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Thread: President Harding's Strange Death

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    President Harding's Strange Death

    The news of his death was a shock to the nation, close friends and loved ones alike. He seemed so robust, big and strong. He was over six foot tall, handsome, friendly, unassuming and generous. In fact, the common view of Warren G. Harding was that more than anything he looked presidential. After the previous three presidents (Theodore Roosevelt who was like an actor bigger than life playing a part for history, William Taft who was just plain big, and Woodrow Wilson the cold distant intellectual who acted as savior to the world) this man, the first to be elected in an election finally allowing full participation by women, seemed a calming influence. Like the famous campaign phrase that brought him to office he seemed a "Return to Normalcy."
    Now, midway through his term of office, he was dead. There had been no apparent sign of the approach of death for this relatively young president. At 58 he continued to love to travel, one of the most traveled presidents thus far in history, and meet the people. Assistants always had to try and reign him in. He would always stop in front of any crowd at the White House or train stop and shake hands and greet those who he had asked for their vote.
    He had been born on a farm in 1865 near Blooming Grove, Ohio. He got enough education to take up teaching then editing a newspaper in Marion, Ohio. Actually he was not successful until he married Florence Kling. She became obsessed with her "Wurr'n" and personally took over the management of the newspaper. Throughout the rest of her life she was possessed with her husband's career and place in history. He probably reached beyond his abilities because of her. As an increasingly influential editor he won some low level state political jobs (state senator 1899-1902 and lieutenant governor 1903-1904) and eventually going to the US Senate (1915-1921) where his only distinctions seem to be golf and poker. Strangely, because he was so unconfrontational, everyone liked him. Then in one of those behind the scenes moves engineered by political bosses he became a candidate for president, a compromise against three other very capable possible contenders. He was elected in 1920 and probably was a person way over his head.
    Harding's presidency was undistinguished. He dealt with people well and took extensive trips so he remained a popular president.One such trip to Alaska was strenuous and after he received a strange coded message from Washington he collapsed. At a rest stop at San Francisco more changes in the president's health began to occur. He complained of being very tired and then collapsed again. First reports were that he had ptomaine poisoning probably from eating tainted crab meat. The next day attending doctors called it pneumonia and proclaimed his condition as "grave." Then he rallied for a day before the final relapse on August 2nd, 1923. This came as his wife was alone reading to him. He went into a violent convulsion, she said, and was gone.
    Why did Warren G. Harding die? There are several possible explanations.
    First, there was his wife who knew of and tired of his numerous sexual trysts. For example, he and his wife had some close friends in Ohio with whom they frequently vacationed. Harding had an affair with the woman, Carrie Phillips, and she constantly threatened to expose him until finally rumors had reached the "Duchess," his wife Florence Harding. Of course, Carrie's husband knew, as well, and never forgave Harding for seducing his wife and ruining his marriage. Even more devastating was Nan Britton, a young girl from Marion, Ohio, who had a long lasting affair with Harding. In fact, Secret Service agents would bring her into the White House and the President would hide with Nan in the cloakrooms to make love. She got pregnant and had a daughter, Elizabeth Ann, who to her dying day claimed to be Harding's child. The president regularly sent money to Nan to help with the care of the child but otherwise accepted no responsibility. Florence Harding knew of these things and was increasingly losing her grip. Such scandal, as horrible and humiliating as it was to her, was even more terrifying now that she was the first lady. She had always been sickly, in fact she would die within a year of the president's death, and soon suspicion arose over her role in San Francisco. In fact, one former Bureau of Investigation agent, Gaston Means, claimed in a book called The Strange Death of President Harding that she killed the president. However, the reputation of Gaston Means was highly suspect as well. However, the first lady was adamant in not allowing an autopsy of her dead husband. Nor did she allow for the customary death mask to be cast. Many thought she feared any too close a look at the dead president.
