The Rundown

History Thursday: The 1920 Presidential election

By: - January 2, 2020 9:55 am

President Warren G. Harding’s First Cabinet, 1921.

History Thursday

A hundred years ago, in 1920, Warren G. Harding was the last Ohioan to be elected president. The Republican Harding won the 1920 election over another Ohioan, Democratic Ohio Gov. James M. Cox, who had Franklin D. Roosevelt as his running mate.

Cox would retire from politics after the 1920 election to focus on his media conglomerate, Cox Enterprises, which continues to operate today with subsidiaries including Cox Media Group and Cox Communications.

Roosevelt would be stricken with polio less than a year after the election, in August 1921. He would go on to win the presidency in 1932 after serving as governor of New York, and be elected to an unprecedented four terms.

The Ohio Gang

Harding died in office on Aug. 2, 1923 of cardiac arrest after a battle with pneumonia. Generally liked at the time of his death, most of the scandals, graft and corruption tied to the Harding Administration and the “Ohio Gang,” including Teapot Dome, did not emerge until after Harding had passed.

If you read “Teapot Dome” and your eyes glaze over, don’t sleep on it. It “involved ornery oil tycoons, poker-playing politicians, illegal liquor sales, a murder-suicide, a womanizing president and a bagful of bribery cash delivered on the sly.”

More from “In the end, the scandal would empower the Senate to conduct rigorous investigations into government corruption. It also marked the first time a U.S. cabinet official served jail time for a felony committed while in office.

“Before the Watergate Scandal, the Teapot Dome Scandal was regarded as the most sensational example of high-level corruption in the history of U.S. politics.

“Albert Fall, a former Secretary of the Interior, was charged with accepting bribes from oil companies in exchange for exclusive rights to drill for oil on federal land. The sites included land near a teapot-shaped outcrop in Wyoming known as Teapot Dome, and two other government-owned sites in California named Elk Hills and Buena Vista Hills.”

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David DeWitt
David DeWitt

OCJ Editor-in-Chief and Columnist David DeWitt has been covering government, politics, and policy in Ohio since 2007, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends. He can be found on Twitter @DC_DeWitt