Our 29th President: 1921-1923
Just the Facts:
- His nickname was “Wobbly Warren.”
- He was the first president to talk on the radio.
- He had so many clothes he had to have new closets built in the White House.
- He had the biggest feet of any president – size 14!
- Harding invented the word “normalcy” during his presidential campaign.
- He lost a whole set of White House china in a poker game.
- He liked to play golf.
- The First Lady kept canaries as pets.
Warren Harding was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. His father owned a local newspaper and Warren learned about the business as a child. After graduating from college, he tried a few different professions – he worked in law, was an insurance salesman. Then, he got a job as a newspaper reporter and liked it. Finally, he and some friends bought a local newspaper, the Marion Star. The newspaper did well under his leadership. He met a lot of important people when he owned the paper and some of them convinced him to go into politics. He represented Ohio in Congress and then was nominated to run for President.
Harding was a friendly and easy going man – good qualities, but not necessarily what makes a good president. He appointed his friends to positions within the government. Unfortunately, some of those friends were just in it for the money – his administration was full of corruption and scandals. By the time he realized this, it was too late to fix it. The “Teapot Dome Scandal” was the most famous – one of Harding’s cabinet members was convicted of selling oil owned by the government and keeping the money.
Despite the scandals, Harding was able to accomplish some things. For example, he establish the first organized effort to assist our war veterans – the Bureau of Veterans Affairs. Thousands of men came back from World War I injured and needed medical care. In addition, Harding appointed former president William Taft to the Supreme Court.
Warren married Florence (her nickname was “Flossie”) when he was a newspaper man – she was 5 years older than he. Flossie loved to ride horses and play the piano, but she also got some business experience working in her father’s hardware store. In fact, some people thought she was the brains behind Harding’s success. Flossie was the first wife of a presidential candidate that was allowed to vote (because of the 19th Amendment).
The Hardings never had any children of their own, although they did raise Flossie’s son from a previous marriage. While First Lady, people called her “The Duchess” because of the elegant parties she hosted at the White House. She was an active First Lady, supporting issues such as women’s rights, animal rights, and the health and welfare of war veterans.
“I have no trouble with my enemies…but my friends, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights!”
“America’s present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration.”
“Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much of government, and at the same time do for it too little.”