    Depression and self inflicted death might be another possibility. In his youth Harding had a frail emotional and psychological health. When he was 24 he had a nervous breakdown and spent several weeks in Dr. Kellogg's sanatorium in Battle Creek, Michigan. He was there in 1889, 1894, 1897 and 1903. Besides golf he loved card games and once gambled away an entire set of antique White House china. Furthermore, there were definite signs of hypertension. Harding never believed he was up to the job of presidency. On numerous occasions he confided that he was in over his head. However, just as he was beginning to feel a little confident a long hidden secret was beginning to be rumored about.
    Racism in the 1920s continued to be intense. And publications were beginning to appear attesting to the rumor that Harding's genealogy showed an African American connection. Professor William Chancellor of Wooster University wrote a book, The Right of the American People to Know, tracing the genealogy of the President and said that Harding was part African American. In the 1920s such news, true or not, was political death. Agents of the Secret Service and Bureau of Investigation quickly confiscated the printing and the plates of this book. However, a few slipped through and rumors were rife in America on the President's ancestry.
    Furthermore, both Carrie and Nan were pressuring the President to leave the Duchess and take up his responsibility with them. He continued to put them off, and they continued to threaten. Carrie was erratic making all kinds of threats. In the meantime her husband quietly seethed in rage. But Nan, the mother of his child, was more determined. She did not want money alone, she wanted the Harding name. She would continually "show up" at places where the President would be. She loved to look upon him and by chance have Florence see her.
    Lastly, it was clear that his popularity was beginning to decline. First, certain sectors of the economy, particularly the farmers, were not well off. For several weeks in late 1922 a steady stream of threatening letters came to the White House announcing that the President was "marked for death." Florence had gone to an astrologer and received premonitions of his death as well. Secret Service agents increased their security. Second, there were some disturbing revelations coming out of his own cabinet about corruption. Messages reached him in Alaska and his mood immediately turned worse. He confided to a close acquaintance: "I can handle my enemies, but God protect me from my friends! Perhaps, his leadership style was his doom. Harding appointed some good people to his cabinet (Herbert Hoover to Commerce, Charles Evans Hughes to State, and Andrew Mellon to Treasury) but there were some bad appointments and Harding pretty much let them go their own ways. A group of cronies came to Washington with him who were dubbed the "Ohio Gang." One such person was the highly political and devious Harry Daugherty, the person who got Harding nominated for president because, he exclaimed later, "He looked like a President." As a reward Daugherty, over the objections of many, was made Attorney General. Eventually he will be implicated in graft and forced from office. Daugherty's livein friend, Jesse Smith, saw the gathering storm and committed suicide under unusual circumstances. Smith feared and hated all guns yet he apparently shot himself in the head. Many felt he had been murdered.
    Another of Daugherty's boyhood friends, William Burns, was named head of the Bureau of Investigation. Famed as a private detective Burns ran and misran the bureau as if it were his private detective agency. Any criticism of Daugherty, for example, ended in harassment by bureau agents. And it was rumored among insider bureaucratic that Harding knew of Dauherty's criminality and was going to expose and fire the Attorney General when he returned from Alaska. One of Burns' agents, Gaston Means, had been indicted (though not convicted) earlier for murder. Eventually he will go to jail for graft and influence peddling. He will claim in his book that he was in the hire of the first lady to spy upon the President and uncover any evidence of infidelity. Two close friends appointed to Veterans Bureau and the Office of the Alien Property Custodian were arrested for graft. More importantly, one such appointment was the former Senator from New Mexico, Albert Fall, to be Secretary of Interior. By the spring of 1923, rumors inspired an investigation by Senator Thomas J. Walsh of the illegal leasing of government oil reserves in Teapot Dome, Wyoming to the Sinclair Oil company; Fall had received $400,000 in gifts and "loans" from the oil company for his decision. Eventually this will bring down Fall and his imprisonment. In short, by 1923 the reputation of the Harding administration was hanging by a thread. Only a major diversion could keep the public from looking too closely at the personal and political debacle of Warren Harding's life.

