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Warren G. Harding
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Warren G. Harding


Warren G. Harding
Order:29th President
Term of Office:March 4, 1921 - August 2, 1923
Predecessor:Woodrow Wilson
Successor:Calvin Coolidge
Date of BirthNovember 2, 1865
Place of Birth:Blooming Grove, Ohio
Date of Death:August 2, 1923
Place of Death:San Francisco, California
First Lady:Florence Harding
Political Party:Republican
Vice President:Calvin Coolidge

Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 - August 2, 1923) was the 29th (1921-1923) President of the United States and the sixth President to die in office.

Historians routinely categorize Harding as the worst President in US History, due to the incredibly corrupt nature of his Administration.

Harding was born in Blooming Grove, Morrow County, Ohio, November 2, 1865 to Dr George Harding and Phoebe Dickerson. He graduated from Ohio Central College at Iberia. Harding was the oldest of six children; his boyhood heroes were Alexander Hamilton and Napoleon. His mother was a doctor.

In 1889 (when he was 24) Harding suffered a nervous breakdown and spent several weeks in a sanitarium. Two years later he married Florence "Flossie" Mabel Kling DeWolfe, age 30, a divorcee with one son. Flossie was described as stubborn and old-fashioned. Five years older than he, she had pursued him persistently, until he reluctantly gave in. Her father opposed the marriage vigorously.

Theirs was an unhappy marriage. Harding neglected her and focused his attention on his poker buddies and other women. Still, Flossie's managerial skills helped them build his newspaper into a financial success.

Table of contents
1 Political rise
2 Presidency
3 Death
4 Extra-Marital Affairs
5 Supreme Court appointments
6 Related articles
7 External links

Political rise

An influential newspaper publisher, Harding was elected to the United States Senate in 1899, serving four years before being elected Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, a post where he served from 1903 to 1905. In both cases his service was relatively indistinguished, and at the conclusion of his term as Lieutenant Governor Harding returned to private life.


Re-entering politics, Harding won election to return to the United States Senate in 1914, serving from 1915 until March 4, 1921 and earning the distinction of becoming the first sitting Senator to be elected President.

As was the case during his first tenure as a Senator, Harding was relatively indistinguished, missing over two-thirds of the roll-call votes - among them the vote to send the 19th amendment (granting Women's Suffrage) to the states for ratification.

Election of 1920

Main Article: U.S. presidential election, 1920

A relative unknown outside his own state, Harding was a true "dark horse" candidate, winning the Republican party nomination due to the political machinations of his friends. Before receiving the nomination, he was asked whether there were any embarrassing episodes in his past that might be used against him. He had a very limited formal education, suffered from depression, had spent several years in a sanitarium, had a rocky relationship with his wife (whom he referred to as "the Duchess"), had a longstanding affair with the wife of an old friend, and was a heavy drinker despite Prohibition. Though he answered no, each of these issues was raised by his opponents during his presidency.

In the 1920 election, Harding ran against Democrat Ohio Governor James M. Cox, whose vice presidential candidate was Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The election was considered a referendum on whether to continue with the progressive work of the Woodrow Wilson administration or to go back to the laissez-faire approach of the William McKinley administration.

Harding ran on a promise to "return to normalcy," which reflected three trends of his time: a renewed isolationism, a resurgence of nativism, and a turning away from the government activism of the progressive era.

During the campaign, rumors were printed that Harding's great-great-grandfather was a West Indian black and that other blacks lurked in his family tree. In response, Harding's campaign manager said "No family in the state [of Ohio] has a clearer, a more honorable record than the Hardings, a blue-eyed stock from New England and Pennsylvania, the finest pioneer blood."

Harding received 61% of the national vote and 404 electoral votes. Cox received 35% of the national vote and 127 electoral votes. Eugene V. Debs, campaigning from Federal prison, received 3% of the national vote.


As President, Harding played golf twice a week, and poker twice a week. Although as Senator of Ohio, he had voted for Prohibition, Harding kept the White House well stocked with bootleg liquor. He attended baseball games regularly.


