The Fillmore Cabinet

The Fillmore Cabinet


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    Conspectus of the History of Political Parties and the Federal Government/Conspectus of Political History/Taylor and Fillmore

    Taylor’s policy .—The President decided to conduct his administration free from the influence of pro-slavery advocates, and appealed for support to certain statesmen who accorded with his views on the extension of slavery. Senator Seward responded, and became the executive’s confidential counselor.

    Government for the Mexican cession .—In December, 1849, Congress began legislation for the establishment of government over the territory acquired from Mexico. The subject of slavery rendered the task a difficult one. When several plans had been submitted without success, Mr. Clay (Jan. 10, 1850,) introduced eight resolutions as compromises for adjusting the entire controversy on slavery. They met with opposition from pro-slavery members, on the ground that they did not secure sufficient advantage to the south.

    Omnibus bill .—The debate on the resolutions continued four months, when (April 17th) a select committee of the Senate, headed by Mr. Clay, reported a bill, consisting of thirty-nine sections, and reproducing most of the resolutions which had been discussed. This was a consolidation of all past “compromises on the question of slavery,” and, owing to the variety of topics embraced, was called the Omnibus bill. This was debated and amended in the Senate till the last day of July, when it passed, having been pruned till it provided only for the territorial government of Utah. In this condition it was sent to the House. The Omnibus bill, as a whole, was rejected, but its main heads were passed in August, as separate bills, and were designated the

    Compromise measures of 1850 .—These consisted of bills providing (1) for the organization of Utah and New Mexico into territories without reference to slavery (2) for the admission of California as a free state (3) for the payment to Texas of $10,000,000 for her claim to New Mexico (4) for the return of persons escaping from the service of their masters and (5) for abolishing the slave trade in the District of Columbia. The compromises were received by the leaders of the two great parties as a final settlement of the vexed questions which troubled Congress and agitated the country, but the storm was only temporarily allayed.

    Fillmore’s accession and secession .—Mr. Fillmore was inaugurated on the 10th of July, 1850. He departed from the policy of his deceased predecessor, organized a new cabinet, used his influence in favor of the compromise measures, did not comply with the Whig platform of his state, acted in opposition to his own political antecedents, and wished, it is thought, to form a compromise party, of which he should be the head. Though not harmonizing with the Whig party, he did not go so far as to enter the Democratic ranks.

    Silver Gray party .—In September, 1850, the Whig state convention of New York met at Syracuse, with Francis Granger as chairman. When resolutions were under consideration, Mr. Cornwell moved that the convention adopt a series of resolutions prepared by himself, instead of those reported by the committee. One of his resolutions declared that W. H. Seward deserved the thanks of the convention for the fidelity with which he had sustained, in the Senate, the liberal and long cherished principles of the Whig party. Upon this, Mr. Duer, a member of Congress, and a follower of the President, declared that if the resolutions of Mr. Cornwell were adopted, the Whig party of New York, from that moment, would be broken up, and that the future would determine where he and his friends would go. Mr. Cornwell’s resolutions were adopted. The delegates who opposed them, among whom was the chairman, then withdrew and convened in another building, where they called a convention of the President’s friends, to meet at Utica on the 17th of October. The delegates met pursuant to the call, separated from the Whigs, organized a party, and adopted for it the title of “Silver Gray.” The party approved the compromise measures and the policy of the President, and assumed the responsibility of preserving the Union. This is the party, it is thought, which Mr. Fillmore wished to form when he ceased to act with the Whigs.

    The American party was organized in 1852, with the professed object of purifying the ballot box, excluding from office those of foreign birth, and opposing the efforts to reject the Bible from the public schools. It operated secretly and with astonishing success. Its members were sworn to support the candidates put in nomination by the order. At first it selected candidates from all political parties. The organization was generally called the Know-Nothing party, because, when questioned concerning their order, the members answered that they knew nothing.

    Election of 1852 .—The Democratic national convention, at Baltimore, June 1, 1852, nominated Franklin Pierce (N. H.) and Wm. R. King (Ala.). These candidates were pledged to support the compromises of 1850. The platform contained twenty resolutions.

    In the same city, on the 16th of June, the national convention of Whigs nominated General Winfield Scott (Va.) and Wm. A. Graham (N. C.) The platform adopted consisted of eight resolutions. The two leading conventions took the same position on the subject of slavery.

    The Free Soil party, at Pittsburg, August 11th, 1852, in national convention, nominated John P. Hale (N. H.) and George W. Julian (Ind.). This party did not expect to secure any electoral votes, but acted in the hope that its principles, in time, might enter the other parties, and sever the connection between the government and slavery. The platform contained twenty-two resolutions. [See D. and Pl.]

    The Democrats were a unit upon their platform most of them who had supported Van Buren in 1848, returned to the old party, and voted for Mr. Pierce.

    The Whigs could not conduct a vigorous canvass, owing to the indifference with which their platform was supported. At the election they were completely routed. Mr. Pierce received 254 electoral votes out of the 296 cast in the college of that year.

    Dissolution of the Whig party .—Before the canvass of 1852, the Whigs avoided making the question of slavery a political issue. The compromises contained the Fugitive Slave bill, and other features which were offensive to the mass of northern Whigs, and when their platform sanctioned the measures, the party divided against itself, and, without power for good or evil, became as dead “for all the purposes of a political campaign.” After the election, the members of the party began to look elsewhere for political affiliation, and, in time, entered such organizations as met their approval.


    The Fillmore Cabinet - History


    After the 1994 Northridge Earthquake the cannon was moved and now sits in front of the Fillmore Veterans Memorial Building on 2nd Street. The plaque reads “W.W.I Cannon Donated by the U. S. Govt. to the City of Fillmore in 1921. Dedicated to all the men and women who serve their country. W.F.W. 9637 – 2001”. Photos courtesy Fillmore Historical Museum.


    The Veterans Service Club formed in 1927 in Fillmore, and in July 1928 the Veterans Service Club ordered a cannon as a gift to Fillmore from the Rartian Arsenal in New Jersey. Pictured above is Len Hawthorn firing the Howitzer in 1979.

    Courtesy Fillmore Historical Museum

    The Fillmore cannon? Well, actually, it’s not. It’s a howitzer, probably of French manufacture based on German plans. So how did it get to Fillmore?

    In January 1927, a group of Fillmore veterans formed the Veteran’s Service Club. Membership was open to “all men who honorably served in the army, navy or marine corps of the United States or her allies as well as those who have served this country in former conflicts.” The first president of the organization was R. A. Fremlin, who served in the British armed forces during World War I. The American Legion accepted only those who had served in the US military.

    The Club grew from a charter membership of 35 to 134 by the end of 1927. The group was active in the improvement of Fillmore, taking on sponsorship of the city park which be created near the Southern Pacific Depot between Main and Santa Clara Streets.

    As a gift to the town the VSC ordered a “cannon” from the Raritan Arsenal in New Jersey. As it was war surplus, the “cannon” itself cost them nothing, but they had to pay $150 in for shipping. In July 1928, the “cannon”, a 150mm howitzer arrived was installed in the City Park which at the time was the area in front of the current City Hall.

    The “cannon” was not the only thing the VSC were doing in 1928 (although some of their plans were interrupted by the sudden collapse of the St. Francis Dam on March 12/13). They were the sponsor of the spring and fall flower shows, they put on several stage plays. To complete the year, they donated and installed the neon “Fillmore” sign that still can be seen on Central.

    The “cannon” was a “mobile” piece and on at least two occasions traveled. One story is that in the early 1950s, some fun-loving Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) moved it to the Wm L. Morris lot, then on Central and Santa Clara. No damage was done and the cannon was returned to its home in the park.

    It was a different story in 1974 when a “local prankster” hooked the howitzer up to his pick up and towed down the street. The wheels of the venerable gun broke under the strain. Retired cabinet make Fred Barger was commissioned to repair the wheels, which he did at no charge. The City Works department placed it on the southwest corner of the City Park so visitors were greeted by the “cannon” as the drove up Central Avenue.

    The 1994 Earthquake changed many things and so it was with the “cannon”. With the construction of the new City Hall, the “cannon” lost its home. It was also in need of some TLC. Ralph Rees and Basil Dalsem undertook the job of restoring the cannon and when finished, it found its new home at the Veteran’s Memorial Building on 2nd Street where it remains.


    Contents

    Republican nomination Edit

    By early 1920, General Leonard Wood, Illinois governor Frank Lowden, and Senator Hiram Johnson of California had emerged as the frontrunners for the Republican nomination in the upcoming presidential election. [1] [2] Some in the party began to scout for such an alternative, and Harding's name arose, despite his reluctance, due to his unique ability to draw vital Ohio votes. [3] Harry Daugherty, who became Harding's campaign manager, and who was sure none of these candidates could garner a majority, convinced Harding to run after a marathon discussion of six-plus hours. [4] Daugherty's strategy focused on making Harding liked by or at least acceptable to all wings of the party, so that Harding could emerge as a compromise candidate in the likely event of a convention deadlock. [5] He struck a deal with Oklahoma oilman Jake L. Hamon, whereby 18 Oklahoma delegates whose votes Hamon had bought for Lowden were committed to Harding as a second choice if Lowden's effort faltered. [6] [7]

    By the time the 1920 Republican National Convention began in June, a Senate sub-committee had tallied the monies spent by the various candidates, with totals as follows: Wood – $1.8 million Lowden – $414,000 Johnson – $194,000 and Harding – $114,000 the committed delegate count at the opening gavel was: Wood – 124 Johnson – 112 Lowden – 72 Harding – 39. [8] Still, at the opening, less than one-half of the delegates were committed, [9] and many expected the convention to nominate a compromise candidate like Pennsylvania Senator Philander C. Knox, Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, or 1916 nominee Charles Evans Hughes. [10] No candidate was able to corral a majority after nine ballots. [11] After the convention adjourned for the day, Republican Senators and other leaders, who were divided and without a singular political boss, met in Room 404 of the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. After a nightlong session, these party leaders tentatively concluded Harding was the best possible compromise candidate this meeting has often been described as having taken place in a "smoke-filled room." [12] The next day, on the tenth ballot, Harding was nominated for president. Delegates then selected Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge to be his vice-presidential running mate. [13]

