In the 1890s Johnston was known as the “photographer of the American Court.” She did a series on the White House, one on homes of top administration leaders, and another on foreign legations. These photographs record a large segment of official Washington in the 1890s.

Foreshadowing her later career as an architectural photographer, the White House photographs were published as a book, The White House, in 1893. Frances Johnston was distantly related to Mrs. Grover Cleveland, and whether it was family ties or her characteristic persistence that opened doors in official Washington, she stalked American leaders for the next fifteen years, leaving behind an incredible documentary record.