The son of a poor Ohio farmer, Warren G. Harding (1865–1923) spent two years at a rural academy called the Ohio Central College and received a diploma at the age of 16. For several years, he taught school and sold insurance before buying a local newspaper. He guaranteed its success by mentioning every town resident in the paper at least twice a year. Harding described his editorial policy as “inoffensivism.” He later entered Republican politics, rising from lieutenant governor to U.S. Senator before being nominated for the presidency. Harding made few major pronouncements during the campaign, largely confining his speeches to uncontroversial platitudes about the need to avoid moral crusades and return to “normalcy.” Harding had few illusions about his qualifications for the presidency. “I am a man of limited talents from a small town,” he said. He appointed a number of corrupt officials to office. His administration was marred by scandals involving bribes and kickbacks at the Justice Department and the Veterans Bureau. After his sudden death from a stroke in 1923, his administration’s biggest scandal, known as Teapot Dome, was revealed. His Interior Secretary, Albert B. Fall, was sent to prison for accepting $360,000 in bribes for leasing U.S. naval oil reserves in Wyoming to Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs and persuaded the steel industry to end the twelve-hour day and replace it with an eight-hour day. He also called an international disarmament conference in Washington which slowed down the arms race.

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