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Harding led a warweary nation in the transition from the aggression of World War I into the peace and prosperity of the 1920s. His home is a memorial to the service he gave his country.
Harding also received a practical education in journalism, serving as a printer's apprentice on the weekly Caledonia Argus. After the Hardings moved to Marion in 1883, he worked on the Marion Democratic Mirrr. His apprenticeships paid off in 1884, when Harding purchased the Marion Starand became its editor and publisher.
Harding married Florence Kling DeWolfe - the divorced daughter of one of Marion's wealthiest and most prominent Republicans - on July 8, 1891, in the house they planned and built together - the Harding Home.
Harding's increasing political stature led to his selection to give the speech nominating Ohioan William Howard Taft for president at the 1912 Republican national convention. In 1916, Harding delivered the convention's keynote address. Four years later, backed by a loyal group of Marion friends and other Ohio supporters, he won his party's nomination for president.
He campaigned on the slogans "return to normalcy" and "America first," which appealed to a nation still shocked and bewildered by the violence and heavy death tolls of World War I. Many Americans felt that the solution was to withdraw from world politics and concentrate on restoring normal business operations at home. Harding's slogans promised such solutions.
He delivered his messages in speeches given from the front porch of his Marion home, a tactic first used by fellow Ohioan William McKinley in his successful 1896 presidential campaign. Although Harding traveled by train for at least four campaign tours, he concentrated his efforts on speeches given from his porch before gathered crowds and, more importantly, the press.
Harding and his running mate, Calvin Coolidge, won the election over Democratic presidential nominee James M. Cox - a former Ohio governor and publisher of the Dayton Daily New - and vice-presidential nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt in a landslide.
In domestic policy, Harding moved to improve the nation's economy by reducing government expenditures, easing taxes, and returning the railways to private control. He also struck blows for civil rights by freeing Socialist Eugene Debs who had been arrested for speaking out against the war - and supporting voting rights for blacks.
Handsome, friendly, and well-spoken, Harding was an extremely popular president. But the stress of the presidency, as well as his poor health, wore Harding down. In June 1923, he and his wife began a trip across the continent to Alaska. Harding had a bad heart and had been stricken with influenza that year. Further weakened by travel and by the stress of soon-to-be-revealed scandals, Harding died of a cerebral hemorrhage August 2, 1923, in San Francisco. Thousands turned out to view the funeral train that carried the president's body from Washington, D.C., to Marion, where it was placed in a temporary tomb at Marion Cemetery.
A few months later, the nation's grief turned to shock as two scandals were revealed. Most wellknown is the Teapot Dome affair, in which government officials conspired to lease federal oil reserves in a way that benefited them financially. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall was charged with bribery, becoming the first Cabinet member ever to be convicted on criminal charges. In another scandal, the director of the Veterans Bureau, Charles Forbes, pocketed several million dollars of his agency's $250 million budget. Although Harding probably was unaware of the Teapot Dome affair and learned of Forbes' treachery just months before his death, the scandals have become - fairly or unfairly - synonymous with his administration.
In 1927, the bodies of the president and Mrs. Harding, who died in Marion in 1924, were moved to the newly constructed Harding Memorial, which was built through public donations, including numerous dime contributions from schoolchildren.
Harding Memorial, located south of Marion on state route 423, is a circular monument of white Georgia marble in a ten-acre landscaped park.
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