    General election Edit

    Harding's opponent in the 1920 election was Ohio governor and newspaperman James M. Cox, who had won the Democratic nomination in a 44-ballot convention battle. Harding rejected the Progressive ideology of the Wilson administration in favor of the laissez-faire approach of the McKinley administration. [14] He ran on the promise of a "return to normalcy," calling for the end to an era which he saw as tainted by war, internationalism, and government activism. [15] He stated:

    America's present need is not heroics, but healing not nostrums, but normalcy not revolution, but restoration not agitation, but adjustment not surgery, but serenity not the dramatic, but the dispassionate not experiment, but equipoise not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality. [16]

    The 1920 election was the first in which women could vote nationwide, as well as the first to be covered on the radio. [17] Led by Albert Lasker, the Harding campaign executed a broad-based advertising campaign that used modern advertising techniques for the first time in a presidential campaign. [18] Using newsreels, motion pictures, sound recordings, billboard posters, newspapers, magazines, and other media, Lasker emphasized and enhanced Harding's patriotism and affability. Five thousand speakers were trained by advertiser Harry New and sent across the country to speak for Harding. Telemarketers were used to make phone conferences with perfected dialogues to promote Harding, and Lasker had 8,000 photos of Harding and his wife distributed around the nation every two weeks. Farmers were sent brochures decrying the alleged abuses of Democratic agriculture policies, while African Americans and women were given literature in an attempt to take away votes from the Democrats. [19] Additionally, celebrities like Al Jolson and Lillian Russell toured the nation on Harding's behalf. [20]

    Harding won a decisive victory, receiving 404 electoral votes to Cox's 127. He took 60 percent of the nationwide popular vote, the highest percentage ever recorded up to that time, while Cox received just 34 percent of the vote. [21] Campaigning from a federal prison, Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs received 3% percent of the national vote. Harding won the popular vote by a margin of 26.2%, the largest margin since the election of 1820. He swept every state outside of the "Solid South", and his victory in Tennessee made him the first Republican to win a former Confederate state since the end of Reconstruction. [22] In the concurrent congressional elections, the Republicans picked up 63 seats in the House of Representatives. [23] The incoming 67th Congress would be dominated by Republicans, though the party was divided among various factions, including an independent-minded farm bloc from the Midwest. [24]

    Harding was inaugurated as the nation's 29th president on March 4, 1921, on the East Portico of the United States Capitol. Chief Justice Edward D. White administered the oath of office. Harding placed his hand on the Washington Inaugural Bible as he recited the oath. This was the first time that a U.S. president rode to and from his inauguration in an automobile. [25] In his inaugural address Harding reiterated the themes of his campaign, declaring:

    My Countrymen: When one surveys the world about him after the great storm, noting the marks of destruction and yet rejoicing in the ruggedness of the things which withstood it, if he is an American he breathes the clarified atmosphere with a strange mingling of regret and new hope. . Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much from the government and at the same time do too little for it. [26]

    Literary critic H.L. Mencken was appalled, announcing that:

    He writes the worst English I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges it reminds me of tattered washing on the line it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. [27]

    Cabinet Edit

    The Harding Cabinet
    OfficeNameTerm
    PresidentWarren G. Harding1921–1923
    Vice PresidentCalvin Coolidge1921–1923
    Secretary of StateCharles Evans Hughes1921–1923
    Secretary of the TreasuryAndrew Mellon1921–1923
    Secretary of WarJohn W. Weeks1921–1923
    Attorney GeneralHarry M. Daugherty1921–1923
    Postmaster GeneralWill H. Hays1921–1922
    Hubert Work1922–1923
    Harry Stewart New1923
    Secretary of the NavyEdwin Denby1921–1923
    Secretary of the InteriorAlbert B. Fall1921–1923
    Hubert Work1923
    Secretary of AgricultureHenry Cantwell Wallace1921–1923
    Secretary of CommerceHerbert Hoover1921–1923
    Secretary of LaborJames J. Davis1921–1923

    Harding selected numerous prominent national figures for his ten-person Cabinet. Henry Cabot Lodge, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggested that Harding appoint Elihu Root or Philander C. Knox as Secretary of State, but Harding instead selected former Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes for the position. Harding appointed Henry C. Wallace, an Iowan journalist who had advised Harding's 1920 campaign on farm issues, as Secretary of Agriculture. After Charles G. Dawes declined Harding's offer to become Secretary of the Treasury, Harding assented to Senator Boies Penrose's suggestion to select Pittsburgh billionaire Andrew Mellon. Harding used Mellon's appointment as leverage to win confirmation for Herbert Hoover, who had led the U.S. Food Administration under Wilson and who became Harding's Secretary of Commerce. [5]

    Rejecting public calls to appoint Leonard Wood as Secretary of War, Harding instead appointed Lodge's preferred candidate, former Senator John W. Weeks of Massachusetts. He selected James J. Davis for the position of Secretary of Labor, as Davis satisfied Harding's criteria of being broadly acceptable to labor but being opposed to labor leader Samuel Gompers. Will H. Hays, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, was appointed Postmaster General. Grateful for his actions at the 1920 Republican convention, Harding offered Frank Lowden the post of Secretary of the Navy. After Lowden turned down the post, Harding instead appointed former Congressman Edwin Denby of Michigan. New Mexico Senator Albert B. Fall, a close ally of Harding's during their time in the Senate together, became Harding's Secretary of the Interior. [5]

    Although Harding was committed to putting the "best minds" on his Cabinet, he often awarded other appointments to those who had contributed to his campaign's victory. Wayne Wheeler, leader of the Anti-Saloon League, was allowed by Harding to dictate who would serve on the Prohibition Commission. [28] Harding appointed Harry M. Daugherty as Attorney General because he felt he owed Daugherty for running his 1920 campaign. After the election, many people from the Ohio area moved to Washington, D.C., made their headquarters in a little green house on K Street, and would be eventually known as the "Ohio Gang". [29] Graft and corruption charges permeated Harding's Department of Justice bootleggers confiscated tens of thousands cases of whiskey through bribery and kickbacks. [30] The financial and political scandals caused by the Ohio Gang and other Harding appointees, in addition to Harding's own personal controversies, severely damaged Harding's personal reputation and eclipsed his presidential accomplishments. [31]

    Press corps Edit

    According to biographers, Harding got along better with the press than any other previous president, being a former newspaperman. Reporters admired his frankness, candor, and his confessed limitations. He took the press behind the scenes and showed them the inner circle of the presidency. In November 1921, Harding also implemented a policy of taking written questions from reporters during a press conference. [32]

    Harding appointed four justices to the Supreme Court of the United States. After the death of Chief Justice Edward Douglass White, former President William Howard Taft lobbied Harding for the nomination to succeed White. Harding acceded to Taft's request, and Taft joined the court in June 1921. [33] Harding's next choice for the Court was conservative former Senator George Sutherland of Utah, who had been a major supporter of Taft in 1912 and Harding in 1920. Sutherland succeeded John Hessin Clarke in September 1922 after Clarke resigned. Two Supreme Court vacancies arose in 1923 due to the death of William R. Day and the resignation of Mahlon Pitney. On Taft's recommendation, Harding nominated railroad attorney and conservative Democrat Pierce Butler to succeed Day. Progressive senators like Robert M. La Follette unsuccessfully sought to defeat Butler's nomination, but Butler was confirmed. On the advice of Attorney General Daugherty, Harding appointed federal appellate judge Edward Terry Sanford of Tennessee to succeed Pitney. [34] Bolstered by these appointments, the Taft Court upheld the precedents of the Lochner era and largely reflected the conservatism of the 1920s. [35] Harding also appointed 6 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, 42 judges to the United States district courts, and 2 judges to the United States Court of Customs Appeals.

    Revenue Act of 1921 Edit

    Harding assumed office while the nation was in the midst of a postwar economic decline known as the Depression of 1920–21. He strongly rejected proposals to provide for federal unemployment benefits, believing that the government should leave relief efforts to charities and local governments. [36] He believed that the best way to restore economic prosperity was to raise tariff rates and reduce the government's role in economic activities. [37] His administration's economic policy was formulated by Secretary of the Treasury Mellon, who proposed cuts to the excess profits tax and the corporate tax. [38] The central tenet of Mellon's tax plan was a reduction of the surtax, a progressive income tax that only affected high-income earners. [39] Mellon favored the wealthy holding as much capital as possible, since he saw them as the main drivers of economic growth. [40] Congressional Republican leaders shared Harding and Mellon's desire for tax cuts, and Republicans made tax cuts and tariff rates the key legislative priorities of Harding's first year in office. Harding called a special session of the Congress to address these and other issues, and Congress convened in April 1921. [41]

    Despite opposition from Democrats and many farm state Republicans, Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1921 in November, and Harding signed the bill into law later that month. The act greatly reduced taxes for the wealthiest Americans, though the cuts were not as deep as Mellon had favored. [42] The act reduced the top marginal income tax rate from 73 percent to 58 percent, [43] lowered the corporate tax from 65 percent to 50 percent, and provided for ultimate elimination of the excess profits tax. [44] [45] Revenues to the treasury decreased substantially. [46]

    Wages, profits, and productivity all made substantial gains during the 1920s, and economists have differed as to whether Revenue Act of 1921 played a major role in the strong period of economic growth after the Depression of 1920–21. Economist Daniel Kuehn has attributed the improvement to the earlier monetary policy of the Federal Reserve, and notes that the changes in marginal tax rates were accompanied by an expansion in the tax base that could account for the increase in revenue. [47] Libertarian historians Schweikart and Allen argue that Harding's tax and economic policies in part ". produced the most vibrant eight year burst of manufacturing and innovation in the nation's history," [48] Recovery did not last long. Another economic contraction began near the end of Harding's presidency in 1923, while tax cuts were still underway. A third contraction followed in 1927 during the next presidential term. [49] Some economists have argued that the tax cuts resulted in growing economic inequality and speculation, which in turn contributed to the Great Depression. [50]

