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Warren Harding: 29th President: Wrought With Scandal

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

Official Presidential Painting

Who Was Warren G Harding and What Did He Do?

Warren G. Harding was born on November 2, 1865, only seven months after the Civil War ended to George Tryon Harding and Phoebe Elizabeth Dickerson. His family originally lived on a farm but wanted to be able to provide their family with a better life. They both became doctors; Phoebe worked as a midwife, while George had a doctor's office in their small town in Ohio.

His first job, at the age of 19, began when he and two of his friends bought a newspaper for $300. It was called the Marion Star, and Harding became the publisher. It was through the paper that his interest in politics grew because he met many political leaders as a result. Soon after, he married a woman who had divorced a few years earlier named Mrs. Florence Kling De Wolfe.

He was active in his church and even served as a trustee to Trinity Baptist Church. He worked for many prominent businesses as director and even led fraternal organizations and charitable enterprises. He also enjoyed playing many instruments. He claimed the only instruments he did not know how to play were the trombone and the E-flat cornet. Because of his love for music, he organized the Citizen's Cornet Band, which played for both Republican and Democratic rallies.

As the paper became more successful and his political interests grew, he became lieutenant governor of Ohio, and eventually a United States Senator in 1914. His kind smile and handsome appearance made him a very popular Senator and governor, which ultimately gained the Republicans' favor. Before running for office, he proved to have a compelling speaking voice with strong Republican views. He used these gifts as he supported William Taft in the election of 1912, although Taft lost the candidacy. Due to his vibrant speeches, Harding gained success in the Senate.

What Did "Return to Normalcy" Mean?

Republicans enjoyed his success as a senator and picked him to run for President in 1920. His campaign promised that the United States would "return to normalcy." Referring to the need for the United States to return to how it was before World War I. There were many restrictions placed on the people during that time, many were looking for a reprieve from the wartime stresses, and the following speech Warren gave before his nomination was a comfort:

"America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality...."

He was well-liked, but the one thing that caused people to resist him was his unknown stance on the League of Nations that Woodrow Wilson introduced years before. Thirty-one distinguished Republicans assured voters by signing a manifesto that stated voting for Harding was voting for the League of Nations, which put those in support of the League at ease. Unfortunately, Harding felt he should stay out of the League of Nations, and did not support this while in office.

First Cabinet Meeting

Hardings first meeting with his cabinet. Photo is dated from 1921 and may also be found in the library of Congress.

Hardings first meeting with his cabinet. Photo is dated from 1921 and may also be found in the library of Congress.

What Is Warren G Harding Best Known For?

He won the election with a landslide of 60 percent of the popular vote and became the 29th President. He kept his promise, the best he could, taking off wartime control and cutting taxes. Unfortunately, he did not surround himself with the best of friends and placed people as Cabinet members that would cause a lot of ruckus. Big oil scandals broke out, Cabinet members were taking bribes, many arrested, and some other officials stole government funds. One of the most famous scandals was the Teapot Dome scandal.

The Teapot Dome scandal involved Albert Fall, Harding's good friend and Secretary of the Interior. Fall asked for cattle and money in trade for the rights to oil reserves that were in Teapot Dome, Wyoming, which was a significant violation against American rights. He was caught, which grieved Harding greatly, then arrested.

Not all of his presidency was fraught with scandal. He was very sensitive to both women and minorities and fought for the equality of both. He also embraced technology, encouraging advancements in that area. Republicans were pleased as they quickly got the President to sign the bills they tried to pass, which allowed the United States government to have an established Federal budget system, impose tight limitations upon immigrants, as well as to restore high protective tariffs.

By 1923, the people felt prosperous once more after the postwar depression. The newspapers were happy with the progress and even declared Harding, a wise statesman. The public thought that he fulfilled his campaign promise of "less government in business and more business in government."

What Happened to Harding?

During the summer of 1923, the scandals weighed heavy on his heart. He felt ashamed of those he put into power and those he called friends. He decided to tour America to express his deep regrets. During this trip, he suffered a heart attack in August of 1923 and died suddenly, never having told his side of the story nor finding out how the public felt about the scandals that occurred during his administration.

How President Warren Harding's Extramarital Affairs Changed History

Fun Facts

  • Both his parents were doctors.
  • He was known for having affairs. Harding's wife and family were "paid off" to keep quiet while he ran for president. One of his affairs may have resulted in a daughter, whom he agreed to pay child support for.
  • Harding was appalled by the treatment of African-Americans and even fought for desegregation in Washington, D.C.
  • Several scandals amongst his friends he put in the Cabinet occurred. Most famously, the Teapot Dome Scandal, which involved Albert Fall, Harding's Secretary of the Interior. He traded the rights to oil reserves in Teapot Dome, Wyoming, in exchange for cattle and money. After being caught, he spent time in jail.
  • He bought a company, the Marion Daily Star, which was a failing newspaper company at the time of his purchase. He turned it into a very successful business with the help of his wife. His biggest competitor was his wife's father.

Basic Facts

Question Answer


November 2, 1865 - Ohio

President Number




Military Service


Wars Served


Age at Beginning of Presidency

56 years old

Term of Office

March 4, 1921 - August 2, 1923

How Long President

2 years


Calvin Coolidge

Age and Year of Death

August 2, 1923 (aged 57)

Cause of Death

cerebral hemmorhage

Warren G Harding's HouseLocated at 380 Mount Vernon Avenue, Marion, OH. From it, he conducted his successful front porch campaign for president in 1920. Built in 1891, it was Harding's home until he moved to White House in 1921. Now it is a National

Warren G Harding's HouseLocated at 380 Mount Vernon Avenue, Marion, OH. From it, he conducted his successful front porch campaign for president in 1920. Built in 1891, it was Harding's home until he moved to White House in 1921. Now it is a National

List of American Presidents

1. George Washington

16. Abraham Lincoln

31. Herbert Hoover

2. John Adams

17. Andrew Johnson

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt

3. Thomas Jefferson

18. Ulysses S. Grant

33. Harry S. Truman

4. James Madison

19. Rutherford B. Hayes

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

5. James Monroe

20. James Garfield

35. John F. Kennedy

6. John Quincy Adams

21. Chester A. Arthur

36. Lyndon B. Johnson

7. Andrew Jackson

22. Grover Cleveland

37. Richard M. Nixon

8. Martin Van Buren

23. Benjamin Harrison

38. Gerald R. Ford

9. William Henry Harrison

24. Grover Cleveland

39. James Carter

10. John Tyler

25. William McKinley

40. Ronald Reagan

11. James K. Polk

26. Theodore Roosevelt

41. George H. W. Bush

12. Zachary Taylor

27. William Howard Taft

42. William J. Clinton

13. Millard Fillmore

28. Woodrow Wilson

43. George W. Bush

14. Franklin Pierce

29. Warren G. Harding

44. Barack Obama

15. James Buchanan

30. Calvin Coolidge

45. Donald Trump


  • 10 Things to Know About Warren G. Harding. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2016, from http://americanhistory.about.com/od/warrengharding/tp/Ten-Things-To-Know-About-Warren-G-Harding.htm
  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Warren G. Harding. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/warrenharding
  • Sullivan, G. (2001). Mr. President: A book of U.S. presidents. New York: Scholastic.

© 2016 Angela Michelle Schultz

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