Warren G. Harding is known as one of the worst presidents in the history of the United States. He was a likeable and nice guy, but his administration was full of crooks. Many scandals were coming to light just as Warren died during a trip to Alaska.
Warren grew up in the small town of Caledonia, Ohio. His father owned a local newspaper where Warren worked as a boy and learned about journalism. He also enjoyed music and was an excellent cornet (a type of horn) player. In 1882 he graduated from Ohio Central College. He studied law for a short while and then went back into the newspaper business.
Harding and his wife Florence Source: Library of Congress
Before He Became President
As Harding's newspaper business grew, he began to turn his career toward politics. He won a seat on the Ohio State legislature and then became lieutenant governor. Harding was an excellent public speaker and began to make his mark within the Republican Party.
In 1914 Harding ran for the U.S. Senate and won. His time in the Senate was somewhat unremarkable. The opposition party had control of Congress and Harding seldom took a strong stance on the issues. He earned the name Wobbly Warren for always sitting on the fence on issues and often appearing to change sides.
When the 1920 presidential election started up, many thought that Harding could become president. Ohio was a key state and he was very popular there. Harding was reluctant and had to be convinced, but he finally agreed to run. When the Republican convention began, Harding was in last place on the initial vote of the delegates. However, the powerful men of the party got together and discussed who they thought could win. They decided on Harding and he received the nomination. Many of the men smoked and this type of politics became known as "smoke-filled room" politics.
Harding ran for president on the platform of "return to normalcy". Voters liked this as they wanted things to be back to normal now that World War I was over. Harding won in a landslide and became the 29th president.
Warren G. Harding's Presidency
When Warren G. Harding became president he found he was out of his league. Many of his "friends" that he appointed to his cabinet and administration turned out to be crooks who just wanted to use the government to make money. He realized this later when he said "I have no trouble with my enemies…but my friends, they're the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights!"
Harding did have some initial successes. The first budget system was established for the federal government. Also, the country agreed with other world powers to stop the arms race of building large battleships.
Soon, however, Harding's administration came under attack for all sorts of scandals. The worst of the scandals was the Teapot Dome Scandal.
Teapot Dome Scandal
The United States Navy held valuable oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming. These reserves were owned by the government and kept in case of emergency. Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, needed money and decided to secretly sell some of these reserves to oil companies. He took payments as well as a herd of cattle. This was all very illegal and Albert Fall ended up going to jail.
How did he die?
Harding was on a trip visiting the territory of Alaska when his health failed. He died in San Francisco. Many people think that the stress of the scandals had some part in his death.
Warren G. Harding by Edmund Hodgson Smart
Fun Facts About Warren G. Harding
He was the first president to talk on the radio.
After his death, Mrs. Harding went back to Washington D.C and destroyed many of his papers and correspondence. She said she did this to protect his legacy.
He wore size 19 shoes, making his the largest feet of any U.S. president.
When he was younger he was known by the nickname "Winnie".
He liked to play poker and one time lost a set of White House china in a poker game.
Harding was the first president elected after women had received the right to vote per the 19th amendment.