Upon winning the election, he placed many of his old allies in prominent political positions. Known as the "Ohio Gang," few of them showed any real talent and some actually used their new powers to rob the government. Corruption was rampant throughout Harding's administration, though it is uncertain how much Harding actually knew about his friends' activities. One of the most famous scandals of the time was the Teapot Dome scandal, which shook the nation for many years after Harding's death. The scandal involved Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall, who was eventually convicted of renting public oil fields to private concerns in exchange for personal loans. In 1931 Fall became the first member of Cabinet to be sent to prison.

Thomas Miller, head of the Office of Alien Property, was convicted of accepting bribes. Jess Smith, personal aide to the Attorney General destroyed papers and then committed suicide. Charles Forbes, Director of the Veterans Bureau, skimmed profits, earned fat kickbacks, and ran alcohol and drugs. He was convicted of fraud and bribery, and drew a two-year sentence. Charles Cramer, an aide to Charles Forbes, committed suicide.

No evidence to date suggests that Harding personally profited from these crimes. "My God, this is a hell of a job!" Harding said. "I have no trouble with my enemies, but my damn friends, they're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights."

Throughout his administration, Harding adopted a laissez-faire attitude, and there are few lasting achievements to his name. One important event, however, was the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-1922, which at Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes' instigation limited the size of navies and reduced tension between the US, the UK and Japan in the Pacific. Also notable was the establishment of the Bureau of the Budget (now the Office of Management and Budget), which increased the powers of the president by directing departmental spending plans to him rather than to Congress.


In June of 1923, Harding set out on a cross-country Voyage of Understanding. His plan was to meet regular people and explain to them his policies. During this trip, he became the first President to visit Alaska. At the end of July, while traveling south from Alaska, Harding developed a bad case of food poisoning. Arriving at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, he developed pneumonia. He died early in the morning on August 2, 1923. Doctors surmised that he had suffered a heart attack. But Mrs. Harding refused permission for an autopsy. Harding was succeeded by his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge.

During the White House funeral, alone by the casket, Mrs. Harding spoke for more than an hour into the face of her dead husband. Mrs. Harding died sixteen months later. Harding was first intered in Marion Cemetery, Marion, Ohio, then reintered in the Harding Memorial Tomb.

A book from 1930 called The Strange Deaths of President Harding suggests that there were many with motives to murder the President, including his wife.

Extra-Marital Affairs

Not until 1963, when dozens of love letters were discovered by biographers, was it known that Harding had a 15-year relationship with Carrie Fulton Phillips, wife of his longtime friend James Phillips. She was 10 years younger than Harding. By 1915, she began trying to sway Harding to leave his wife. When he refused, she left her husband and moved to Berlin with her daughter. However, the United States was increasingly likely to be drawn into World War I, so Carrie moved back to the U.S. and the affair reignited. Harding was now a Senator of Ohio, and a vote was coming up regarding a declaration of war against Germany.

Carrie threatened to go public with their affair if he voted for the declaration. Harding voted for the declaration of war, but Carrie did not reveal the scandal to the world. When Harding won the Republican presidential nomination in 1920, the affair was still going on. In order to remove the potential for the scandal breaking, the Republican National Committee sent Carrie and her family on a trip to Japan, paid them over $20,000, and promised monthly payments thereafter.

While seeing Carrie Phillips, Harding was also having an affair with Nan Britton, a flapper who was 30 years younger than he. In January 1919 in his Senate office, they conceived Harding's only child, Elizabeth Ann Christian. Harding never met his daughter, but he paid large amounts of child support. Harding and Britton continued their affair while he was President, utilizing a closet adjacent to the Oval Office for privacy.

After Harding's death, Britton tried unsuccessfully to win money from Harding's estate to pay for his daughter's future. In 1927, Nan Britton published a book The President's Daughter, which told all.

Supreme Court appointments

Harding appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

Related articles

External links

Preceded by:
Woodrow Wilson
President of the United States
Succeeded by:
Calvin Coolidge
Preceded by:
Theodore E. Burton
U.S. Senator from Ohio
Succeeded by:
Frank B. Willis