Warren Gamaliel Harding
Burial Location Visited President Grave #
Marion, Ohio June 22, 2005 23rd Visited

Newspaperman-turned-politician Warren
Harding became the sixth U.S. president to
die in office in 1923. His elaborate marble
tomb, situated in his hometown of Marion,
Ohio, was partly funded by pennies
donated by 200,000 American school
children. Architects Henry Hombostel and
Eric F. Wood designed the edifice, which
cost $783,103.

The gate to the courtyard of the Harding
Tomb is generally locked, but in advance
my father scheduled an appointment with
Melinda Gilpin, the historic site manager
of the Harding Home State Memorial, who
also possessed the key to the gravesite.

As planning and construction of the
permanent tomb were underway, President
Harding's body was kept in a receiving vault
at Marion Cemetery. First Lady Florence
Harding joined him upon her death in 1924.
Both Hardings were relocated to the open-
air monument in December 1927 and the
building was dedicated by President
Herbert Hoover four years later.

1920 was marked by the first
presidential election after the
passage of the Nineteenth
Amendment, which granted
women the right to vote. A
Harding carried thirty-
seven states and received 404
electoral votes compared to
opponent James Cox's 127.

* Fast Facts * *

- First Lady: Florence Mabel Kling DeWolfe Harding

  - Spouse: Florence Mabel Kling DeWolfe Harding (m. 1891-1923)

- Political Party: Republican Party

- Term: 1921-1923

- Vice President: John Calvin Coolidge, Jr.

- Born: November 2, 1865

- Died: August 2, 1923

- Age: 57

- Cause of Death: Heart Attack

- Last Words: "That's good. Go on, read some more."

 Cemetery: Harding Tomb, Marion, Ohio

- GPS Coordinates: 40°34'23.3"N 83°07'21.4"W

* Background on Warren G. Harding * *

* Various circumstances combined to create the perfect storm that made Warren G. Harding's election as president possible in 1920. The incumbent, Democrat Woodrow Wilson, had unsuccessfully sought to establish the United States as a member of the peacekeeping League of Nations and seemed focused on the country's role as a global power. Many Americans were weary of the League of Nations debate and wanted a chief executive who would focus on domestic issues, such as the economic plight of farmers. Harding, a U.S. senator, was a conservative who had made few waves in Congress -- and therefore he created few political opponents. With some wrangling from his political manager Harry Daugherty, Harding secured the Republican presidential nomination on the tenth ballot. Drawing from the examples of previous presidential candidates -- including William McKinley, whom he stumped for in 1896 -- Harding forwent travel and campaigned from his front porch in Marion, Ohio. Voters came from around the nation to hear the nominee call for a "return to normalcy" that centered upon an "America first" agenda. As the longtime publisher of the Marion Daily Star and the Marion Weekly Star, Harding knew how to best use the press to convey his message. He also courted the endorsements of celebrities such as entertainer Al Jolson and catered portions of his orations to women, who gained the right to vote nationwide when the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in August 1920. On November 2nd, Harding's fifty-fifth birthday, he and running mate Calvin Coolidge defeated the progressive Democratic ticket of James M. Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt by an electoral landslide.

* Unlike predecessors Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson, who often spearheaded initiatives in Congress, Warren Harding was less assertive in the legislative process, although he did not shy away from voicing his desires. He pushed for tax cuts and a protective tariff, the latter of which he signed in the form of the Fordney-McCumber Act in 1922. Focused primarily on fiscal responsibility, Harding was the driving force behind the creation of the Bureau of the Budget in 1921, and he vetoed a bill that was set to deliver monetary bonuses to World War I veterans, which he believed would endanger the economy. Harding also signed off on quotas that limited immigration, with immigrants not allowed to exceed three percent of population from their respective country of origin that was living in the U.S. in 1910. This served to stem the influx of Eastern Europeans during a period of heightened fear of communism. Some of his more progressive initiatives included lobbying for a reduction of the twelve-hour workday for steelworkers and supporting failed anti-lynching legislation. At the urging of James Weldon Johnson, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Harding appointed Black Americans to assorted government posts, in contrast to the Jim Crow segregation that flourished in federal departments during the Wilson administration.

The outgoing and vivacious Harding was popular during the first two years of his term, though there were underlying scandals. In June 1923, as rumblings about misdeeds by some of the president's cabinet secretaries started to emerge, he and his cortège embarked on a "Voyage of Understanding" to promote his policies. The president's health deteriorated during the cross-continent crusade, which took him to Missouri, Colorado, Utah, Alaska, and even Vancouver, British Columbia. On July 29th, Harding's train arrived in San Francisco, California, where he was confined to bed on the eighth floor of the Palace Hotel. One of the attending physicians postulated the president was suffering from food poisoning, but tests revealed he had bronchopneumonia. As he convalesced on the evening of August 2nd, First Lady Florence Harding read aloud to her husband a favorable column from the Saturday Evening Post, titled "A Calm Review of a Calm Man." During a pause, Harding prompted his wife to continue reading. He passed away shortly thereafter, becoming the sixth U.S. president to die in office.

* After Harding's death, revelations about his cabinet removed the veneer from his administration. A multi-year congressional investigation uncovered that former Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall had allowed businesses run by industrialists Harry Sinclair and Edward Doheny to drill for oil in naval reserves without competitive bidding. The most notable of these lands was the Teapot Dome oil field in Wyoming, which resulted in the affair being dubbed the Teapot Dome Scandal. Fall was convicted of bribery and sentenced to a year behind bars in 1931, becoming the first presidential cabinet secretary to be imprisoned. Attorney General Harry Daugherty was embroiled in scandals, too, and was suspected of covering up for his cronies. A member of the "Ohio Gang," a group of ill-intentioned political insiders, Daugherty refused to open his files and cooperate with a Senate inquiry, which prompted Harding's successor, Calvin Coolidge, to request the AG's resignation. Elsewhere in the administration, Harding's director of the Veterans Bureau, Charles R. Forbes, was sent to federal prison for defrauding the government. Forbes embezzled federal funds, accepted kickbacks, sold supplies earmarked for hospitals, and rejected claims submitted by veterans without proper justification. Although evidence that President Harding condoned such illicit activities was not forthcoming, he was the person who facilitated the perpetrators' rise in Washington. As Harding's political reputation was tarnished over the ensuing decade, his personal life also took a hit with the publication of a tell-all book by Nan Britton, the president's former mistress, who claimed he fathered her daughter in 1919 while serving in Congress. In addition, factually-inaccurate biographies emerged that painted Harding as a corrupt ringleader, and his standing with the American people posthumously withered.

Sources Consulted                                                                                                                                                     

Dean, John W.
Warren G. Harding. New York: Times Books, 2004.

Fass, Paula S. "Warren G. Harding." In The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, 334-43. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

"Harding Memorial." Harding Home Presidential Site. Accessed September 3, 2019. http://www.hardinghome.org/harding-memorial/.

Lamb, Brian, and the C-SPAN Staff. Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000. Reprinted. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

Trani, Eugene P. "Warren G. Harding: Domestic Affairs." Miller Center. Accessed September 19, 2019. https://millercenter.org/president/harding/domestic-affairs.

"US Presidents Freemasons." Grand Lodge of Virginia. Accessed July 4, 2019. https://grandlodgeofvirginia.org/us-presidents-freemasons/.

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