Warren G. Harding

Warren G. Harding

29th President, 1921-1923

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Official Presidential portrait of Warren G. Harding Artist: Edmund Hodgson Smart, 1922

Official Presidential portrait of Warren G. Harding
Artist: Edmund Hodgson Smart, 1922

  • Born on November 2, 1865 in Corsica (now Blooming Grove), Ohio.
  • Parents: Dr. George Tryon Harding, Sr. and Phoebe Elizabeth Dickerson. Siblings: Charity Malvina, Mary Clarissa, Eleanor Persilla, Charles Alexander, Abigail “Daisy” Victoria, George Tryon, and Phoebe Caroline.
  • His family moved to Caledonia, Ohio where he attended the local schoolhouse until the age of 14.
  • Attended Ohio Central College at 14, graduating in 1882.
  • Worked as a teacher, insurance salesman, and journalist. He also briefly studied law.
  • He bought the Marion Daily Star newspaper in 1884 after raising $300, working to make it the leading newspaper in Marion County, Ohio.
  • Entered Battle Creek Sanitarium in 1889 after suffering from exhaustion and nervous fatigue.
  • Married Florence Kling DeWolfe (1860–1924) on July 8, 1891. No children.
  • Elected to the Ohio State Senate in 1899 and served until 1903.
  • Ran for Governor of Ohio in 1903 but lost. Appointed Lieutenant Governor and served from 1904 to 1906.
  • When not in politics, Harding worked to make his newspaper a successful business venture with the aid of his wife, who was more business savvy than he was.
  • Elected U.S. Senator in 1914 and served until 1921.
  • Nominated as the Republican Party’s Presidential candidate in the 1920 election.
  • Won the election with 60% of the popular vote and a majority of electoral votes.
  • The election of 1920 was the first to be broadcast on the radio. It was also the first time that women could vote.

Presidency

Harding circa 1920 Photograph by Harris & Ewing

Harding circa 1920
Photograph by Harris & Ewing

  • Took his oath of office on March 4, 1921 at the East Portico, U.S. Capitol.
  • Signed the Emergency Quota Act in May 1921. The law limited the number of immigrants entering the U.S. from each country to 3% of that country’s immigrants who were already in the U.S.
  • Signed the Emergency Tariff Act in May 1921. The Act would be replaced by the Fordney–McCumber Tariff Act one year later. These acts raised tariffs to protect domestic products and end the post-World War I recession.
  • In July 1921, Harding signed a declaration officially ending its war with Germany and Austria. The U.S. signed separate peace treaties with the two countries instead of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • Signed the Budget and Accounting Act in June 1921. The law created the Bureau of the Budget and the General Accounting Office under the management of the Treasury Department. The law also called for the President to submit an annual budget to Congress, a practice which continues to this day.
  • Signed the Sheppard–Towner Maternity and Infancy Act in September 1921. The law granted federal funds to match that of each state for maternal and child care.
  • Spearheaded the Washington Naval Armament Conference from November 1920 to February 1921 in Washington, D.C. The Conference aimed to limit naval armaments in the participating nations, which included the U.S., Japan, Great Britain, France, Italy, China, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Portugal.
  • Signed the Revenue Act of 1921, which reduced income tax on wealthy Americans. Also signed the Federal Highway Act of 1921, which would improve and expand highway systems in the country.
  • Had the first radio set installed in the White House in February 1922. He was also the first President to be heard on the radio when he spoke at the dedication of a site to Francis Scott Key, the author of the Star Spangled Banner.
  • Signed the Capper–Volstead Act in February 1922. The law allowed farmers to buy and sell lands through the formation of cooperatives.
  • In May 1922, Harding signed a law creating the Federal Narcotics Control Board.
  • The President and his wife embarked on a transcontinental tour to Alaska and the Western states in June 1923.
  • After visiting Alaska and Washington state, Harding was on the train from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, California when he suffered what was believed to be pneumonia. He stayed at the Palace Hotel and had the speech he had planned to give be delivered through the national press instead.
  • Although his condition temprarily improved, he died suddenly on August 2, 1923. He is believed to have suffered a heart attack.
  • His body was taken from the hotel and brought directly to a funeral train. The train traveled cross-country from west to east for four days with millions of people lining the tracks along the way to pay their respects.

Legacy

  • His casket was first placed in the East Room of the White House prior to the state funeral on August 8, 1923.
  • His body was initially kept at the receiving vault of Marion Cemetery. After the death of his wife in November 1924, they were re-interred in the recently completed Harding Memorial in Marion, Ohio on December 20, 1924. The Memorial was dedicated on June 16, 1931 by President Herbert Hoover.
  • Several big scandals, which involved corruption by officials appointed by Harding, cam to light following his death: The Teapot Dome scandal, the scandals in the Veterans’ Bureau, the Prohibition Bureau, the Shipping Board and the Office of Alien Property, and Harding’s appointment of Harry M. Daugherty, his campaign manager, as Attorney General of the Justice Deparment.
  • There is speculation that Harding may have learned of the corruption while in office. However, much of his correspondence was burned by his wife after his death.
  • The railroad car that carried Harding on his tour of Alaska’s “Westward” is displayed at Pioner Park in Fairbanks, Alaska.
  • Warren G. Warding’s home in Marion, Ohio is open to the public. It contains many pieces of furniture that belonged to the president. The Ohio Historical Society manages the property.