    Fordney–McCumber Tariff Edit

    Like most Republicans of his era, Harding favored protective tariffs designed to shield American businesses from foreign competition. [51] Shortly after taking office, he signed the Emergency Tariff of 1921, a stopgap measure primarily designed to aid American farmers suffering from the effects of an expansion in European farm imports. [52] The emergency tariff also protected domestic manufacturing, as it included a clause to prevent dumping by European manufacturers. [53] Harding hoped to sign a permanent tariff into law by the end of 1921, but heated congressional debate over tariff schedules, especially between agricultural and manufacturing interests, delayed passage of such a bill. [54]

    In September 1922, Harding enthusiastically signed the Fordney–McCumber Tariff Act. [55] The protectionist legislation was sponsored by Representative Joseph W. Fordney and Senator Porter J. McCumber, and was supported by nearly every congressional Republican. [54] The act increased the tariff rates contained in the previous Underwood-Simmons Tariff Act of 1913, to the highest level in the nation's history. Harding became concerned when the agriculture business suffered economic hardship from the high tariffs. By 1922, Harding began to believe that the long-term effects of high tariffs could be detrimental to national economy, despite the short-term benefits. [56] The high tariffs established under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover have historically been viewed as a contributing factor to the Wall Street Crash of 1929. [44] [57]

    Bureau of the Budget Edit

    Harding believed the federal government should be fiscally managed in a way similar to private sector businesses. [58] He had campaigned on the slogan, "Less government in business and more business in government." [59] As the House Ways and Means Committee found it increasingly difficult to balance revenues and expenditures, Taft had recommended the creation of a federal budget system during his presidency. Businessmen and economists coalesced around Taft's proposal during the Wilson administration, and by 1920, both parties favored it. Reflecting this goal, in June 1921, Harding signed the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. [60]

    The act established the Bureau of the Budget to coordinate the federal budgeting process. [61] At the head of this office was the presidential budget director, who was directly responsible to the president rather than to the Secretary of Treasury. The law also stipulated that the president must annually submit a budget to Congress, and all presidents since have had to do so. [62] Additionally, the General Accounting Office (GAO) was created to assure congressional oversight of federal budget expenditures. The GAO would be led by the Comptroller General, who was appointed by Congress to a term of fifteen years. [63] Harding appointed Charles Dawes as the Bureau of the Budget's first director. Dawes's first year in office saw government spending reduced by $1.5 billion, a 25 percent reduction, and he presided over another 25 percent reduction the following year. [64]

    Immigration restriction Edit

    In the first two decades of the 20th century, immigration to the United States had increased, with many of the immigrants coming from Southern Europe and Eastern Europe rather than Western Europe. Many Americans viewed these new immigrants with suspicion, and World War I and the First Red Scare further heightened nativist fears. [65] The Per Centum Act of 1921, signed by Harding on May 19, 1921, reduced the numbers of immigrants to 3 percent of a country's represented population based on the 1910 Census. The act, which had been vetoed by President Wilson in the previous Congress, also allowed unauthorized immigrants to be deported. Harding and Secretary of Labor James Davis believed that enforcement had to be humane, and Harding often allowed exceptions granting reprieves to thousands of immigrants. [66] Immigration to the United States fell from roughly 800,000 in 1920 to approximately 300,000 in 1922. [53] Though the act was later superseded by the Immigration Act of 1924, it marked the establishment of the National Origins Formula. [66]

    Veterans Edit

    Many World War I veterans were unemployed or otherwise economically distressed when Harding took office. To aid these veterans, the Senate considered passing a law that gave veterans a $1 bonus for each day they had served in the war. [67] Harding opposed payment of a bonus to veterans, arguing that much was already being done for them and that the bill would "break down our Treasury, from which so much is later on to be expected." [68] The Senate sent the bonus bill back to committee, [68] but the issue returned when Congress reconvened in December 1921. A bill providing a bonus, without a means of funding it, was passed by both houses in September 1922. Harding vetoed it, and the veto was narrowly sustained. [69]

    In August 1921, Harding signed the Sweet Bill, which established a new agency known as the Veterans Bureau. After World War I, 300,000 wounded veterans were in need of hospitalization, medical care, and job training. To handle the needs of these veterans, the new agency incorporated the War Risk Insurance Bureau, the Federal Hospitalization Bureau, and three other bureaus that dealt with veteran affairs. [70] Harding appointed Colonel Charles R. Forbes, a decorated war veteran, as the Veteran Bureau's first director. The Veterans Bureau later was incorporated into the Veterans Administration and ultimately the Department of Veterans Affairs. [71]

    Farm acts Edit

    Farmers were among the hardest hit during the Depression of 1920–21, and prices for farm goods collapsed. [72] The presence of a powerful bipartisan farm bloc led by Senator William S. Kenyon and Congressman Lester J. Dickinson ensured that Congress would address the farm crisis. Harding established the Joint Commission on Agricultural Industry to make recommendations on farm policy, and he signed a series of farm- and food-related laws in 1921 and 1922. [73] Much of the legislation emanated from President Woodrow Wilson's 1919 Federal Trade Commission report, which investigated and discovered "manipulations, controls, trusts, combinations, or restraints out of harmony with the law or the public interest" in the meat packing industry. The first law was the Packers and Stockyards Act, which prohibited packers from engaging in unfair and deceptive practices. Two amendments were made to the Farm Loan Act of 1916 that President Wilson had signed into law, which had expanded the maximum size of rural farm loans. The Emergency Agriculture Credit Act authorized new loans to farmers to help them sell and market livestock. The Capper–Volstead Act, signed by Harding on February 18, 1922, protected farm cooperatives from anti-trust legislation. The Future Trading Act was also enacted, regulating puts and calls, bids, and offers on futures contracting. Later, on May 15, 1922, the Supreme Court ruled this legislation unconstitutional, [44] but Congress passed the similar Grain Futures Act in response. Though sympathetic to farmers and deferential to Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace, Harding was uncomfortable with many of the farm programs since they relied on governmental action, and he sought to weaken the farm bloc by appointing Kenyon to a federal judgeship in 1922. [74]

    Highways and radio Edit

    During the 1920s, use of electricity became increasingly common, and mass production of the automobile stimulated industries such as highway construction, rubber, steel, and construction. [75] Congress had passed the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 to aid state road-building programs, and Harding favored a further expansion of the federal role in road construction and maintenance. He signed into law the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921, which allowed states to select interstate and intercounty roads that would receive federal funds. [76] From 1921 to 1923, the federal government spent $162 million on America's highway system, infusing the U.S. economy with a large amount of capital. [77]

    Harding and Secretary of Commerce Hoover embraced the emerging medium of the radio. [78] In June 1922, Harding became the first president that the American public heard on the radio, delivering a speech in honor of Francis Scott Key. [17] Secretary of Commerce Hoover took charge of the administration's radio policy. He convened a conference of radio broadcasters in 1922, which led to a voluntary agreement for licensing of radio frequencies through the Commerce Department. Both Harding and Hoover believed that something more than an agreement was needed, but Congress was slow to act, not imposing radio regulation until 1927. Hoover hosted a similar conference on aviation, but, as with the radio, was unable to win passage of legislation that would have provided for regulation air travel. [79]

    Labor issues Edit

    Union membership had grown during World War I, and by 1920 union members constituted approximately one-fifth of the labor force. Many employers reduced wages after the war, and some business leaders hoped to destroy the power of organized labor in order to re-establish control over their employees. These policies led to increasing labor tension in the early 1920s. [80] Widespread strikes marked 1922, as labor sought redress for falling wages and increased unemployment. In April, 500,000 coal miners, led by John L. Lewis, struck over wage cuts. Mining executives argued that the industry was seeing hard times Lewis accused them of trying to break the union. Harding convinced the miners to return to work while a congressional commission looked into their grievances. [81] He also sent out the National Guard and 2,200 deputy U.S. marshals to keep the peace. [82] On July 1, 1922, 400,000 railroad workers went on strike. Harding proposed a settlement that made some concessions, but management objected. Attorney General Daugherty convinced Judge James H. Wilkerson to issue a sweeping injunction to break up the strike. Although there was public support for the Wilkerson injunction, Harding felt it went too far, and had Daugherty and Wilkerson amend it. The injunction succeeded in ending the strike however, tensions remained high between railroad workers and management for years. [83]

    By 1922, the eight-hour day had become common in American industry. One exception was in steel mills, where workers labored through a twelve-hour workday, seven days a week. Hoover considered this practice barbaric, and convinced Harding to convene a conference of steel manufacturers with a view to ending it. The conference established a committee under the leadership of U.S. Steel chairman Elbert Gary, which in early 1923 recommended against ending the practice. Harding sent a letter to Gary deploring the result, which was printed in the press, and public outcry caused the manufacturers to reverse themselves and standardize the eight-hour day. [84]

    African Americans Edit

    Harding spoke of equal rights in his speech when accepting the Republican nomination in 1920:

    "No majority shall abridge the rights of a minority [. ] I believe the Black citizens of America should be guaranteed the enjoyment of all their rights, that they have earned their full measure of citizenship bestowed, that their sacrifices in blood on the battlefields of the republic have entitled them to all of freedom and opportunity, all of sympathy and aid that the American spirit of fairness and justice demands.” [85]

    In June 1921, three days after the massive Tulsa race massacre President Harding spoke at the all-black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. “Despite the demagogues, the idea of our oneness as Americans has risen superior to every appeal to mere class and group,” Harding declared. “And so, I wish it might be in this matter of our national problem of races.” He honored Lincoln alumni who had been among the more than 367,000 black soldiers to fight in the Great War. One Lincoln graduate led the 370th U.S. Infantry, the “Black Devils.” Col. F.A. Denison was the sole black commander of a regiment in France. The President called education critical to solving the issues of racial inequality, but he challenged the students to shoulder their shared responsibility to advance freedom. The government alone, he said, could not magically “take a race from bondage to citizenship in half a century.” He spoke about Tulsa and offered up a simple prayer: “God grant that, in the soberness, the fairness, and the justice of this country, we never see another spectacle like it.” [86]

