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Home  >  Digital Archives  >  People of the North  >  Politicians
Warren G. Harding
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"In the great fulfillment we must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it
and more anxious about what it can do for the nation."
- Warren G. Harding
Address at the Republican Convention, June 7, 1916, Chicago

Warren G. Harding was born November 2, 1865, in Ohio. The son of a newspaperman, Harding went into journalism himself after graduation from Ohio Central College. He purchased a lagging newspaper in a three-newspaper town and drove himself to exhaustion to take the lead. His career in politics began in 1899 when he was elected to the Ohio State Senate as a Republican. He later served as Lieutenant Governor and, from 1914-1921, Harding represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate.

On June 20, 1923, President Harding and the First Lady (Florence Kling Harding) embarked on a speaking tour through the West and into Alaska, which was billed as his "Voyage of Understanding." The tour was largely a public relations endeavor. By venturing out and capitalizing on his greatest strength  -- public speaking -- Harding hoped to regain the voters' confidence. Rumors of widespread corruption had crippled his administration. Scandal, large and small, was reported in the Veterans' Bureau, in the Departments of Justice and Interior, and elsewhere. Some modern biographers have noted that while Harding himself may have been an honest man, he had surrounded himself with dishonest advisors. In 1921, in what later would be called the "Teapot Dome Scandal," Harding's then-Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall accepted "loans" in exchange for leases on naval oil reserves in Wyoming and California. A Senate investigation was conducted during 1922-23, and in March 1923, Fall retired. Later, after Harding's death, Fall was sentenced to a year in jail and fined $100,000. Harding's Attorney General, Harry M. Daugherty, also was suspected of taking bribes and selling pardons, and was dismissed in 1924. Daugherty's appointment of Jesse W. Smith led to similar corrupt activities involving yet another department, and resulted in Smith's suicide in May 1923, just before Harding embarked on his "Voyage of Understanding."

That summer of 1923, three trusted members of Harding's cabinet traveled with him on a portion of his Alaska journey: the recently appointed Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, and Secretary of Agriculture Henry Cantwell Wallace. The Harding party arrived in Alaska via the U.S. Navy Transport Henderson and was joined by Territorial Gov. Scott C. Bone. Accompanied by a cadre of reporters and photographers making still and moving images, the Hardings visited Metlakatla, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Sitka, Juneau and Skagway in Southeast Alaska. They cruised westward to Valdez, then Seward, where they continued their journey by rail, tour car, and a Dodge sedan that was adapted for travel by rail. Stops included Snow River on the Kenai Peninsula, Chickaloon, Anchorage, Willow, Montana, Cantwell, Curry, and Nenana. On July 15, the president drove the "Golden Spike" at Nenana for the ceremonial completion of the Alaska Railroad. The custom railcar in which they traveled, now called "The Harding Car," remains on display at Fairbanks' Pioneer Park.

Three years into his term, the president died of complications from pneumonia in San Francisco, California. (Food poisoning also was suspected.) His death on August 2, 1923, occurred mere weeks after driving the Golden Spike in Alaska. Harding was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge, who had served as his Vice President.

Correspondence, Paul Solka, Jr. to Charles Gray, President & Manager, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, August 16, 1985; cc to Tricia Olsen:

"Two articles which appeared recently in the Sunday edition have set me to thinking how working on the News-Miner in the Twenties and Thirties gave one the opportunity to see and meet and converse with notables who visited Fairbanks. These meetings were not of the mere handshake kind. We had the privilege of conversing with them, and feeling that the occasion was genuine, and not merely a social, vote-getting gesture.

"Probably my first experience of this kind was when President Harding visited Fairbanks and set his last stick of type in the News-Miner. I was there, a mere printer's devil, but heard him talk and joke, and prove that he, like most editors of his vintage, could go to a case and set his own headlines -- just as W. F. Thompson and Hjalmar Nordale used to us.

"In this respect, I'd like to point out that the accompanying article on Harding says he had dinner at the ‘Richardson Roadhouse' 18 miles out the Richardson Trail. True, the roadhouse was located on the Richardson Trail, but it was not the Richardson Roadhouse, which was located at Richardson, 70 miles out. Harding was wined and dined at what might have been termed the country club of the time -- the 18-Mile Roadhouse, also known as the Bergman Roadhouse or the Mutchler Roadhouse, depending on the proprietor at the time in question."

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Gallery of Images
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Seward, Alaska - U.S.T. Henderson - destroyers - President Harding - party aboard, Aug. 1923
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Alaska Railroad car that President Harding rode in
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Presidential train at Bartletts [sic], A[laska] R[ailwa]y, 1923
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All dressed up to meet the president
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President Harding's train at Wasilla, Alaska
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(1884 KB)
President Harding Book List
Description: A PDF file of a list of books about President Warren G. Harding.

NOTE: Many of the documents are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing. Acrobat Reader software may be downloaded for free from Adobe Systems, Inc.
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