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    Wow, Kathy, what a great story. This would make an excellent movie, but I think some people would feel the plotline to be too incredible.
    Any day above ground is a good day.

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    I never knew about him . They should teach us these things instead of the boring stuff in school.
    Last edited by Kathyf; 12-03-2007 at 01:37 AM.

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    He died ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nowereman View Post
    He died ?
    That there may have neen foul play.

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    Fascinating stuff there!

    Great story Kathy!


    -Morbid1

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    very interesting Kathy...good reading
    what would we do w/o our computers for this info
    great post!!


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    Quote Originally Posted by Kathyf View Post
    That there may have neen foul play.
    Sorry I was being a smart arse, I love to read about your Presidents, And trivial bits of info about like - George Washington had wooden teeth, or is that apocryphal ?

    Great post very interesting thanks

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    No worries I figured you were Joking. I just can't believe I never heard that seems weird.

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    Kathy, growing up I always remember seeing this old old book at my grandmother's house called "The Strange Death of President Harding." I always wondered about it, as a budding young death hag, but never got round to reading it. Thank you so much for this info! Now I finally know what it was about!

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    Hey Kathy-guess who one of my ancestors is?(guess,guess-)\=)
    Thanks for the post!

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    Quote Originally Posted by hoxharding View Post
    Hey Kathy-guess who one of my ancestors is?(guess,guess-)\=)
    Thanks for the post!
    Really? Did you know this then?

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    what i knew

    Actually not that much of it really-my father knows more than I do.
    This is bad,but I often have not paid attention to family stories.

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    LOl Now you can talk about and They will think you were listening.

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    hee

    Quote Originally Posted by Kathyf View Post
    LOl Now you can talk about and They will think you were listening.
    Very true!

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    Nice one Kathy.
    Stay in Drugs. Eat your School. Don't do Vegetables.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nowereman View Post
    He died ?
    "You are my center when I spin away..." TY

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    I always thought his wife off'd him

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    Kathy--very impressive! Thanks for this!

    p.s. why do so many American presidents cheat on their wives do you think? is it a constitutional bylaw or something ??? or does absolute power really DO corrupt absolutely ?? you'd think they could keep it in their pants at least until they're out of office...don't they have better things to do?



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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack-O-Lantern View Post
    Kathy--very impressive! Thanks for this!

    p.s. why do so many American presidents cheat on their wives do you think? is it a constitutional bylaw or something ??? or does absolute power really DO corrupt absolutely ?? you'd think they could keep it in their pants at least until they're out of office...don't they have better things to do?
    I know it is so out of hand, not to mention that we are probably the but of many jokes from other countries. Like Bill Clinton- I ner had sexual relations with that woman. LOL What pissed me off the most is that he lied under oath and got away with it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kathyf View Post
    I know it is so out of hand, not to mention that we are probably the but of many jokes from other countries. Like Bill Clinton- I ner had sexual relations with that woman. LOL What pissed me off the most is that he lied under oath and got away with it.
    Yeah that really got to me too. And every time I bring it up or remind people about it, I get my head bitten off! OMG, no pun intended LOLOL !!!



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    I am still mad but like you say no one wants to hear it.

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    this was a good read, thanks Kathy I did not know this

    Member since 10/10/07

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kathyf View Post
    I know it is so out of hand, not to mention that we are probably the but of many jokes from other countries. Like Bill Clinton- I ner had sexual relations with that woman. LOL What pissed me off the most is that he lied under oath and got away with it.
    That's the problem exactly, Kathy, it got out of hand!
    They tried to impeach Clinton; alas they got close but no cigar.

    [Ba-Da-Bing, Ba-Da-Boom].
    Any day above ground is a good day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Irishlass View Post
    I always thought his wife off'd him
    Here is a good link I tried to post I could not get it to work.
    http://www.crimelibrary.com/terroris...ing/index.html

    Imagine Nowadays a First Lady saying no Autopsy I don't think they could. Does anyone know?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kathyf View Post
    Here is a good link I tried to post I could not get it to work.
    http://www.crimelibrary.com/terroris...ing/index.html

    Imagine Nowadays a First Lady saying no Autopsy I don't think they could. Does anyone know?
    It all depends on the manner and place of death. For example, if the death was not natural (such as assassination, accident, or choking on a pretzel), an autopsy by law must occur. But if the manner of death appeared to be natural (for example Dick Cheney has a long history of heart disease, if he were to go into the hospital complaining of chest pains, they do an EKG and determine he is having a heart attack and he subsequently dies), in most likelihood he would not need an autopsy.

