Sue Young Histories

Warren Gamaliel Harding 1865 - 1923

October 17, 2007

Warren G HardingWarren Gamaliel Harding 1865 - 1923, the 29th President of the United States, was born in 1865 near Corsica (now Blooming Grove), Ohio. Harding’s father, Dr. George Tryon Harding, was a homeopathic physician; Harding’s mother Pheobe Dickerson Harding was a midwife and a homeopath who later qualified for an Ohio medical license.

Both of Harding’s parents were homeopathic practitioners. In 1869, Harding’s father, George Tryon Harding, bought a second-hand set of medical books and began reading medicine. Over the next four years he went on rounds with a local homeopath and attended a total of two sessions session at a homeopathic college in Cleveland. With these credentials he was allowed to affix “M.D.” after his name.

Harding’s mother, Phoebe, was a midwife. On the basis of this practice and assisting her husband, she was granted an Ohio medical license in

  1. She designated herself a homeopathic physician and practiced until her premature death in 1910.

Dr. Charles Elmer Sawyer entered the Harding’s lives in 1897 when Phoebe Harding was accused of malpractice in the death of a child. Charles Elmer Sawyer, a respected member of the local homeopathic community, absolved her of all responsibility in the affair.

Charles Elmer Sawyer became Harding’s personal physician, and Harding supported homeopathy throughout his life.

When Harding became President, America was recovering from World War I and prohibition had been enforced. This was a wild time for politics in America and Harding was a man of his times, wild living and the emergence of ‘wide boys’ in the political culture makes this an extraordinary time, full of extraordinary people.

His wife Florence was also an interesting woman, and to this day scurrilous stories are still being told about them both! Florence Harding, wife of President Warren G Harding supported the National Woman’s Party in their commission and placing of a marble sculpture of homeopathic supporters and suffrage leaders Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, which was unveiled in 1921 in the U.S. Capitol.

When Harding died, attempts were made to character assassinate Charles Elmer Sawyer, but:

This character assassination also extends to many of the people around Harding, but not all. There is a great deal of accusation against Charles Elmer Sawyer ‘misdiagnosing’ Harding’s condition, but:

In The Strange Deaths of President Harding, Ferrell lays out the facts behind these allegations for the reader to ponder. Making the most of the recently opened papers of assistant White House physician Dr. Joel Thompson Boone, Ferrell shows that for years Harding suffered from high blood pressure, was under a great deal of stress, and overexerted himself; it was a heart attack that caused his death, not poison.

There was no proof of an illegitimate child. And Harding did not know much about the scandals intensifying in the White House at the time of his death. In fact, these events were not as scandalous as they have since been made to seem.

Indeed, Ferrell states in Chapter One of his book that Charles Elmer Sawyer knew Harding’s diagnosis of cardiovascular disease from 1916 and that Sawyer believed it was the condition that allowed the President to ‘pass over the last rapids on his way to Eternity’.

Charles Elmer Sawyer had become Harding’s homeopathic physician when he interceded to assist his mother and then cured his wife of a serious illness. Harding also had advice from homeopathic physician Dr. Joel Thompson Boone who reported how uncooperative Harding was at taking adequate rest.

Sawyer and Boone were both present at Harding’s death but only Charles Elmer Sawyer is criticised (after the event by allopaths) about Harding’s death, even though several other doctors were with Harding in these last few days.

It must also be borne in mind that Sawyer was the one chosen to speak to the press that afternoon. No doubt there were political considerations to be taken into account before the announcement everyone feared and suspected, and indeed Harding did rally, but even so Coolidge, his ultimate successor to the Presidency was watching events very closely, as no doubt many others were. Fortunes stood to be made or lost on the death of an American President.

Dr. Joel Thompson Boone went on to become a Vice Admiral in the United States Navy and so of course he was not character assassinated like poor Charles Elmer Sawyer and there is no mention of Dr. Joel Thompson Boone being a homeopath at all in his record at the Arlington National Cemetery!

None of the other doctors present at Harding’s death attracted the slightest trace of criticism either!

It seems apparent that Harding’s reputation went to the dogs when homeopathy was attacked by Abraham Flexner who was so keen to get his hands on the Rockefeller billions, and he needed to defame quite a lot of people in order to launch his pharmaceutical industry and utilise the profits from Standard Oil.

Such were the force of these lies, they have been routinely repeated in relation to Harding and Charles Elmer Sawyer ever since, which shows how fearful the massively powerful and wealthy pharmaceutical industry is about homeopathy.

Unless its reputation is repeatedly completely trashed and its benefits to humanity repeatedly denied, the pharmaceutical industry would shoot straight down the tubes. It still might!

So were Harding and Charles Elmer Sawyer sacrificed for this baleful cause? Blaming an ‘incompetent’ homeopath for the death of an American President should have been enough of a lie to destroy homeopathy, but apparently not. Harding’s reputation had to go too. Harding is characterised negatively:

as one of the least successful presidents of the United States, despite his immense popularity while in office

When in fact he was very clever:

School was not a great challenge for young Harding. His father told an interviewer during his son’s 1920 campaign for the White House,

"He studied his lessons, I don't know when. I never caught him at it and it used to worry me, so I asked his teacher what Warren was doing to bring in such decent reports when he didn't seem to work. 'Oh, he's just naturally smart,' his teacher said."

Jack Warwick, a schoolmate and friend of Harding’s, confirms the ease with which he went through his schoolwork.