    Notably in an age of severe racial intolerance during the 1920s, Harding did not hold any racial animosity, according to historian Carl S. Anthony. [87] In a speech on October 26, 1921, given in segregated Birmingham, Alabama Harding advocated civil rights for African Americans, becoming the first president to openly advocate black political, educational, and economic equality during the 20th century. [87] In the Birmingham speech, Harding called for African Americans to have equal educational opportunities and greater voting rights in the South. The white section of the audience listened in silence while the black section of the segregated audience cheered. [88] Harding, however, openly stated that he was not for black social equality in terms of racial mixing or intermarriage. [89] Harding also spoke on the Great Migration, stating that blacks migrating to the North and West to find employment had actually harmed race relations between blacks and whites. [89]

    The three previous presidents had dropped African Americans from several government positions they had previously held, and Harding reversed this policy. [90] African Americans were appointed to high-level positions in the Departments of Labor and Interior, and numerous blacks were hired in other agencies and departments. [91] Trani and Wilson write that Harding did not emphasize appointing African Americans to positions they had traditionally held prior to Wilson's tenure, partly out of a desire to court white Southerners. [92] Harding also disappointed black supporters by not abolishing segregation in federal offices, and through his failure to comment publicly on the Ku Klux Klan. [93]

    Harding supported Congressman Leonidas Dyer's federal anti-lynching bill, known as the Dyer Bill, which passed the House of Representatives in January, 1922. [94] When it reached the Senate floor in November 1922, it was filibustered by Southern Democrats, and Senator Lodge withdrew it so as to allow a ship subsidy bill Harding favored to be debated. Many blacks blamed Harding for the Dyer bill's defeat Harding biographer Robert K. Murray noted that it was hastened to its end by Harding's desire to have the ship subsidy bill considered. [95]

    Sheppard–Towner Maternity Act Edit

    On November 21, 1921, Harding signed the Sheppard–Towner Maternity Act, the first major federal government social welfare program in the U.S. The law was sponsored by Julia Lathrop, America's first director of the U.S. Children's Bureau. The Sheppard–Towner Maternity Act funded almost 3,000 child and health centers, where doctors treated healthy pregnant women and provided preventive care to healthy children. Child welfare workers were sent out to make sure that parents were taking care of their children. Many women were given career opportunities as welfare and social workers. Although the law remained in effect only eight years, it set the trend for New Deal social programs during the 1930s. [96] [97]

    Deregulation Edit

    As part of Harding's belief in limiting the government's role in the economy, he sought to undercut the power of the regulatory agencies that had been created or strengthened during the Progressive Era. Among the agencies in existence when Harding came to office were the Federal Reserve (charged with regulating banks), the Interstate Commerce Commission (charged with regulating railroads) and the Federal Trade Commission (charged with regulating other business activities, especially trusts). Harding staffed the agencies with individuals sympathetic to business concerns and hostile to regulation. By the end of his tenure, only the Federal Trade Commission resisted conservative domination. [98] Other federal organizations, like the Railroad Labor Board, also came under the sway of business interests. [99] In 1921, Harding signed the Willis Graham Act, which effectively rescinded the Kingsbury Commitment and allowed AT&T to establish a monopoly in the telephone industry. [100]

    Release of political prisoners Edit

    On December 23, 1921 Harding released Socialist leader Eugene Debs from prison. Debs had been convicted under sedition charges brought by the Wilson administration for his opposition to the draft during World War I. [101] Despite many political differences between the two candidates, Harding commuted Debs' sentence to time served, though he did not grant Debs an official presidential pardon. Debs' failing health was a contributing factor for the release. Harding granted a general amnesty to 23 prisoners, alleged anarchists and socialists, who had been active during the First Red Scare. [44] [102]

    1922 mid-term elections Edit

    Entering the 1922 midterm congressional election campaign, Harding and the Republicans had followed through on many of their campaign promises. But some of the fulfilled pledges, like cutting taxes for the well-off, did not appeal to the electorate. The economy had not returned to normalcy, with unemployment at 11 percent, and organized labor was angry over the outcome of the strikes. In the 1922 elections, Republicans suffered major losses in both the House and the Senate. Though they kept control of both chambers, they retained only a narrow majority in the House at the start of the 68th Congress in 1923. [103] The elections empowered the progressive wing of the party led by Robert La Follette, who began investigations into Harding administration. [104]

    European relations Edit

    Harding took office less than two years after the end of World War I, and his administration faced several issues in the aftermath of that conflict. Harding made it clear when he appointed Hughes as Secretary of State that the former justice would run foreign policy, a change from Wilson's close management of international affairs. [105] Harding and Hughes frequently communicated, and the president remained well-informed regarding the state of foreign affairs, but he rarely overrode any of Hughes's decisions. [106] Hughes did have to work within some broad outlines after taking office, Harding hardened his stance on the League of Nations, deciding the U.S. would not join even a scaled-down version of the League. [107]

    With the Treaty of Versailles unratified by the Senate, the U.S. remained technically at war with Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Peacemaking began with the Knox–Porter Resolution, declaring the U.S. at peace and reserving any rights granted under Versailles. Treaties with Germany, Austria and Hungary, each containing many of the non-League provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, were ratified in 1921. [107] This still left the question of relations between the U.S. and the League. Hughes' State Department initially ignored communications from the League, or tried to bypass it through direct communications with member nations. By 1922, though, the U.S., through its consul in Geneva, was dealing with the League. The U.S. refused to participate in any League meeting with political implications, but it sent observers to sessions on technical and humanitarian matters. [108] Harding stunned the capital when he sent to the Senate a message supporting the participation of the U.S. in the proposed Permanent Court of International Justice (also known as the "World Court"). His proposal was not favorably received by most senators, and a resolution supporting U.S. membership in the World Court was drafted and promptly buried in the Foreign Affairs Committee. [109]

    By the time Harding took office, there were calls from foreign governments for the reduction of the massive war debt owed to the United States, and the German government sought to reduce the reparations that it was required to pay. The U.S. refused to consider any multilateral settlement. Harding sought passage of a plan proposed by Mellon to give the administration broad authority to reduce war debts in negotiation, but Congress, in 1922, passed a more restrictive bill. Hughes negotiated an agreement for Britain to pay off its war debt over 62 years at low interest, effectively reducing the present value of the obligations. This agreement, approved by Congress in 1923, set a pattern for negotiations with other nations. Talks with Germany on reduction of reparations payments would result in the Dawes Plan of 1924. [110]

    During World War I, the U.S. had been among the nations that had sent troops to Russia after the Russian Revolution. Afterwards, President Wilson refused to provide diplomatic recognition to Russia, which was led by a Communist government following the October Revolution. Commerce Secretary Hoover, with considerable experience of Russian affairs, took the lead on Russian policy. He supported aid to and trade with Russia, fearing U.S. companies would be frozen out of the Soviet market. [111] When famine struck Russia in 1921, Hoover had the American Relief Administration, which he had headed, negotiate with the Russians to provide aid. According to historian George Herring, the American relief effort may have saved as many as 10 million people from starvation. U.S. businessman such as Armand Hammer invested in the Russian economy, but many of these investments failed due to various Russian restrictions on trade and commerce. Russian and (after the 1922 establishment of the Soviet Union) Soviet leaders hoped that these economic and humanitarian connections would lead to recognition of their government, but Communism's extreme unpopularity in the U.S. precluded this possibility. [112]

    Disarmament Edit

    At the end of World War I, the United States had the largest navy and one of the largest armies in the world. With no serious threat to the United States itself, Harding and his successors presided over the disarmament of the navy and the army. The army shrank to 140,000 men, while naval reduction was based on a policy of parity with Britain. [113] Seeking to prevent an arms race, Senator William Borah won passage of a congressional resolution calling for a 50 percent reduction of the American Navy, the British Navy, and the Japanese Navy. With Congress's backing, Harding and Hughes began preparations to hold a naval disarmament conference in Washington. [114] The Washington Naval Conference convened in November 1921, with representatives from the U.S., Japan, Britain, France, Italy, China, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Portugal. Secretary of State Hughes assumed a primary role in the conference and made the pivotal proposal—the U.S. would reduce its number of warships by 30 if Great Britain decommissioned 19 ships and Japan decommissioned 17 ships. [115] A journalist covering the conference wrote that "Hughes sank in thirty-five minutes more ships than all of the admirals of the world have sunk in a cycle of centuries. [116]

    The conference produced six treaties and twelve resolutions among the participating nations, which ranged from limiting the tonnage of naval ships to custom tariffs. [117] The United States, Britain, Japan, and France reached the Four-Power Treaty, in which each country agreed to respect the territorial integrity of one another in the Pacific Ocean. Those four powers as well as Italy also reached the Washington Naval Treaty, which established a ratio of battleship tonnage that each country agreed to respect. In the Nine-Power Treaty, each signatory agreed to respect the Open Door Policy in China, and Japan agreed to return Shandong to China. [118] The treaties only remained in effect until the mid-1930s, however, and ultimately failed. Japan eventually invaded Manchuria and the arms limitations no longer had any effect. The building of "monster warships" resumed and the U.S. and Great Britain were unable to quickly rearm themselves to defend an international order and stop Japan from remilitarizing. [119] [120]

    Latin America Edit

    Intervention in Latin America had been a minor campaign issue Harding spoke against Wilson's decision to send U.S. troops to the Dominican Republic, and attacked the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt, for his role in the Haitian intervention. Secretary of State Hughes worked to improve relations with Latin American countries who were wary of the American use of the Monroe Doctrine to justify intervention at the time of Harding's inauguration, the U.S. also had troops in Cuba and Nicaragua. The troops stationed in Cuba to protect American interests were withdrawn in 1921, but U.S. forces remained in the other three nations through Harding's presidency. [121] In April 1921, Harding gained the ratification of the Thomson–Urrutia Treaty with Colombia, granting that nation $25,000,000 as settlement for the U.S.-provoked Panamanian revolution of 1903. [122] The Latin American nations were not fully satisfied, as the U.S. refused to renounce interventionism, though Hughes pledged to limit it to nations near the Panama Canal and to make it clear what the U.S. aims were. [123]

