Ohio Gang

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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, 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 "Ohio gang," 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.

Unfortunately for Harding and the country, many of the president's cabinet officials proved to be unscrupulous, causing a great deal of distrust among the U.S. public of their government officials. 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.

At this same time, it became known that Harding commonly drank alcohol in the White House, although this was a direct violation of Prohibition. The U.S. public also began to hear rumors of extramarital affairs in which Harding engaged, including one with a friend's wife, Carrie Fulton Phillips, and another with a neighbor, Nan Britton. Britton claimed after Harding's death to have conceived a daughter with Harding while he was a senator.

While these various scandals were becoming public knowledge, 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.

See Also