Nonetheless, his reputation, and that of his wife, has been picked quite clean by subsequent biographers, and his Presidency consigned to the dustbin of history!

Harding was a clever man and bright rising star when he made The Marion Daily Star such a success, even though it took such a toll on his health:

While Harding won the war of words and made the Marion Daily Star one of the biggest newspapers in the county, the battle took a toll on his health.

In 1889, when Harding was 24, he suffered from exhaustion and nervous fatigue. He traveled to Battle Creek, Michigan, to spend several weeks in a sanatorium to regain his strength…

However, his biographers present his character very differently after his death:

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell has suggested that Harding’s political success was based on his appearance, essentially that he “looked like a president”. Gladwell argues that the first impression of Harding outweighed his intellectual and other deficiencies…

This does not sound like a man who was astute enough to be a modern man of his times, leaving everyone else standing:

Harding’s “front porch campaign” during the late summer and fall of 1920 captured the imagination of the country. Not only was it the first campaign to be heavily covered by the press and to receive widespread newsreel coverage, but it was also the first modern campaign to use the power of Hollywood and Broadway stars, who traveled to Marion for photo opportunities with Harding and his wife.

Al Jolson, Lillian Russell, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford were among the conservative minded luminaries to make the pilgrimage to central Ohio. Business icons Thomas Alva Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone also lent their cachet to the campaign.

From the onset of the campaign until the November election, over 600,000 people traveled to Marion to participate.

His wife Florence was also breaking new ground in a World where women elsewhere were being encouraged to return to the home after WWI, Florence was also a modern woman. 1920 was the very first election where women could vote, something Florence no doubt understand very well:

The campaign owed a great deal to Florence Harding, who played perhaps a more active role than any previous candidate’s wife in a presidential race. She cultivated the relationship between the campaign and the press.

As the business manager of the Star, she understood reporters and their industry and played to their needs by making herself freely available to answer questions, pose for pictures, or deliver food prepared in her kitchen to the press office, which was a bungalow she had constructed at the rear of their property in Marion.

Mrs. Harding even went so far as to coach her husband on the proper way to wave to newsreel cameras to make the most of coverage.

However, politics in America was boiling and Harding’s opponents stirred the pot with allegations that Harding was black:

When William Estabrook Chancellor was a professor at The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, he began to research the background of Warren G. Harding. He wrote two pamphlets about this subject prior to the 1920 presidential election, unleashing a major scandal.

Chancellor was dismissed from his post four days before the election.

Copies of Chancellor’s pamphlets were confiscated by federal agents and destroyed; currently only five are thought to be in existence, three of which are owned by rare book collectors, the other two owned by museums.

Chancellor’s theory on Harding’s lineage was based upon affidavits provided by aged Crawford County, Ohio residents that Harding was of mixed race. Chancellor claimed that Harding had a great-grandmother, Elizabeth Madison, who was black. It was these affidavits from elderly residents in Galion, Ohio, that served as the basis for Chancellor’s book.

Dr. Harding relocated his family to Caledonia in eastern Marion County when the younger Harding was a young boy. Unless Chancellor’s sources had intimate knowledge of Harding’s genealogy, the rumor is probably untrue.

Once President, Harding immediately began the Bureau of Veterans Affairs to lay the dust of the Civil War. He did not forget the homeopaths who had served so valiantly:

AT the Annual Meeting of the American Institute of Homeopathy held in Asbury Park, N. J. in June 1919 the Editor of this volume urged in his Business Address as President of the Institute that suitable steps be taken to publish a war record of American Homeopathy.

At this time, details of the great conflict, so recently closed that many of our number were still in service, held the interest of all concerned.

The American Institute of Homeopathy is indebted to our President, the Honorable Warren G. Harding, for his sympathetic dedication and for his thoughtful interest in permitting the publication of a photograph of himself. Acknowledgment is here made to the Surgeon Generals of the Army and Navy for permission to consult their official records. Without this help it would have been indeed difficult to present an authentic record.

Charles Elmer Sawyer wrote War Activities of Organized Homeopathy alongside Frederick Myers Dearborn and Scott Parsons as an accurate record of homeopathic involvement in World War 1.

Harding also attempted to outlaw lynching, but he was not supported by the Senate in this. He did succeed in establishing the peace treaties signed with Germany, Austria and Hungary, formally ending World War I for the United States.

Harding’s Vice President was homeopathic supporter Calvin Coolidge and his Secretary of Commerce was homeopathic supporter Herbert Hoover. However, his administration was tarnished by:

Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall who was convicted of accepting bribes and illegal no-interest personal loans in exchange for the leasing of public oil fields to business associates..

Such was the corruptive pull of all that oil money. This was the ’Roaring 20s’:

Thomas Miller, head of the Office of Alien Property, was convicted of accepting bribes. Jess Smith, personal aide to the Attorney General, destroyed papers and then committed suicide. Charles Forbes, director of the Veterans Bureau, skimmed profits, earned large amounts of kickbacks, and directed underground alcohol and drug distribution. He was convicted of fraud and bribery and drew a two-year sentence. Charles Cramer, an aide to Charles Forbes, also committed suicide.

No evidence to date suggests that Harding personally profited from these crimes, but he was apparently unable to stop them.

"My God, this is a hell of a job!" Harding said. "I have no trouble with my enemies, but my damn friends, my God-damned friends... they're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights!"


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