29. Warren G. Harding

Warren G. Harding

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Marion, OH June 22, 2005 23rd President visited

Photographed June 22, 2005.

Marion, Ohio, 50 miles north of Columbus, has several connections to Washington politics. Marion was the childhood residence of John Dean, the former White House counsel during the administration of Richard Nixon. It also hosts multiple attractions related to First Lady Florence Harding and her husband, the 29th president of the United States. The Warren G. Harding Presidential Sites banner encompasses the first couple’s home, their grand tomb, and the Warren G. Harding Presidential Library & Museum. The home opened to the public in 1926, while President and Mrs. Harding were laid to rest in the tomb in 1927. The library, which does not fall under the auspices of the National Archives, was dedicated in 2021, a century after Warren Harding’s inauguration.

My father arranged in advance for Melinda Gilpin, the site manager of the Harding home, to open the tomb’s typically-locked entrance when we visited in summer 2005. This was an excellent cap to a five-president/five-first lady trip that began with Millard and Abigail Fillmore, William and Ida McKinley, Rutherford and Lucy Hayes, and James and Lucretia Garfield.

Photographed June 22, 2005.
Photographed June 22, 2005.

Ms. Gilpin’s benevolence enabled me to walk right up to the Hardings’ interment sites and experience a perspective that most visitors to the tomb do not. The circular tomb of white Georgia is supported by 48 columns, which represent the number of states in the Union during Harding’s presidency. It was dedicated in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover, Harding’s old secretary of commerce.

Warren to the left of me, Florence to the right… The pair had no children together, but a woman named Nan Britton claimed she and the late president shared a child in her tell-all book from 1927, The President’s Daughter. Though Britton’s efforts to prove Harding’s paternity were in vain during her lifetime, DNA evidence vindicated her in 2015 — 24 years after her death, and a decade after the passing of their daughter, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing.

Photographed June 22, 2005.
Photographed June 22, 2005.

Harding was the sixth U.S. president to die in office, and the third from natural causes. There were rumors, however, that the chief executive was poisoned. The perpetrator, it was alleged, was none other than Mrs. Harding!  Her motive was supposedly to save her husband the embarrassment sure to accompany the scandals underway in the Executive Branch, such as Teapot Dome. These accusations were propagated by former Harding administration official Gaston Means in his book, The Strange Death of President Harding, from 1930. Florence Harding could not defend her reputation from Means attacks, for she was dead herself by that time. Means’ ghostwriter, May Dixon Thacker, subsequently assailed their collaborative publication for its lack of documentation. The murder allegations largely subsided, though not entirely.

 


Fast Facts

Born: November 2, 1865 in Blooming Grove, Ohio

Spouse: Florence Kling Harding (m. 1891-1923)

Political Affiliation: Republican Party

Presidential Term: 1921-1923

Vice President: Calvin Coolidge

Died: August 2, 1923 in San Francisco, California

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

Age: 57

Last Words: “That’s good. Go on, read some more.”

Interment: Harding MemorialMarion, Ohio

"If revolution insists upon overturning established order, let other peoples make the tragic experiment. There is no place for it in America. When World War threatened civilization we pledged our resources and our lives to its preservation, and when revolution threatens we unfurl the flag of law and order and renew our consecration. Ours is a constitutional freedom where the popular will is the law supreme and minorities are sacredly protected. Our revisions, reformations, and evolutions reflect a deliberate judgment and an orderly progress, and we mean to cure our ills, but never destroy or permit destruction by force."
- Warren G. Harding

March 4, 1921 in his inaugural address

Sources Consulted

Baker, Peter. “DNA Is Said to Solve a Mystery of Warren Harding’s Love Life.” New York Times. August 12, 2015. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/13/us/dna-is-said-to-solve-a-mystery-of-warren-hardings-love-life.html.

Harding Presidential Sites. “Harding Presidential Sites Embark on New Era with its Dedication.” October 16, 2021. https://hardingpresidentialsites.org/2021/10/16/harding-presidential-sites-embark-on-new-era-with-its-dedication/.

Harding, Warren. “Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1921. Transcript. From Yale Law School, The Avalon Projecthttps://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/harding.asp.

Lamb, Brian and the staff of C-SPAN. Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. Rev. ed. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

Markel, Dr. Howard. “The ‘strange’ death of Warren G. Harding.” PBS NewsHour. August 2, 2015. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/strange-death-warren-harding.

Picone, Louis L. The President is Dead! The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond. Rev. ed. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2020.

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