    The U.S. had intervened repeatedly in Mexico under Wilson, and had withdrawn diplomatic recognition, setting conditions for reinstatement. The Mexican government under President Álvaro Obregón wanted recognition before negotiations, but Wilson and his final Secretary of State, Bainbridge Colby, refused. Both Hughes and Secretary of the Interior Fall opposed recognition Hughes instead sent a draft treaty to the Mexicans in May 1921, which included pledges to reimburse Americans for losses in Mexico since the 1910 revolution there. Obregón was unwilling to sign a treaty before being recognized, and he worked to improve the relationship between American businesses and Mexico, reaching agreement with creditors and mounting a public relations campaign in the United States. This had its effect, and by mid-1922, Fall was less influential than he had been, lessening the resistance to recognition. The two presidents appointed commissioners to reach a deal, and the U.S. recognized the Obregón government on August 31, 1923, just under a month after Harding's death, substantially on the terms proffered by Mexico. [124]

    When Harding assembled his administration following the 1920 election, he appointed several longtime allies and campaign contributors to prominent political positions in control of vast amounts of government money and resources. Some of the appointees used their new powers to exploit their positions for personal gain. Although Harding was responsible for making these appointments, it is unclear how much, if anything, Harding himself knew about his friends' illicit activities. No evidence to date suggests that Harding personally profited from such crimes, but he was apparently unable to prevent them. "I have no trouble with my enemies", Harding told journalist William Allen White late in his presidency, "but my damn friends, they're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights!" [109] The only scandal which was openly discovered during Harding's lifetime was in the Veteran's Bureau. [125] Yet gossip about various scandals became rampant after the suicides of Charles Cramer and Jess Smith. Harding responded aggressively to all of this with a mixture of grief, anger and perplexity. [ citation needed ]

    Teapot Dome Edit

    The most notorious scandal was Teapot Dome, most of which came to light after Harding's death. This affair concerned an oil reserve in Wyoming that was covered by a teapot-shaped rock formation. For years, the country had taken measures to ensure the availability of petroleum reserves, particularly for the navy's use. [126] On February 23, 1923, Harding issued Executive Order # 3797, which created the Naval Petroleum Reserve Number 4 in Alaska. By the 1920s, it was clear that petroleum was important to the national economy and security, and the reserve system was designed to keep the oil under government jurisdiction rather than subject to private claims. [127] Management of these reserves was the subject of multi-dimensional arguments—beginning with a turf battle between the Secretary of the Navy and the Interior Department. [128] The strategic reserves issue was also a debate topic between conservationists and the petroleum industry, as well as those who favored public ownership versus private control. [129] Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall brought to his office significant political and legal experience, in addition to heavy personal debt, incurred in his obsession to expand his personal estate in New Mexico. He also was an avid supporter of the private ownership and management of reserves. [130]

    Fall contracted Edward Doheny of Pan American Corporation to build storage tanks in exchange for drilling rights. It later came to light that Doheny had made significant personal loans to Fall. [131] The secretary also negotiated leases for the Teapot Dome reserves to Harry Ford Sinclair of the Consolidated Oil Corporation in return for guaranteed oil reserves to the credit of the government. Again, it later emerged that Sinclair had personally made concurrent cash payments of over $400,000 to Fall. [130] These activities took place under the watch of progressive and conservationist attorney, Harry A. Slattery, acting for Gifford Pinchot and Robert La Follette. [132] Fall was ultimately convicted in 1931 of accepting bribes and illegal no-interest personal loans in exchange for the leasing of public oil fields to business associates. [133] In 1931, Fall was the first cabinet member in history imprisoned for crimes committed while in office. [134] Paradoxically, while Fall was convicted for taking the bribe, Doheny was acquitted of paying it. [135]

    Justice Department Edit

    Harding's appointment of Harry M. Daugherty as Attorney General received more criticism than any other. As Harding's campaign manager, Daugherty's Ohio lobbying and back room maneuvers with politicians were not considered the best qualifications. [136] Historian M. R. Werner referred to the Justice Department under Harding and Daugherty as "the den of a ward politician and the White House a night club". On September 16, 1922, Minnesota Congressman Oscar E. Keller brought impeachment charges against Daugherty. On December 4, formal investigation hearings, headed by congressman Andrew J. Volstead, began against Daugherty. The impeachment process, however, stopped, since Keller's charges that Daugherty protected interests in trust and war fraud cases could not be substantially proven. [137]

    Daugherty, according to a 1924 Senate investigation into the Justice Department, authorized a system of graft between aides Jess Smith and Howard Mannington. Both Mannington and Smith allegedly took bribes to secure appointments, prison pardons, and freedom from prosecution. A majority of these purchasable pardons were directed towards bootleggers. Cincinnati bootlegger George L. Remus, allegedly paid Jess Smith $250,000 to not prosecute him. Remus, however, was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to Atlanta prison. Smith tried to extract more bribe money from Remus to pay for a pardon. The prevalent question at the Justice Department was "How is he fixed?" [138] Another alleged scandal involving Daugherty concerned the Wright-Martin Aircraft Corp., which supposedly overcharged the federal government by $2.3 million on war contracts. [139] Captain Hazel Scaife tried to bring the company to trial, but was blocked by the Department of Justice. At this time, Daugherty was said to have owned stock in the company and was even adding to these holdings, though he was never charged in the matter. [140]

    Daugherty hired William J. Burns to run the Justice Department's Bureau of Investigation. [141] A number of inquisitive congressmen or senators found themselves the object of wire taps, rifled files, and copied correspondence. [142] Burns' primary operative was Gaston B. Means, a reputed con man, who was known to have fixed prosecutions, sold favors, and manipulated files in the Justice Department. [143] Means, who acted independently, took direct instructions and payments from Jess Smith, without Burn's knowledge, to spy on congressmen. Means hired a woman, Laura Jacobson, to spy on Senator Thaddeus Caraway, a critic of the Harding administration. Means also was involved with "roping" bootleggers. [137]

    Daugherty remained in his position during the early days of the Calvin Coolidge administration, then resigned on March 28, 1924, amidst allegations that he accepted bribes from bootleggers. Daugherty was later tried and acquitted twice for corruption. Both juries hung—in one case, after 65 hours of deliberation. Daugherty's famous defense attorney, Max Steuer, blamed all corruption allegations against Daugherty on Jess Smith, who by then had committed suicide. [144]

    Jess W. Smith Edit

    Daugherty's personal aide, Jess W. Smith, was a central figure in government file manipulation, paroles and pardons, influence peddling—and even served as bag man. [145] During Prohibition, pharmacies received alcohol permits to sell alcohol for medical purposes. According to Congressional testimony, Daugherty arranged for Jess Smith and Howard Mannington to sell these permits to drug company agents who really represented bootleggers. The bootleggers, having obtained a permit could buy cases of whiskey. Smith and Mannington split the permit sales profits. Approximately 50,000 to 60,000 cases of whiskey were sold to bootleggers at a net worth of $750,000 to $900,000. Smith supplied bootleg whiskey to the White House and the Ohio Gang house on K Street, concealing the whiskey in a briefcase for poker games. [30] [146]

    Eventually, rumors of Smith's abuses—free use of government cars, going to all night parties, manipulation of Justice Department files—reached Harding. Harding withdrew Smith's White House clearance and Daugherty told him to leave Washington. On May 30, 1923, Smith's dead body was found at Daugherty's apartment with a gunshot wound to the head. William J. Burns immediately took Smith's body away and there was no autopsy. Historian Francis Russell, concluding this was a suicide, indicates that a Daugherty aide entered Smith's room moments after a noise awoke him, and found Smith on the floor with his head in a trash can and a revolver in his hand. Smith allegedly purchased the gun from a hardware store shortly before his death, after Daugherty verbally abused him for waking him up from a nap. [147] [148]

    Veterans' bureau Edit

    Charles R. Forbes, the energetic Director of the Veterans Bureau, disregarded the dire needs of wounded World War I veterans to procure his own wealth. [149] After his appointment, Forbes convinced Harding to issue executive orders that gave him control over veterans' hospital construction and supplies. [125] To limit corruption in the Veterans' Bureau, Harding insisted that all government contracts be by public notice, but Forbes provided inside information to his co-conspirators to ensure their bids succeeded. [71] Forbes' main task at the Veterans bureau, having an unprecedented $500 million yearly budget, was to ensure that new hospitals were built around the country to help the 300,000 wounded World War I veterans. [150] Forbes defrauded the government of an estimated $225 million by increasing construction costs from $3,000 to $4,000 per hospital bed. [151]

    In early 1922, Forbes went on tours, known as joy-rides, of new hospital construction sites around the country and the Pacific Coast. On these tours, Forbes allegedly received traveling perks and alcohol kickbacks, took a $5,000 bribe in Chicago, and made a secret code to ensure $17 million in government construction hospital contracts with corrupt contractors. [152] Intent on making more money, on his return to the U.S. Capitol Forbes immediately began selling valuable hospital supplies under his control in large warehouses at the Perryville Depot. [153] The government had stockpiled huge amounts of hospital supplies during the first World War, which Forbes unloaded for a fraction of their cost to the Boston firm of Thompson and Kelly. [154] [155] Charles F. Cramer, Forbes' legal council to the Veterans Bureau, rocked the nation's capital when he committed suicide in 1923. [156] [157] Cramer, at the time of his death, was being investigated by a Senate committee on charges of corruption. [158] [159]

    Forbes faced resistance in the form of General Charles E. Sawyer, chairman of the Federal Hospitalization Board, who represented controlling interests in the valuable hospital supplies. [160] Sawyer, who was also Harding's personal physician, told Harding that Forbes was selling valuable hospital supplies to an insider contractor. [161] After issuing two orders for the sales to stop, Harding finally summoned Forbes to the White House and demanded Forbes' resignation, since Forbes had been insubordinate in not stopping the shipments. [162] Harding, however, was not yet ready to announce Forbes' resignation and let him flee to Europe on the "flimsy pretext" that he would help disabled U.S. Veterans in Europe. [163] [164] Harding placed a reformer, Brigadier General Frank T. Hines, in charge of the Veterans Bureau. Hines immediately cleared up the mess left by Forbes. When Forbes returned to the U.S., he visited Harding at the White House in the Red Room. During the meeting, Harding angrily grabbed Forbes by the throat, shook him vigorously, and exclaimed "You double-crossing bastard!" [165] In 1926, Forbes was brought to trial and convicted of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. He received a two-year prison sentence and was released in November 1927. [166]

