Warren G. Harding

— 29th President of the United States —

View full portraits at:
National Portrait Gallery or the White House Presidential Portrait Gallery


March 4, 1921 to August 2, 1923

BORN: November 2, 1865
Corsica, Ohio
August 2, 1923, San Francisco, California
Buried in Marion, Ohio
Florence DeWolfe, 1891

The Harding administration was beset by scandal that ended only with the president's death as the result of a stroke.

Harding brought to Washington a group that would ultimately shame him. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall sold the nation's oil reserves for his own personal gain in the infamous Teapot Dome scandal; Thomas Miller was convicted of accepting bribes; Jess Smith, who accepted the money for the operation, burned his papers and committed suicide shortly after Harding demanded his resignation;and Charles Cramer, who also committed suicide, was involved in selling surplus war goods for his own profit and taking drugs from veterans hospitals to sell to drug dealers.

There is no evidence that Harding knew about what his friends were doing, but he may have known before his death that his presidency was about to collapse.

To his credit, Harding was the first president since the Civil War to speak out in the South for the rights of black Americans.

Harding grew up in the small town of Caledonia, Ohio, where he milked cows, groomed horses, painted barns, and swam with his friends in Whetstone Creek. He also played cornet in the village band and later worked part time as a printer's helper at the local newspaper. His heroes were Napoleon and Alexander Hamilton.

At age 15, he entered Ohio Central College where he studied the basics but excelled at debating and composition. Drawing on his experience, he helped found the campus newspaper, which he also edited. He graduated in 1882 and delivered the commencement address.

Harding didn't enjoy his brief careers as a teacher and insurance salesman. He took a job as a reporter and jack-of-all chores at the "Marion Mirror" and several years later, with two other investors, scraped together $300 to buy the nearly defunct "Marion Star." He steadily increased the profitability and the quality of the paper.

His first elected office was that of Ohio state senator from 1899-1903. From there, he went on to become lieutenant governor and U.S. senator. He defeated James M. Cox, also an Ohio newspaperman, for the presidency by a 61 to 35 percent margin.

With scandal all around him, Harding took off in June of 1923 for a trip to meet the people and explain his administration's policies. After returning from a trip to Alaska, Harding fell ill and eventually suffered a stroke. He died on August 2.

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