Warren Harding as a Child, Center
In the spring of 1882, Harding graduated from Ohio Central College at just 17 years old. After graduating, Harding returned to Marion and purchased the Marion Daily Star. He, with the help of Florence, turned the paper around and made it one of the most popular in the country.
In 1899, Harding won a seat on the Ohio State Senate and his political career began. For the next several years, Harding remained active in both local and state politics. Harding was chosen to give the nomination speech for President Taft at the Republican National Convention in 1912. The exposure given to him at the convention allowed him to run for U.S. Senator. Harding won the race and served until his inauguration in 1921.
During the summer of 1920, Harding began to campaign in earnest. The campaign was run in a very modern fashion, with print ads, sound clips, news reels, anti-Democrat literature and celebrities all being used in an attempt to win voters. On November 2nd, 1920, Harding won the election with 60% of the popular vote and 404 electoral votes.
"Return To Normalcy" - 1920 Campaign Slogan 29th U.S. President Warren G. Harding
In June of 1921, President Harding signed the General Accounting Act, a piece of legislation that would shape federal finances for many decades to come. The bill called for the President to submit an annual federal budget to Congress, to help control and minimize government spending. Additionally, the passing of the General Accounting Act created the Bureau of the Budget, a government agency that reviewed spending requests from the various governmental departments. The Bureau was then supposed to advise the President during the drafting of the annual budget. Harding appointed Charles Dawes as the first director of the Bureau of the Budget, and within his first two years, he slashed government spending by half. Dawes would later go on to be Vice President under President Coolidge. The Little Green House on K Street
At the same time, Harding was making budget cuts in various other areas to make good on his campaign slogan, "Less government in business and more business in government." Over the course of his Presidency, tax rates were decreased across the board, and these slashes were felt by every income group. Even with the tax reductions, the Federal debt was reduced by one third in the 1920s, mostly due to policies started by Harding.
As the newly elected President Harding was entering the White House, World War I was drawing to a close. After his inauguration, Harding set out to surround himself with the most capable minds in the country. Four our new President, this largely meant filling his cabinet positions with his friends and associates from Marion, Ohio. Many men relocated their families to the Washington D.C. area, and the new clan, who would come to be known as the "Ohio Gang", set up their headquarters in a house in the city that would eventually be known as "The Little Green House on K Street." President and First Lady
The Harding administration had many scandals brewing beneath the surface, though few of them came to light before the President passed away in August of 1923. Harding's biggest challenge by far was keeping the Ohio gang under control during his time in office. Unfortunately for him, many of the gang members were able to sweep their illicit activity under the rug. While he may have been dimly aware of the trouble his friends were causing, he was kept out of the loop for the most part, making it nearly impossible to put a stop to it. After Harding's death, many of his friends were sent to prison for the various crimes they committed while Harding was in office.
Florence Kling was born in Marion, Ohio on August 15th, 1860. As a girl, she hoped to become a pianist and took piano lessons for many years. When she was 19, she eloped with Henry DeWolfe and they had a son, Marshall Eugene DeWolfe. Six years later, the couple quietly filed for divorce. Free of her first husband, Florence began to pursue Warren Harding. While Florence and Warren were courting, he began to refer to her lovingly as "the duchess," because she was so poised and driven. In July of 1891, Florence and Warren were married. Over the course of the next few years, Florence worked at their newspaper, and with her help it grew even more popular.
While Harding was running for office, "the Duchess" was very involved in his campaign, moreso than any other First Lady up to that point. After he was elected, Florence worked to make the country a more welcoming place for war veterans to come home to. The White House had been closed to the public during the Wilson Administration, and the First Lady opened it again, and restarted the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn.
Warren Harding, a Republican from Ohio, served as President from 1921 to 1923. Harding viewed the Presidency as a largely ceremonial role, and advocated for keeping the government out of businesses. He was an early proponent of civil rights. President Harding with Ohio Gang members
President Harding was quite scandalous in his own right. He was heavily opposed to Prohibition, a fact he made clear by continuing to serve whiskey and various other liquors in the White House. The First Lady was in on the fun as well, and could frequently be seen mixing drinks for guests while they gambled with her husband. It was not uncommon for the couple and their guests to stay up late into the night playing high stakes poker, smoking cigars and sipping whiskey.
Museum Intern, University of Minnesota Undergrad
This panel is part of our 2014 exhibit on U.S. Presidents Between the World Wars. For educational purposes, we have made the document available as a pdf. -->