    Other agencies Edit

    On June 13, 1921, Harding appointed Albert D. Lasker chairman of the United States Shipping Board. Lasker, a cash donor and Harding's general campaign manager, had no previous experience with shipping companies. The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 had allowed the Shipping Board to sell ships made by the U.S. Government to private American companies. A congressional investigation revealed that while Lasker was in charge, many valuable steel cargo ships, worth between $200 and $250 a ton, were sold for as low as $30 a ton to private American shipping companies without an appraisal board. J. Harry Philbin, a manager in the sales division, testified at the congressional hearing that under Lasker's authority U.S. ships were sold, ". as is, where is, take your pick, no matter which vessel you took." Lasker resigned from the Shipping Board on July 1, 1923. [167]

    Thomas W. Miller, head of the Office of Alien Property, was convicted of accepting bribes. Miller's citizenship rights were taken away and he was sentenced to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. After Miller served 13 months of his sentence, he was released on parole. President Herbert Hoover restored Miller's citizenship on February 2, 1933. [168] Roy Asa Haynes, Harding's Prohibition Commissioner, ran the patronage-riddled Prohibition bureau, which was allegedly corrupt from top to bottom. [169] The bureau's "B permits" for liquor sales became tantamount to negotiable securities, as a result of being so widely bought and sold among known violators of the law. [170] The bureau's agents allegedly made a year's salary from one month's illicit sales of permits. [169]

    Harding's lifestyle at the White House was fairly unconventional compared to his predecessor. Upstairs at the White House, in the Yellow Oval Room, Harding allowed bootleg whiskey to be freely served to his guests during after-dinner parties at a time when the President was supposed to enforce Prohibition. One witness, Alice Longworth, stated that trays, ". with bottles containing every imaginable brand of whiskey stood about." [171] Some of this alcohol had been directly confiscated from the Prohibition department by Jess Smith, assistant to U.S. Attorney General Harry Daugherty. Mrs. Harding, also known as the "Duchess", mixed drinks for the guests. [146] Harding played poker twice a week, smoked and chewed tobacco. Harding allegedly won a $4,000 pearl necktie pin at one White House poker game. [172] Although criticized by Prohibitionist advocate Wayne B. Wheeler over Washington, D.C. rumors of these "wild parties", Harding claimed his personal drinking inside the White House was his own business. [173] Though Mrs. Harding did keep a little red book of those who had offended her, the executive mansion was now once again open to the public for events including the annual Easter egg roll. [174]

    Western tour Edit

    Though Harding wanted to run for a second term, his health began to decline during his time in office. He gave up drinking, sold his "life-work," the Marion Star, in part to regain $170,000 previous investment losses, and had Daugherty make him a new will. Harding, along with his personal physician Dr. Charles E. Sawyer, believed getting away from Washington would help relieve the stress of being president. By July 1923, criticism of the Harding Administration was increasing. Prior to his leaving Washington, the president reported chest pains that radiated down his left arm. [175] [176] In June 1923, Harding set out on a journey, which he dubbed the "Voyage of Understanding". [177] The president planned to cross the country, go north to Alaska Territory, journey south along the West Coast, then travel by navy ship through the Panama Canal, to Puerto Rico, and to return to Washington at the end of August. [178] The trip would allow him to speak widely across the country in advance of the 1924 campaign, and allow him some rest [179] away from Washington's oppressive summer heat. [177]

    Harding's political advisers had given him a physically demanding schedule, even though the president had ordered it cut back. [180] In Kansas City, Harding spoke on transportation issues in Hutchinson, Kansas, agriculture was the theme. In Denver, he spoke on Prohibition, and continued west making a series of speeches not matched by any president until Franklin Roosevelt. In addition to making speeches, he visited Yellowstone and Zion National Parks, [181] and dedicated a monument on the Oregon Trail at a celebration organized by venerable pioneer Ezra Meeker and others. [182] On July 5, Harding embarked on USS Henderson in Washington state. The first president to visit Alaska, he spent hours watching the dramatic landscapes from the ship's deck. [183] After several stops along the coast, the presidential party left the ship at Seward to take the Alaska Central Railway to McKinley Park and Fairbanks, where he addressed a crowd of 1,500 in 94 °F (34 °C) heat. The party was to return to Seward by the Richardson Trail but due to Harding's fatigue, it went by train. [184]

    Arriving via Vancouver Harbor on July 26, Harding became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Canada. He was greeted dock-side by the premier of British Columbia and the mayor of Vancouver. Thousands lined the streets of Vancouver to watch as the motorcade of dignitaries moved through the city to Stanley Park, where Harding spoke to an audience estimated at over 40,000. In his speech he proclaimed, "You are not only our neighbor, but a very good neighbor, and we rejoice in your advancement and admire your independence no less sincerely than we value your friendship." [185] Harding also visited a golf course, but completed only six holes before being fatigued. He was not successful in hiding his exhaustion one reporter deemed him so tired a rest of mere days would not be sufficient to refresh him. [186]

    Death Edit

    Upon returning to the U.S. on July 27, Harding participated in a series of events in Seattle. After reviewing the navy fleet in the harbor and riding in a parade through downtown, he addressed a crowd of over 30,000 Boy Scouts at a jamboree in Woodland Park and then addressed 25,000 people at the University of Washington's Husky Stadium. That evening, in what would be his last official public event, Harding addressed the Seattle Press Club. [187] By the end of the evening Harding was near collapse, and he went to bed early. The next day, all tour stops scheduled between Seattle and San Francisco were cancelled, and the presidential entourage proceeded directly there. [185] Arriving in the city on the morning of July 29, Harding felt well enough that he insisted on walking from the train to the car. However, shortly after arriving at the Palace Hotel he suffered a relapse. [188] Upon examining him, doctors found that not only was Harding's heart causing problems, but he also had a serious case of pneumonia. All public engagements were cancelled. [ citation needed ]

    When treated with caffeine and digitalis, Harding seemed to improve. [185] Reports that the released text of his July 31 speech had received a favorable reception also buoyed his spirits, and by the afternoon of August 2, doctors allowed him to sit up in bed. That evening, around 7:30 pm, while Florence Harding was reading a flattering article to the president from The Saturday Evening Post titled "A Calm Review of a Calm Man", [189] he began twisting convulsively and collapsed. Doctors attempted stimulants, but were unable to revive him, and President Harding died at the age of 57. Although initially attributed to a cerebral hemorrhage, the president's death was most likely the result a heart attack. [188] [190] [191]

    Harding's death came as a great shock to the nation. The president was liked and admired, and the press and public had followed his illness closely, and been reassured by his apparent recovery. [192] Harding was returned to his train in a casket for a journey across the nation followed closely in the newspapers. Nine million people lined the tracks as Harding's body was taken from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., and after services there, home to Marion, Ohio, for burial. [193] In Marion, Warren Harding's body was placed on a horse-drawn hearse, which was followed by President Coolidge and Chief Justice Taft, then by Harding's wife and father. [194] They followed it through the city, past the Star building where the presses stood silent, and at last to the Marion Cemetery, where the casket was placed in the cemetery's receiving vault. [195] [196]

    Immediately after Harding's death, Mrs. Harding returned to Washington, D.C. and, according to historian Francis Russell, burned as much of President Harding's correspondence and documents, both official and unofficial, as she could get. [197] However, most of Harding's papers survived because Harding's personal secretary, George Christian, disobeyed Florence Harding's instructions. [198]

    Energized by his 1920 landslide victory, Harding felt the "pulse" of the nation and for the 28 months in office he remained popular both nationally and internationally. [201] Herbert Hoover, while serving in Harding's cabinet, was confident the president would serve two terms and return the world to normalcy. Later, in his own memoirs, he stated that Harding had "neither the experience nor the intellect that the position needed." [201] Trani and Wilson describe Harding as "an ineffective leader who suffered both personal and political scandal." [202]

    Harding has been traditionally ranked as one of the worst presidents. In a 1948 poll conducted by Harvard University historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr., the first notable survey of scholars' opinions of the presidents, Harding ranked last among the 29 presidents considered. In a 1962 poll conducted by Schlesinger, he was ranked last again, 31 out of 31. His son, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., conducted another poll in 1996 once again, Harding was last, ranked 39 out of 39. In 2010, a Siena College Research Institute survey of 238 presidential scholars ranked Harding 41st among the 43 men who had been president, between Franklin Pierce (40th) and James Buchanan (42nd) Andrew Johnson was judged the worst. [203] Harding was also considered the third worst president in a 2002 Siena poll. Siena polls of 1982, 1990 and 1992 ranked him last. A 2008 study of presidential rankings for The Times placed Harding at number 34 [204] and a 2009 C-SPAN survey ranked Harding at 38. [205] A 2017 C-Span poll of historians ranked Harding as the fourth-worst president, [206] as did a 2018 poll of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section. [207]

    Some historians have defended Harding, with many arguing that he was merely below average rather than a total failure. [208] Historian Robert K. Murray wrote that, "in establishing the political philosophy and program for an entire decade, [Harding's] 882 days in office were more significant than all but a few similar short periods in the nation's existence." [208] Authors Marcus Raskin and Robert Spero, in 2007, also believed that Harding was underrated, and admired Harding's quest for world peace after World War I and his successful naval disarmament among strongly armed nations, including France, Britain, and Japan. [209] In his 2010 book The Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn't): Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game, presidential historian Alvin S. Felzenberg, ranking presidents on several criteria, ranked Harding 26th out of 40 presidents considered. [210]


    The Erie Lackawanna

    Following several years of talks, the Erie merged with the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad in 1960, forming the Erie Lackawanna Railroad .

    The new system wasn’t particularly successful, facing the same challenges as the two predecessors. This was made worse upon the disastrous merger between the Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central, both of which were important feeder systems for the EL. When Penn Central declared bankruptcy in 1970, the Erie Lackawanna by extension lost business. These events were compounded further by natural disaster when Hurricane Agnes left the railroad severely damaged in 1972. In 1976 with few options left, the Erie Lackawanna was absorbed into the government-owned Conrail system, along with Penn Central and other struggling roads.