    To substantiate what I outlined above, the last US President to have died in office of apparent natural causes was FDR, and he did not have an autopsy. For more information on him, please check out the following link:
    http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0....html#abstract from a publication known as the Forensic Examiner. The most relevant portion of this article as it pertains to this post, however, is listed below:

    FDR's Physical Condition During His Fourth Term

    Published medical documents reveal that during his fourth presidential term, FDR suffered from hypertension (see Table 1) and congestive heart failure (Bruenn, 1970), conditions commonly associated with hypoxia and cognitive impairment. His death was attributed to a massive brain hemorrhage, a likely complication of his chronic cardiovascular disease (Bruenn, 1970).

    FDR suffered from poorly controlled hypertension dating back to 1937 (Bruenn, 1970). The diagnosis of congestive heart failure secondary to hypertension was made upon the comprehensive medical exam of FDR on March 27, 1944, at Bethesda Naval Hospital (Fleming, 2001). Throughout the last 12 months of his presidency, the medical records revealed the presence of exercise-induced dyspnea, nocturnal cough, and fatigue. Physical examinations revealed generalized edema and an enlarged heart, confirmed by x-rays and a clinical exam, and evidence of poorly controlled hypertension, with repeated measurements of blood pressure ranging as high as 260/150 mmHg to 240/130 mmHg, and 230/120 mmHg (Bruenn, 1970).

    FDR died on April 12, 1945. Earlier that day he had complained of a headache then suddenly lost consciousness. According to the death certificate signed by Dr. Howard G. Bruenn, the cause of FDR's death was brain hemorrhage. An autopsy was not performed (Bruenn, 1970) (see Table 1).
    It's a good question though, Kathy. My bet is that no matter what the cause of death, even if it appeared natural, they would probably still do an autopsy because "Enquiring Minds Want To Know." On the other hand, let's say you have a very strong first lady, like Hillary Clinton. If Bill Clinton apparently died of natural causes and she were to object to her husband having an autopsy, there would probably be no autopsy done.

    Hope this helps. This kind of stuff is so interesting to me and this entire thread has been absolutely fascinating. What a great topic!
    Any day above ground is a good day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kathyf View Post
    Wow, they looked like such a nice couple! How amazing that he was allegedly such a horndog and corrupt politician, and that evidence points to her as being a murderer.
    Any day above ground is a good day.

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    I'm related to him! lol, he's a great-uncle or cousin of some sort. One of the few Amreicans from our tree (the majority of family is from Cornwall England and came to Canada a VERY long time ago). I'll have to find our family tree book and grab a copy of the section with him in it. I think it's at my grandpa's house!

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    Quote Originally Posted by oscarkat View Post
    I'm related to him! lol, he's a great-uncle or cousin of some sort. One of the few Amreicans from our tree (the majority of family is from Cornwall England and came to Canada a VERY long time ago). I'll have to find our family tree book and grab a copy of the section with him in it. I think it's at my grandpa's house!
    That's cool. Maybe you can find more info in the book about his death.

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    Quote Originally Posted by geekygirl View Post
    It all depends on the manner and place of death. For example, if the death was not natural (such as assassination, accident, or choking on a pretzel), an autopsy by law must occur. But if the manner of death appeared to be natural (for example Dick Cheney has a long history of heart disease, if he were to go into the hospital complaining of chest pains, they do an EKG and determine he is having a heart attack and he subsequently dies), in most likelihood he would not need an autopsy.

    To substantiate what I outlined above, the last US President to have died in office of apparent natural causes was FDR, and he did not have an autopsy. For more information on him, please check out the following link:
    http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0....html#abstract from a publication known as the Forensic Examiner. The most relevant portion of this article as it pertains to this post, however, is listed below:

    FDR's Physical Condition During His Fourth Term


    Published medical documents reveal that during his fourth presidential term, FDR suffered from hypertension (see Table 1) and congestive heart failure (Bruenn, 1970), conditions commonly associated with hypoxia and cognitive impairment. His death was attributed to a massive brain hemorrhage, a likely complication of his chronic cardiovascular disease (Bruenn, 1970).


