Ohio’s Great 8: Warren G Harding

Warren G. Harding was the 8th person from Ohio to become President of the United States of America, the 29th overall. Born  November 2, 1865. The Civil War had just ended and the long stretch of Ohio presidents was beginning at the time. Harding was born in Blooming Grove, Ohio. His birthplace is now only marked with a sign.

Harding went to school at Ohio Central College and started the school newspaper while there. Newspapers were to play a big part in the rest of his life. While he was a senior his family moved to Marion, Ohio.  After school Harding saved up money to buy a failing newspaper, The Marion Star.

Warren G. Harding used to papers train pass to visit the 1884 Republican National Convention. While there he met many famous reporters of the time. His paper, however, was taken over by the sheriff while he was away. After he got his paper back harding decided to turn it into a nonpartisan paper. This pleased the advertisers of the democratic Marion County and the republican Marion, Ohio. Harding was starting to show that he had an eye for politics.

Harding soon married Florence Kling, the daughter of his rival. This marriage was a boon for the Marion Star as Florence took over the papers financial.  Mrs. Harding’s work behind the scenes would be one of the major factors leading Warren to the presidency. Some say even up until his death.

During the 1896 election Warren G. Harding made a name for himself while campaigning statewide for William McKinley. At the time the strategy for an Ohioan running for office was the Front Porch Campaign, where in the candidate would stay at home receiving visitors and send out others to do his campaigning. This was a perfect opportunity of up and coming young politicians to get a chance to meet the public. Harding used this opportunity as a stepping stone to State Senator, Lieutenant Governor, and finally in 1914, U.S. Senator.  A position held until the 1920 elections.

1920 was the biggest year of the 20th century for Ohio politics.During the presidential campaign Harding floundered in the early primaries. He finally gained the republican nominate on the tenth vote of the republican convention. his opponent in the general election was fellow western Ohio newspaperman, and sitting governor, James Cox. Cox’s running mate was Franklin D Roosevelt. With little to separate the candidates, the campaign came down to the issues. Harding took to the Ohio style Front Porch Campaign. The home and porch is now a museum. Cox used a more active style. On August 18th 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote. This meant that the 1920 presidential election was the first national election that women would vote in.

Teapot Dome at the time of the scandal

March 4, 1921 Warren G. Harding was inaugurated as 29th President. While not a fan of the League of Nations, he formally ended World War I with the signing of Knox-Porter Resolution. Harding did many things during his presidency but he is most remembered for his scandals. The Teapot Dome Scandal was the worst of time. The scandal involved the lease of oilfields for low rates without competitive bidding. In the end Hardings first Secretary of the Interior Albert Falls was sent to prison for one year. Hardings Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty was thought to be in league with bootleggers. Harding also had trouble with Charles Forbes, the head of the Veterans Bureau. Forbes was found to have taken kickbacks and selling off property for personal gain.

Most of the scandals didn’t come to light during Hardings presidency however. During a trip to San Fransisco Warren G Harding began failing on July 27, 1923. On August 2, 1923 the president suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. His final resting place is  in his memorial in Marion Ohio. He wife rests next to him.

Harding -2015 ror

While he may have been forgotten as a president Harding’s influence on an era has not. Both Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey have used his presidency and it’s scandals as a major story line. If it had not been for Nixon he may still be known as having one of the biggest scandals and everything would be known as “dome” instead of “gate.”

PS. The 1920 campaign saw the first widespread use of telemarketing in a presidential campaign.

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