    Millard Fillmore was deservedly forgotten, but his politics sound familiar

    Kagan McLeod for The Boston Globe

    HISTORY DOESN’T REPEAT itself. But it has an unnerving tendency to rhyme.

    Consider, on this first Presidents’ Day under Donald Trump, another New Yorker who occupied the highest office in the land.

    When Millard Fillmore became the nation’s 13th president upon the death of Zachary Taylor in 1850, he immediately plunged the White House and the Whig Party — one of the nation’s two dominant political parties — into turmoil. On the day he took the oath of office, Fillmore petulantly dismissed every member of Taylor’s Cabinet, which he resented for having ignored him when he was vice president. As a result, it took weeks — in one case, more than two months — before the new president’s Cabinet members were approved. The Whigs, already riven by patronage quarrels and North-South tensions, grew even more polarized over Fillmore’s policies. He was off to a bad start.

    To an American looking back from 2017, the disorder that followed Fillmore’s accession might almost prefigure the pandemonium in the Trump White House.

    Fillmore presented himself as a loyal Whig, but his political career had begun with the Anti-Masons, a political movement tied to a bizarre hostility toward Freemasons. He was attracted, writes Paul Finkelman, a legal historian at Albany Law School, “to oddball political movements, conspiracy theories, and ethnic hatred.” Even after becoming a Whig, he trafficked easily with anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant groups.

    Fillmore served four terms in the House of Representatives, where he energetically supported higher tariffs. When he ran for governor of New York in 1844, he kept talking about tariffs — mostly, suggests Finkelman, to avoid talking about slavery. Though antislavery sentiment was strong in New York, and though Fillmore, like most Northern Whigs, was conventionally opposed to the practice, he shunned the abolitionists. The most urgent moral issue of the day left him personally unmoved. He seemed to believe that Whigs could avoid the controversial politics of slavery altogether.

    His unwillingness to condemn the spread of black servitude helped Fillmore lose the govern or’s race. So did his hostility to Irish immigrants and his coziness with nativists. Nonetheless, Fillmore had a following, and at the Whig convention in 1848, he captured the vice presidential nomination. The ticket was headed by Taylor, a hero of the Mexican War and a Southern planter, and Fillmore was seen as an ideal ticket-balancer: He was from a key antislavery state, which would appeal to Northerners, but had never been actively antislavery, which would reassure Southerners.

    Taylor was president for only 16 months he died of cholera after eating tainted food. During his brief administration, however, he turned firmly against the Southern “fire-eaters” who had expected him, a fellow slaveholder, to sympathize with their cause. The nation was being roiled by sectional bitterness, especially over the extension of slavery to the vast territories that had been wrested from Mexico. In Congress, Henry Clay proposed a series of bills that came to be called the Compromise of 1850, but it was a lopsidedly pro-slavery package, and Taylor refused to support it.

    Vice President Fillmore, on the other hand, was in favor of appeasing Southern interests. He backed Clay’s legislation if it came to a tie in the Senate, he said, he would vote against Taylor and in favor of the compromise.

    With Taylor’s sudden death, pro-slavery forces thus found themselves with an unlikely friend in the White House — a Northern Whig from an abolitionist state, who was willing to open the Southwest to slavery. The Compromise of 1850, passed by Congress and signed by Fillmore, undid the 30-year-old Missouri Compromise, which had permanently barred slavery north of Missouri’s southern border. Clay’s legislation did clear the way for California to enter the union as a free state, and it shuttered the slave markets of Washington, D.C. But those sops to Northern sentiment did nothing to halt the advance of slavery, or to restore harmony to a Whig Party increasingly at war with itself.

    But of all the components of the compromise, the worst was the Fugitive Slave Act.

    Rarely has there been a more repugnant law. For the first time in US history, the Fugitive Slave Act created a national system of law enforcement. Its purpose: hunting escaped slaves and returning them to bondage. Federal commissioners were appointed nationwide, and empowered not only to adjudicate fugitive slave claims, but to assemble local posses to capture slaves on the run. The law imposed harsh penalties on anyone caught aiding a fugitive slave. And even free blacks were at risk of being seized and charged as runaways, since the law, with grotesque disregard for due process, forbade accused fugitives from testifying in their own behalf.

    Fillmore enforced the law with determination, and dispatched federal troops to prevent opponents from interfering. He denounced Northern communities that vowed to resist the law — “sanctuary cities” aren’t a 21st-century innovation — and piously proclaimed that “without law there can be no real practical liberty.” Scores of fugitives were captured and returned to the South during Fillmore’s presidency. When antislavery activists in Boston rescued a captured slave from the US marshals holding him, Fillmore repeatedly ordered that the rescuers be prosecuted. In a Pennsylvania case, the administration went further, charging 41 Americans with treason for refusing to join a slave-catching posse.

    By the end of Fillmore’s term, the Whig Party was fractured beyond repair. Democrats won the 1852 election in a landslide. The Whigs vanished from US politics, supplanted by a new, unequivocally antislavery Republican Party.

    Fillmore, however, turned elsewhere. He migrated to the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic “Know-Nothing” Party, running as its presidential nominee in 1856. His slogan was “Americans Must Rule America.” Five years later, Americans were ripping America apart in a ghastly Civil War that Fillmore had helped make inevitable. As Abraham Lincoln labored to preserve the union and emancipate the slaves, Fillmore watched from the sidelines, harshly criticizing.

    Today, the 13th president is lost in obscurity. Fate has been kinder to him than he deserved.


    How a lame duck president signed Washington Territory’s birth certificate on Inauguration Eve

    It was on March 2, 1853 – two days before the presidential inauguration of Pierce County namesake Franklin Pierce – when lame duck President Millard Fillmore signed the legislation creating the Washington Territory. Pierce was a Democrat Fillmore was a member of the Whigs, one of the predecessors of the Republican Party.

    Dr. Paul Finkelman is the president of Gratz College near Philadelphia. He’s also author of a book about Millard Fillmore published a decade ago. He says the process of Oregon Territory, which was created in 1848, being split up a few years later to create Washington Territory, was “pretty normal.”

    As many Washingtonians know, it was in 1851 when a group of non-Native settlers living in the portion of Oregon Territory north of the Columbia River didn’t feel like they were getting a fair shake from the three-year old territorial government in Oregon City. So they organized the Cowlitz Convention — and, in 1852, the Monticello Convention — and petitioned Congress to create what was to be called the Columbia Territory.

    In the mid-19th century, the division of one territory to create another was the “normal” part, says Dr. Paul Finkelman, citing similar examples in other regions of the United States. What was not normal, Dr. Finkelman says, was the presidency of Millard Fillmore.

    The un-normal part began almost immediately after President Zachary Taylor died in July 1850. Fillmore had been Taylor’s vice president, and as was something of a custom, all of the cabinet secretaries submitted their resignations, to give Millard Fillmore the opportunity to refuse to accept those resignations. This was especially critical given the sudden death of President Taylor.

    But Paul Finkelman says Millard Fillmore went his own way.

    “Fillmore weirdly accepts every single one of these resignations,” Finkelman said. “In other words, he basically fires the whole cabinet [and] starts over. He has no idea who he’s going to put in many of these positions, and he spends a good deal of the first year [as president] trying to actually fill this cabinet, because he finds people don’t want to serve under him. They don’t want cabinet positions. So he goes from one piece of chaos to another.”

    American politics in the 1850s is complicated, with bitter divisions over slavery fueling battles over admission of states and territories, and a variety of short-lived political parties forming around single issues.

    Against this backdrop and in this divided era, President Fillmore is remembered by many for signing the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, which further inflamed the divisions already growing in the United States into what would eventually erupt in 1861 with the Civil War.

    Paul Finkelman says Fillmore’s politics around race – such as his support for the Fugitive Slave Law – were consistent with his personal views.

    “Fillmore has a long history of being opposed to anti-slavery, being opposed to abolitionists, being pretty racist in his behavior,” Finkelman said. “And I use ‘racist’ in the context of the 1850s, not in our own times that is, by the standards of his day. He was overwhelmingly hostile to Black rights. He used offensive language when talking about Blacks in ways that other people didn’t.”

    “As a historian, you have to look at the language of the time to understand what people are saying and doing,” Finkelman continued. “Fillmore is a bad actor when it comes to slavery and race by the standards of his own day, not [only] by our standards.“

    Why did Fillmore hold these views and speak the way he did?

    Dr. Finkelman says that’s just who Fillmore was. One theory is that the views and speech were at least partly because Fillmore was not educated in the traditional sense. Like Abe Lincoln, he was a son of the frontier who taught himself the law – and, in fact, became a practicing lawyer – by reading law books and clerking with an established practice.

    Fillmore was born in 1800 and became involved in local politics in the 1820s – first as part of something called the Anti-Masonic Party, near where he was raised in Western New York. He eventually served as a member of the New York Assembly, and then was elected to Congress, where he became a protégé of Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts. Fillmore had national ambitions, which is how he ended up running as Zachary Taylor’s vice president in 1848.

    Despite the chaos, when the 1852 election approached, the incumbent Fillmore did seek the Whig nomination to run for a full term as president. But like so much of his short presidency, that effort didn’t go as planned.

    At a divided convention of the Whigs in June 1852, General Winfield Scott secured the nomination after multiple ballots. General Scott was believed to be a better bet than Fillmore to beat the Democratic nominee Franklin Pierce.

    Also in the running for the nomination had been Fillmore’s Secretary of State (and previous mentor) Daniel Webster Dr. Finkelman says Fillmore never even confronted Webster.

    “Fillmore doesn’t have the guts to call Webster into his office and say, ‘As my Secretary of State, I order you to either resign immediately … or release your delegates so that I can get the nomination,’” Finkelman said.

    “Fillmore can’t even engineer his own nomination,” Finkelman said. And after, for the remainder of his term, “his administration is one of utter chaos.”

    Meanwhile, Oregon Territory’s delegate in Congress, Joseph Lane, introduced a resolution seeking creation of the new territory during a lame duck session of the House on December 6, 1852. The new jurisdiction was approved by the House of Representatives on February 8, 1853 – though they did change the name from “Columbia” to “Washington” – and then approved by the Senate on March 2, 1853 in time for President Fillmore to sign.

