Difference between revisions of "Ohio Gang"

From Ohio History Central
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<p>In 1920, Ohioan Warren Gamaliel Harding won election as president of the United States. As president, for the most part, Harding proved to be a poor manager of the federal government. He delegated authority to his cabinet officials. These men became known as the &quot;Ohio gang,&quot; because they supposedly were a gang of thieves from Ohio. In reality, most of the men linked to the Ohio gang were not from Harding's home state.</p>  
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<p> In 1920, Ohioan Warren Gamaliel Harding won election as president of the United States. As president, Harding assembled a respected and geographically diverse cabinet, including Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes and Treasurer Andrew Mellon. Some historians claim that the term “Ohio gang” referred to the cabinet, but it did not. The Ohio Gang term evolved in the press in the years after the Harding administration and referred to men loosely associated with Harding’s attorney general, Harry Daugherty, who was from Washington Courthouse, Ohio. This group involved Jess Smith, also from Washington Courthouse, and Howard Mannington from Urbana. Fred Caskey from Marietta and M.P. Kraffmiller of Illinois ran the “little green house on K Street” in Washington D.C. The group used the house as a commercial headquarters, with their interests focused on peddling influence, selling permits to withdraw liquor from bonded government warehouses and arranging for the illegal sale of government property.</p>
<p>Unfortunately for Harding and the country, some of the president's cabinet officials and close associates proved to be unscrupulous. It is unclear, however, how much Harding knew of his subordinates' actions. Perhaps, the worst scandal of Harding's administration was the Teapot Dome Scandal. Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall, a Kentuckian, rented government lands to oil companies in return for personal loans. Fall was found guilty of this illegal action and was sentenced to prison in 1931. Adding to the corruption, two other officials not from Ohio stood accused of crimes. Thomas Miller, chairman of the Office of Alien Property, accepted bribes, and Charles Forbes, the head of the Bureau of Veterans' Affairs, embezzled funds. Ohioan Harry M. Daugherty served as attorney general and was accused of selling alcohol illegally. A fellow Ohioan, Jess Smith committed suicide rather than face charges for the same offense. </p>  
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<p>In the months before Harding’s 1923 death, knowledge of these deals was unknown and only rumors existed. The growing problem, though, was that the rumors swirled around men associated with Daugherty, which, in turn, could turn into a stain on the President’s reputation. Close Republican friends who mentioned the rumors to Harding received a strong rebuke. Harding indeed could not imagine that these men were involved in shady dealings. “Despite later claims, this much is clear,” stated historian Robert K. Murray. “The Ohio Gang had very few of the characteristics of a gang because it had no concrete form, no cohesion, and no plan. If it had any leadership, it was provided by Jess Smith. The Ohio Gang was simply a collection of rank opportunists who worked together as a matter of expediency. Each was jealous and distrustful of the other; they owed no allegiance to anyone. They looked for the quick buck, not sustained graft.</p>
<p>In 1923, before these scandals became widely or publicly known, Harding left Washington, D.C., to travel across the country and to meet with typical people in the United States. Harding wanted to address the U.S. public personally and educate them about his policies. Harding also hoped that a trip to the western coastline of the United States might assist his ailing wife. While on this trip, Harding contracted pneumonia and died. It remains unclear as to whether Harding died from pneumonia or from a heart attack. He died on August 2, 1923, ending the so-called Ohio gang's dominance of the federal government.</p>
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<p>Smith, who had been in Daugherty’s unofficial care for years, committed suicide. Smith was upset about not being included in the entourage heading to Alaska in June 1923, and also suffered from complications from diabetes and paranoia, perhaps because of the fear of discovery of his misdeeds. Daugherty and the Justice Department were investigated, resulting in Daugherty’s indictment. He never was convicted.  
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Revision as of 17:45, 13 December 2013

File:Harding, Warren G. and Florence on Board the U.S.S. Henderson.jpg
President and Mrs. Harding traveling the Alaskan coastline on board the U.S.S. Henderson in 1923. They journeyed cross country from Washington, D.C. to Alaska in spite of the President’s failing health.

In 1920, Ohioan Warren Gamaliel Harding won election as president of the United States. As president, Harding assembled a respected and geographically diverse cabinet, including Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes and Treasurer Andrew Mellon. Some historians claim that the term “Ohio gang” referred to the cabinet, but it did not. The Ohio Gang term evolved in the press in the years after the Harding administration and referred to men loosely associated with Harding’s attorney general, Harry Daugherty, who was from Washington Courthouse, Ohio. This group involved Jess Smith, also from Washington Courthouse, and Howard Mannington from Urbana. Fred Caskey from Marietta and M.P. Kraffmiller of Illinois ran the “little green house on K Street” in Washington D.C. The group used the house as a commercial headquarters, with their interests focused on peddling influence, selling permits to withdraw liquor from bonded government warehouses and arranging for the illegal sale of government property.

In the months before Harding’s 1923 death, knowledge of these deals was unknown and only rumors existed. The growing problem, though, was that the rumors swirled around men associated with Daugherty, which, in turn, could turn into a stain on the President’s reputation. Close Republican friends who mentioned the rumors to Harding received a strong rebuke. Harding indeed could not imagine that these men were involved in shady dealings. “Despite later claims, this much is clear,” stated historian Robert K. Murray. “The Ohio Gang had very few of the characteristics of a gang because it had no concrete form, no cohesion, and no plan. If it had any leadership, it was provided by Jess Smith. The Ohio Gang was simply a collection of rank opportunists who worked together as a matter of expediency. Each was jealous and distrustful of the other; they owed no allegiance to anyone. They looked for the quick buck, not sustained graft.”

Smith, who had been in Daugherty’s unofficial care for years, committed suicide. Smith was upset about not being included in the entourage heading to Alaska in June 1923, and also suffered from complications from diabetes and paranoia, perhaps because of the fear of discovery of his misdeeds. Daugherty and the Justice Department were investigated, resulting in Daugherty’s indictment. He never was convicted.

See Also