Warren Gamaliel Harding was born November 2, 1865, on the family farm in Morrow County, Ohio, now known as Blooming Grove.
Harding was handsome and made friends easily. He married Florence DeWolfe July 8, 1891. Some historians said that his marriage was not happy, and no children were born to them. He often referred to her as “Duchess” because of her domineering manner. Perhaps their lack of a good relationship gave rise to his philandering; as President, he was linked to two other women during his administration.
Harding won as the Republican candidate in 1920, with Calvin Coolidge as his Vice President. Harding’s election in 1920 was the first where women were allowed to vote. His speech at the University of Alabama in 1921, when talked of ending racial injustice and seeing African Americans become full participants in American life, is etched in history for all to remember.
His administration was rocked by scandal. His Secretary of the Interior, Albert G. Fall, was accused of accepting bribes in exchange for lucrative oil leases on public lands in Elk Hills, South Dakota, called Teapot Dome. The scandal led to several resignations and became a synonym for poor Presidental judgment until the Nixon/Watergate era 50 years later.
Although Harding was not one of America’s favorite Presidents, he owned one of the country’s most beloved pets, Laddie Boy, an Airedale Terrier of impeccable reputation. The press made more of Laddie Boy and his antics than of the President himself. On July 17, 1921, the Washington Star printed an “interview” with Laddie Boy where he gave his opinion on everything from Woodrow Wilson’s sheep and prohibition to the Harding Cabinet, and he advocated eight-hour day for guard dogs. Louis Newman of the Newsboys Association raised 19,134 pennies from newsboys to be melted down and made into a statue of Laddie Boy by a sculptor named Bashka Paeff. Laddie sat for the sculptor 15 times and the statue can be seen today at the Smithsonian.
Harding died in office August 2, 1923, returning from a train trip from Alaska. He became sick in Seattle and died shortly afterwards he died in San Francisco of a heart attack. He was buried in Marion, Ohio. How much President Harding knew of the corruption in his administration will never be known. After his death, Mrs. Harding burned his papers and correspondence, making a diligent effort to recover and destroy even his personal notes and letters he had written to others. As a result, historians have been thwarted in their search for facts about Harding.