Perhaps one of the most controversial presidents in American history, William Harding took office as the 29th President in 1921. As a major newspaper publisher from Ohio, he appointed a number of close friends to important positions in the White House. This organization became known as the “Ohio Gang” and was known for a number of questionable activities using their positions to get personal gain.

Among the issues hitting the public was a possible affair and the infamous Teapot Dome scandal. The situations came to a head with the suicides of Veterans Bureau chief Charles Cramer and Justice Department official Jess Smith. During his tenure, he pushed for equality for women and African-Americans and supported workers’ rights. During a trip to Alaska, Harding suddenly died on August 2, 1923.

There were numerous mysteries surrounding his demise, much of what pointed to his wife. Former Ohio Gang member Gaston Means suggested that Mrs. Harding poisoned her husband and caused heart failure. Rumors speculated that she was angry over a possible presidential affair which led to an illegitimate child. Regardless of her involvement, she returned to the White House with the new president, Calvin Coolidge, and destroyed nearly all of Harding’s official and personal correspondence and documents. All remaining papers were kept from public view and permanently placed in safe storage in Ohio. Today, the full details of Harding’s presidency have not been disclosed.

White House: Warren G. Harding

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