or not Alexander Hamilton and Laurens had a sexual relationship at Valley Forge is debated, that Von Steuben enjoyed men is more generlly accepted, but still debated. That Washington preferred to ignore Lt. Enslin's actions, but was forced to by Benedict Arnold is more accepted. Then there is the case of Deborah Sampson.

Whether Ralph Waldo Emerson acted on his preference for me we will never know, but his relationship with his wife was formal and ritualistic - one had few choices then. Was he homosexual (gay is a new term) or bi-sexual, we may never know. Thoreau's journals certainly seem homoerotic at times and the Leaves of Grass by Whitman is among the best homoerotic poetry out there - as we know he was homosexual as well as were Herman Melville and Horatio Alger. I have read that Robert Gould Shaw preferred men, but have not pursued that. That Revolutionary era Virginia had homosexuals is pretty well known and the law was made more lenient in 1776.

In 2009, the Autry National Center had an exhibition on gays in the old west which gave a new light to the meaning "out west." The famous "One-Eyed Charlie" turned out to be a woman - they only found out after he died. As the Autry exhibition showed, many men lived with their "cousin" or had a "butler." These were common ways of getting by as a confirmed bachelor but yet to have an ongoing relationship. Even when I was young, it was common for two gay men living together to say they were "cousins."
 
Last edited:
May 2013
1,696
Colorado
The use of the word credible forces me to say no.
Salah summed it up quite well.
Actually, the Autry Center's exhibition showed the evidence does exist. Books like Men in Eden which explores homosexuality in the frontier fur trade, Redressing America's Frontier Past are good introductions. Even the 1882 edition of the Texas Livestock Journal wrote that “if the inner history of friendship among the rough and perhaps untutored cowboys could be written, it would be quite as unselfish and romantic as that of Damon and Pythias”.
 
Last edited:
May 2013
1,696
Colorado
Jim Wilke, a cowboy historian, has spoken on the role of gay cowboys - a tradition which goes on today with openly gay members of the PRCA.

Personal note: I will be taking a break from the internet until the summer. Best to all who love history.
 
Last edited:
Jun 2013
46
Alabama
The "Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy" quote is attributed in the day to our illustrious Ex-President Andrew Jackson referring to the couple of William Rufus King and James Buchanan, long-time room-mates and companions.

King eventually became Vice President and, of course, Buchanan became President (at different times).

Whether King and Buchanan were a couple is open for historical speculation. There is, however, evidence that provides noticeable smoke for what some consider a salacious fire.

Letters to and fro the two men in the day during absences of King being abroad are telling. The same can be said of their activities together in Washington. After their deaths, their families reportedly destroyed large collections of such letters etc. So, who knows?

As for Lincoln, yes, he crawled into bed with more than one man. Lol. In the day, as has already been pointed out, such practices were not uncommon in inns, taverns and out on the road etc. Rather than a past-time of romantic adventure, it was a practice among the more common men to efficiently use scarce beds. Later, Lincoln supposedly did it a time or two as President to show his common-man roots out in the field of war.

Back to W.R. King-

King was very prominent in the territory in which he lived- present day Alabama. He was involved in the establishment of the state of Alabama and he also designed and named the town of Selma. The King family operated a huge cotton plantation on the river there and they worked 500+ slaves at one time.

An interesting anecdote.

The county in Washington state in which Seattle is located was named King County in honor of W.R King at the time of his prominence in Washington. Such honor-namings were a common measure to gain favor in Washington for territories seeking to gain approval as states.

The county is still King County. However in recent times, the Washington legislature, disdaining that this county was named for a southern slave owner, passed a resolution assigning the King name to Martin Luther King instead of William Rufus King.

William Rufus King has a little-known tomb today in the historic Live Oak Cemetery in downtown Selma.
 
Oct 2014
430
Las Vegas NV
From the pictures of prostitutes in mining camps which I have seen, I would definitely have preferred a fresh-faced young man. But even that would make me hesitant, given that bathing was a once-a-week luxury. The spate of books on gay history show men dancing together, but I think it was from a shortage of women who certainly did not look like Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke.

I think the gay relationships on the frontier grew out of he need to keep warm and shortage of women. Like in ancient Rome [which is better documented], sex was ''just sex.'' The movie ''Brokeback Mountain'' romanticizes a fantasy for gay men.