    FDR suffered from poorly controlled hypertension dating back to 1937 (Bruenn, 1970). The diagnosis of congestive heart failure secondary to hypertension was made upon the comprehensive medical exam of FDR on March 27, 1944, at Bethesda Naval Hospital (Fleming, 2001). Throughout the last 12 months of his presidency, the medical records revealed the presence of exercise-induced dyspnea, nocturnal cough, and fatigue. Physical examinations revealed generalized edema and an enlarged heart, confirmed by x-rays and a clinical exam, and evidence of poorly controlled hypertension, with repeated measurements of blood pressure ranging as high as 260/150 mmHg to 240/130 mmHg, and 230/120 mmHg (Bruenn, 1970).


    FDR died on April 12, 1945. Earlier that day he had complained of a headache then suddenly lost consciousness. According to the death certificate signed by Dr. Howard G. Bruenn, the cause of FDR's death was brain hemorrhage. An autopsy was not performed (Bruenn, 1970) (see Table 1).

    It's a good question though, Kathy. My bet is that no matter what the cause of death, even if it appeared natural, they would probably still do an autopsy because "Enquiring Minds Want To Know." On the other hand, let's say you have a very strong first lady, like Hillary Clinton. If Bill Clinton apparently died of natural causes and she were to object to her husband having an autopsy, there would probably be no autopsy done.

    Hope this helps. This kind of stuff is so interesting to me and this entire thread has been absolutely fascinating. What a great topic!
    Thanks for all the good info. It is interesting. You are probably right about a strong first lady.

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    He's not really dead as long as we remember him. Tea anyone?

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    I will bring the crumpets

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kathyf View Post
    I will bring the crumpets
    I will bring a plate of those cute little sandwiches that don't have any crust, are cut into little triangles and are filled with cream cheese, watercress and cream cheese.
    Any day above ground is a good day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by geekygirl View Post
    I will bring a plate of those cute little sandwiches that don't have any crust, are cut into little triangles and are filled with cream cheese, watercress and cream cheese.
    Sounds great!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack-O-Lantern View Post
    Kathy--very impressive! Thanks for this!

    p.s. why do so many American presidents cheat on their wives do you think? is it a constitutional bylaw or something ??? or does absolute power really DO corrupt absolutely ?? you'd think they could keep it in their pants at least until they're out of office...don't they have better things to do?
    I have often wondered that myself and this is what I think. Power is a huge turn on for some people, men and women. I think the same personality traits that get them elected (charisma, likablilty etc.) attract people to them and temptation is there. The person who has the ego to run for president is a risk taker and cheating is a form of risk.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pinkrose35 View Post
    I have often wondered that myself and this is what I think. Power is a huge turn on for some people, men and women. I think the same personality traits that get them elected (charisma, likablilty etc.) attract people to them and temptation is there. The person who has the ego to run for president is a risk taker and cheating is a form of risk.
    I think you are right.

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    So, if the rumors are to be believed, Warren Harding was our first black president? Interesting...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack-O-Lantern View Post
    Yeah that really got to me too. And every time I bring it up or remind people about it, I get my head bitten off! OMG, no pun intended LOLOL !!!
    OK, I'm not biting your head off! LOL BUT......while it certainly was discouraging, I would love to have Bill Clinton back in the White House. Don't care who is is screwing. Just know when I look back things seemed alot more confident in the Country back then. In France they could care less who their President is sleeping with Betcha 3/4ths of the Congress and Senate is bopping someone other then their wives (or husbands??).
    Can we get any deeper in a mudhole then we are? Yes we can.
    Last edited by Nicki; 11-03-2010 at 07:07 PM.

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    I also enjoy reading about people of fame particularly politicians. In my reading, I have read questionable reports of infidelity about other presidents and men in other important positions. It seems to me that all the sneaking around has gone on since the dawn of time. It makes me wonder where all the shock comes from in this day and age.

