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29th President

Terms: 1921-1923
Political Party: Republican
First Lady: Florence Kling Harding
Vice President: Calvin Coolidge


Born: November 2, 1865 in Corsica, Ohio... First United States senator to be elected president... An air of scandal and corruption infuses the legacy of the Harding administration. His election, predicated on a pledge to return the nation to "normalcy," ushered in a period of conservative Republicanism designed to slow the momentum of progressive legislation. Even the few noble accomplishments achieved by his administration were soon forgotten as tales of cronyism, greed, and influence-peddling came to light. Harding fell from favor with the American public soon after his untimely, and at the time, controversial death... Died: August 2, 1923.

The Era

  • First commercial radio broadcast (1920)
  • The League of Nations formed (1920)
  • Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti found guilty of murder and sentenced to death (1921)
  • Japanese prime minister assassinated (1921)
  • T. S. Eliot publishes The Wasteland (1922)
  • Reader's Digest begins publication (1922)

Domestic Policy

Warren Harding took office promising to undo many of the progressive policies of Woodrow Wilson's administration. Ushering in an era of conservative Republicanism, Harding wasted little time in cutting taxes on higher incomes and raising tariff rates. However, charges of patronage and wrongdoing sidetracked the president's agenda early in his administration. The accusations later proved to be true. In the wake of scandals and his untimely death while still in office, Harding's domestic achievements lost what little luster they had.

Foreign Affairs

Harding's short term as president prevented him from crafting a distinctive foreign policy and from making peace arrangements in the Pacific. His style was to defer to Congress as much as possible. The Washington Disarmament Conference of 1921 is a good example. The conference, which succeeded in reducing the navies of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy, came at the insistence of the Senate, not the administration.

Presidential Politics

Warren Harding awarded cabinet and governmental positions to political supporters. The practice proved to have dire consequences. Long-time political cronies abused their offices for personal gain. Harding's passive style of leadership almost certainly contributed to their wrongdoing. The most infamous example involved Secretary of Interior Albert Fall's role in the Teapot Dome Scandal, in which oil-rich Wyoming public lands were exploited by private companies acting in collusion with Cabinet officials.

My American Experience

My American Experience photos

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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH