From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Johnson, Laura "Dolly"

(born: 1852  -  died: 1918) 

Dolly Johnson, an African American from Kentucky, was the cook for President Benjamin Harrison. She  had cooked for the Harrison family in Indiana  sometime prior to their move to the White House. She was summoned to the White House by President Harrison around 1889 to replace Madame Petronard, a French chef.

According to an article in the Woodland Daily Democrat, 1/09/1890, p. 3, Laura [Dolly] Johnson was from Lexington, KY. She was described in the Plaindealer (1889) as about 37 years old, an educated mulatto who had secured a bit of wealth as a cook for Colonel John Mason Brown.

For more see S. E. Wilkins, “The president’s kitchen – African American cooks in the White House; includes recipes; Special Issue: the Untold Story of Blacks in the White House,” American Visions (February - March 1995); “Dolly the Kentucky negro cook,” Davenport Tribune, 3/07/1893; "Will cook for the President," Plaindealer, 12/20/1889, p. 1; and "Mrs. Harrison's Lexington cook," The Kentucky Leader, 12/03/1889, p. 2.

Additional information received by email from Yvonne Giles, 1/14/2016:

"[President] Harrison lost the next election to Grover Cleveland. Dolly worked for Cleveland for about a year, but he fired her and then tried to rehire her. Dolly refused his offer. Instead she returned to Kentucky, met and, in 1894, married Ed Dandridge, a cook for the Fleischman (yeast company) family of Louisville.

The couple  eventually came to Lexington, where Dolly opened restaurants in several downtown  locations. Dolly Johnson died in February 1918 and was buried in Cemetery No. 2; Ed died about six months later and was also buried in No. 2.  There is a large marker in Section F, row 2, between Sidney Woodard and Mary Thompson, with just  "DANDRIDGE" engraved upon it. It looks as if the site may have had a tablet at one time, but the tablet is no longer there. And of course they might be buried over in Section D with Emma Bailey [Dolly Johnson's daughter], the grave site is no longer marked.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Woodland daily Democrat (newspaper)
NKAA Source: American visions (periodical)
NKAA Source: The Davenport tribune (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Plaindealer, The (newspaper) (Detroit)
NKAA Source: The Kentucky leader (newspaper)
NKAA Entry: Giles, Yvonne Y.
NKAA Entry: African Cemetery No. 2 (Lexington, KY)

Related Entries Citing this Entry


Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Johnson, Laura "Dolly",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 22, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-09-03 13:00:18