    As to autopses, I think any president who died in office would almost surely have one. As a general rule no matter who you are, autopsies can be ordered by the police and by doctors who want to understand what happened to the victim. In cses of questionable death, families have no right to refuse them even if it is against the family's religion. I don't believe the basic charactor of people has changed much down through the ages. Suposedly when there were just four people on earth (according to Christian beliefs) one of them killed his brother. That's pretty sad when you think about it.
    Sometimes I think there really is nothing new under the sun with the exception of advances in science and invention. It is all smoke and mirrors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by darlingmissmarple View Post
    I also enjoy reading about people of fame particularly politicians. In my reading, I have read questionable reports of infidelity about other presidents and men in other important positions. It seems to me that all the sneaking around has gone on since the dawn of time. It makes me wonder where all the shock comes from in this day and age,

    .
    Exactly! Clinton's was a shock because it happen in the "Respectful" Oval Office. But after the shock wore off, it just became a circus. He still did his job.....pretty much that was what most people cared about. That he continued being a good President. Who gives a rat's ass what he did in the bedroom (or the Oval Office and I'm pretty sure he isn't the only President who did the "nasty" in the OVal Office!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by hoxharding View Post
    Hey Kathy-guess who one of my ancestors is?(guess,guess-)\=)
    Thanks for the post!
    Oddly while the family homestead is only thirty miles North West of Marion my family is more directly related to Teddy Roosevelt, well his daughter so I always considered Harding a nothing President.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nowereman View Post
    Sorry I was being a smart arse, I love to read about your Presidents, And trivial bits of info about like - George Washington had wooden teeth, or is that apocryphal ?

    Great post very interesting thanks
    It's very true, we have a set of them in my office and I see them every day (several sets exist).
    No on 8

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    Have you ever noticed how many high schools have been named after POTUS's like Harding, or Fillmore, or one of the Harrisons--- the lesser lights whose only distinction is that they somehow became President in the first place?

    It somehow speaks volumes that one of the roughest HS's in Conn. is my dad's almost-alma mater, W.G. Harding High in Bridgeport. I say "almost" because he, like too many others in the 70+ year history of this school in the heart of the poorer section there, dropped out and if anyone got a GED like he did, it wasn't through that place.

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    For any Boardwalk Empire fans they introduced Harding as a character this week, including his Mistress and love child.
    It was just interesting given the bump for this thread last week.
    I think that Harding and Taylor were murdered in office.
    Regards,
    Mary

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    I have been catching up on Boardwalk Empire and looked to see if Harding's story was on the boards! I should have known the good death hags would have already posted it :-)

    This whole saga is gripping. Harding was running around with lots of women and making lots of people rich with illegal dealings. Apparently the "Ohio Gang" was a mess and they were corrupt to the core, "The Teapot Dome" scandal was the biggest in US history up until "Watergate". A lot of people think that Harding was handed a message about the scandal and that is what killed him. Gaston Means, Harry Daughtery, and Jess Smith were all shady as hell......and very interesting.

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    5,035
    There's nothing new under the sun, and under the White House roof.

  48. #48
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    5,455
    A rumor going around for years is that
    Warren G. Harding wife had poisoned
    him because of the Teapot dome scandal

    Never sure if true.
    Carolyn(1958-2009) always in my heart.

  49. #49
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    124
    Speaking of the Teapot Dome Scandal, I read "The Teapot Dome Scandal" by Laton McCartney a few years ago, and boy, did it ever give a few hints as to what might have happened to the guy. If he hadn't died, there is no doubt this particular scandal would have been his undoing. So that is why I kinda go along with the "wife had him offed" scenario. The book was so well written and made it easy to understand what the whole thing was about. And yes, other deaths were involved (hey, I'm not giving everything away here - I want you guys to read it hehehe)......anyways, a great read.......

  50. #50
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    5,455
    Quote Originally Posted by Flmlvr View Post
    Speaking of the Teapot Dome Scandal, I read "The Teapot Dome Scandal" by Laton McCartney a few years ago, and boy, did it ever give a few hints as to what might have happened to the guy. If he hadn't died, there is no doubt this particular scandal would have been his undoing. So that is why I kinda go along with the "wife had him offed" scenario. The book was so well written and made it easy to understand what the whole thing was about. And yes, other deaths were involved (hey, I'm not giving everything away here - I want you guys to read it hehehe)......anyways, a great read.......
    I will look up this book by Laton McCartney because I
    love American History( from someone who was born outside
    of the USA)
    Carolyn(1958-2009) always in my heart.

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