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Henry Elliot Johnston

Henry Elliot Johnston
Date: 1859
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 29.25 x 24.5 in.
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Henry Elliot Johnston


Johnston, a Baltimore banker and benefactor to Johns Hopkins, was born in Baltimore. After studying at Princeton, he and his brother Josiah carried on a prosperous banking business that their father had handed down to them. He also was a director of the Northern Pacific Railroad.

In 1866, Johnston married Harriet Lane, a socialite and niece to former U.S. President James Buchanan. They had two sons, both of whom were affected by a sudden, unknown illness that left both boys physically impaired with hearts weakened by rheumatic fever. The Johnstons widely sought medical advice and treatment but to no avail. One son died at home in 1881 and the other died a year and a half later; they were 15 and 12 years old.

The Johnstons wanted to spare other families with less means who had children with long-term or terminal illnesses; they chose to fund a pediatric medical facility to be a comforting place to provide care for children requiring lengthy care. When Henry Johnston died in 1884, he left his estate to his wife.

Upon Harriet’s death nearly 20 years later, the Johnstons left a sum of over $400,000 to establish the Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children as a memorial to their two sons. In 1906, the trustees of the Harriet Lane House elected to build the home at The Johns Hopkins Hospital with the hospital providing the land and supplying the medical and nursing staffs. In October 1912 the Harriet Lane Home officially opened. It was the first children’s clinic in the United States associated with a medical school.

Eventually treating over 60,000 children a year, the Harriet Lane Home became a pioneer treatment, teaching, and research clinic. In 1972, the Harriet Lane Home closed giving way to the modern Edwards A. Park Building. The Harriet Lane Home building itself was demolished in 1974. In 2006 the Harriet Lane Clinic was relocated to the new David M. Rubenstein Child Health Building. The Harriet Lane Outpatient Clinics continue to serve thousands of children today, and the widely used manual for pediatric house officers, The Harriet Lane Handbook, bears his wife’s name.