The Harding Memorial

It is difficult to imagine a President falling from grace quite as rapidly as Warren G. Harding. Elected by the largest popular majority up to that time, and assuming the presidency in 1920 at a time when the affairs of the government were in a disastrous shambles following the illness-ridden final years of Woodrow Wilson’s tenure, Harding had pledged to return the operations of government, and the affairs of the nation, to a state of normalcy. While his administration was superior in accomplishments to a sizable portion of those in the nation’s history, as his biographer Robert K. Murray states, the record is overshadowed by the scandals that began to unravel at the time of Harding’s death. Although the president himself was never remotely thought culpable, his judgment especially in matters of appointments, must be severely questioned, even if the mythical proportions that tales of wrongdoing and easy living in the Harding White House have been and continue to be vastly overstated. Polls of presidential greatness have constantly placed Harding at or near the bottom, testimony to the power of historians and journalists to perpetuate myth over reality.

Shortly after his death, with the oratory from his eulogies still in the air, the Harding Memorial Association was formed with the objective of raising money for a suitable presidential tomband monument. President Coolidge accepted the honorary chairmanship and many top government official, including all cabinet members, were on the association’s executive board.

President Coolidge chairs meeting of the Harding Memorial Association Executive Board, looking appropriately glum

In mid-1924 Coolidge appointed a committee made up of Charles Schwab and Secretaries Mellon and Weeks to determine the location, plans, and allotment of funds for the memorial; they selected Harding’s hometown of Marion, Ohio, and ground for the memorial, a circle of 46 Tuscan and Ionic columns in white Georgia marble, was broken in 1926. By that time, Republicans were not eager to associate themselves with the Harding name, and on the occasion of the laying of the cornerstone, the only Republican official who was willing to attend and deliver an endorsement of his former boss was Vice-President Dawes.

(read on after the cut)

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