    Being passed over by the Whigs at the convention, means that Fillmore had ultimately served as a lame duck for more than eight months by the time he signed Washington Territory into existence on March 2, 1853. Two days later, Fillmore was on hand when his successor President Pierce was inaugurated.

    Not long after that, President Pierce appointed Isaac Stevens to be Washington’s controversial first territorial governor or, in other words, elections have consequences, as some might say.

    Fillmore did run for president again in 1856 – as the standard-bearer of the Know Nothing Party, which was anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, and anti-immigration – but James Buchanan was victorious. Fillmore later married a wealthy widow and settled in Buffalo, and became something of secondary political figure in the 1860s.

    “Fillmore is one of the very, very few former Whigs who does not become a Republican, but instead opposes Lincoln, and during the Civil War is an embarrassment,” Finkelman said. “He’s an embarrassment to himself because he makes a speech where he praises the South and denounces abolition, denounces ending slavery, denounces making more war on what he calls the most beautiful part of the nation [the Confederacy] and he lives the rest of his life and kind of semi-disgrace.”

    Millard Fillmore died in Buffalo in 1874 at age 74, and his legacy as a less-than-one-term president whose policy decisions helped lead to the Civil War is well-known among scholars.

    But what about Washingtonians, circa 2021? How should Evergreen State residents regard Millard Fillmore, the president whose signature created the territory that in 1889 became a state?

    “You should simply say that it’s nice that in 1853 Congress decided to split Washington off from Oregon so Oregon could go its way and Washington go its way,” Finkelman said. “And by the luck of the draw, you happen to have that law signed by somebody who is arguably one of the five or six worst Presidents in American history.”

    But, Dr. Finkelman says, it could have been worse – or, at least just as bad if that signature had come two days later.

    “If you’d waited for Pierce [to sign], you would have had somebody who is also one of the five or six worst,” Finkelman said, pointing out that in the 1850s, “we have a string of disastrous presidents, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan are generally considered to be in the bottom – we used to call them ‘The Bottom Five.’”

    “Now, I think we have to call them ‘The Bottom Six,’” Finkelman said.

    You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News and read more from him here. If you have a story idea, please email Feliks here.


    Must Reads: Grab an apple and enter the Fillmore, San Francisco’s cradle of psychedelia that continues to rock

    It’s 10 minutes to showtime. Step up to the three-story Italianate brick box at Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard. Avert your eyes from the payday-loan operation that takes up much of the ground floor. Submit to a brief search by security.

    Then climb the stairs, grab an apple from the giveaway bin and check out the hundreds of vintage psychedelic posters. The 10 twinkling chandeliers. The four balcony arches. The dance floor crowded with about 1,200 lively bodies. The stage.

    This is the Fillmore, where American pop music and youth culture took a sudden psychedelic turn in the mid-’60s.

    Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Carlos Santana, Steve Miller and the Grateful Dead played some of their most important early shows here. Otis Redding and B.B. King won over some of their first white audiences here.

    (You can hear several live performances from the Fillmore in my Spotify playlist below.)

    And the music plays on, in a building more than a century old. That alone, for me, made the auditorium a more compelling destination than the T-shirt shops and hippie haunts of Haight-Ashbury. But the auditorium is also part of a larger, long-running drama — complete with an unsolved killing — that few out-of-towners know.

    When I saw my first Fillmore show last year (the Wood Brothers, a bluesy folk band), I learned that the auditorium had been built as a dance hall in 1912, converted into a skating rink in the 1930s, then reconverted to hold dances and concerts.

    San Francisco’s living room

    But I wanted to hear more. So I returned for another show in April.

    The headliners this time were Ibeyi, Paris-based 23-year-old twins whose first album was released in 2015. They bounded onto the stage, grinning widely, in matching beige and white jumpsuits, like Afro-Parisian astronauts.

    “We’ve missed you, San Francisco!” said singer and keyboard player Lisa-Kaindé Díaz. Then, she and Naomi Díaz launched into an evening of neo soul, drawing on the twins’ roots in Cuba and western Africa.

    “This is the Green Room, the headliner’s dressing room,” Fillmore production manager Tony Biancalana had told me the day before, leading me backstage. It was surprisingly small, about 15 feet square, full of mirrors and cabinets.

    “We had a German band in once. The manager said, ‘Zee band don’t like zee dressing room.’ I said, ‘Hmm. Hendrix didn’t mind.’“

    Biancalana, whose parents roller-skated in this building in the 1940s, has worked in the hall for 34 years.

    Concert posters line the walls at the Fillmore in San Francisco. (Photos by Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times Video by Christopher Reynolds)

    Fans eat apples, as part of a long tradition, at the Fillmore. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

    The auditorium, now managed by the entertainment corporation Live Nation, stages more than 150 shows a year.

    The Changing Tunes

    The Fillmore neighborhood, part of a historically working-class area known as the Western Addition, has been known for more than 100 years for its ethnically mixed population, including many Japanese American families. But after Japan bombed Hawaii and the U.S. entered World War II, those Japanese Americans were incarcerated in internment camps.

    Meanwhile, African Americans moved in as shipbuilding and other military operations increased in the Bay Area.

    By the early 1950s, the Fillmore neighborhood was home to so many jazz, blues and R&B clubs that boosters were calling it the Harlem of the West. Many city leaders, however, were calling the neighborhood a ghetto and laying plans for decades of demolition and redevelopment.

    In the midst of this turmoil, an African American entrepreneur named Charles Sullivan leased the dance hall, renamed it the Fillmore Auditorium, opened it to audiences of color and brought in James Brown, Ike and Tina Turner and Little Richard, who arrived with a young Jimi Hendrix as a sideman.

    If the Fillmore District was the Harlem of the West, the auditorium was its Apollo Theater.

    Fans enjoy a concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

    As a ‘70s teenager fascinated by ‘60s rock, however, I knew none of that. For me, the Fillmore story began in late 1965, when the San Francisco Mime Troupe subleased the venue for a fundraiser that featured the very young Jefferson Airplane and five guys who had just changed their name from the Warlocks to the Grateful Dead. The cost of admission was $1.50.

    The audience, San Francisco Chronicle music critic Ralph J. Gleason wrote, was “a most remarkable assemblage of humanity … leaping, jumping, dancing, frigging, fragging and frugging on the dance floor.”

    This was big. And the mime troupe’s business manager — a 34-year-old from New York named Bill Graham — realized it.

    So he quit the troupe, subleased the Fillmore from Sullivan and quickly earned a reputation for making canny musical choices and driving a hard bargain.

    In other words, he wasn’t a hippie, and he didn’t create the Fillmore as a music venue. But Graham built up the Fillmore concert operation, then took over booking the venue after Sullivan was shot to death in 1966, a crime that was never solved.

    The interior of the Fillmore in San Francisco. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

    With these shows from 1966 through early 1968, Graham made something new — the modern rock concert.

    Cream came to play. So did Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe & the Fish, the Doors, the Byrds, the Yardbirds and Frank Zappa, often accompanied by psychedelic light shows that entranced many concertgoers high on LSD or marijuana. (LSD was legal in California until late 1966.)

    “Bill did things like booking Cecil Taylor [an avant-garde jazz pianist] to open for the Yardbirds. Or having Woody Herman [and his big band] open for the Who,” said Dennis McNally, a San Francisco-based author, historian and former publicist for the Grateful Dead.

    Then Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., sparking outrage and violence in black neighborhoods nationwide, including the Fillmore. Graham, who had begun working with other venues, abandoned the Fillmore Auditorium, moved to the Carousel Ballroom on South Van Ness Avenue and renamed it Fillmore West.

    After 2½ years as a magic address, the original Fillmore was a footnote. So it remained for decades as the neighborhood’s redevelopment lurched along.

    Extensive damage in the 1989 earthquake didn’t help. In 1991, Graham, who had been working to revive the venue, was killed in a helicopter crash.

    But in 1994, the rehabbed Fillmore reopened.

    The Fillmore, San Francisco. Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times

    In transition

    Nowadays it stands at the convergence of three evolving neighborhoods, which are mostly tourist friendly.

    One is the Fillmore District, a mixed bag that includes two Michelin-starred restaurants and several vacant storefronts, all within a block of the theater.

    This was the heart of black San Francisco, author David Talbot has written, “and redevelopment tore it out.”

    The second neighborhood is Pacific Heights, whose smart shops and trendy restaurants have been creeping south on Fillmore Street toward the auditorium for years.

    The third is Japantown, a reconstituted ethnic enclave where two sleek and recently upgraded hotels stand among ramen spots and gift shops.

    In other words, dinner nearby and a show at the Fillmore these days can mean almost anything.

    Within half a mile of the venue, I had a bacon breakfast at Sweet Maple, a bowl of ramen at Hinodeya, and a small-plates dinner at State Bird Provisions, all great meals.

    I shopped at Browser Books and listened to funky jazz in the Boom Boom Room — a gritty, intimate venue on Fillmore Street that holds fewer than 200 people.

    I slept in the Kimpton Buchanan, strolled two-thirds of a mile to check out the Victorian painted ladies houses of Alamo Square Park, and wished I’d had another hour to check out the Church of 8 Wheels, formerly a Catholic house of worship turned roller rink.

    ‘They get the chills’

    And, of course, the auditorium itself, part ’60s shrine, part contemporary scene, harbors its own surprises.

    In October Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry and his wife, Ayesha, delighted the audience by stepping onstage to sing with folk musician Johnnyswim. (Yes, there’s video.)

    Some nights, the headliner is a seasoned veteran: Los Lobos, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson or (until his death in 2017) Tom Petty. Other nights, you find up-and-comers such as Ibeyi, whose energy was as boundless at show’s end as it was at the beginning.

    “For any young band, when they get to play the Fillmore, and they know who stood on that stage — they get the chills,” McNally had told me just before the show. “It’s still quite meaningful.”

    Fans enjoy a concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

    As Lisa-Kaindé Díaz prowled the stage, her Afro flopped wildly. Naomi Díaz busied herself with percussion instruments, including her own body — she’d often stand to slap her thighs and chest and snap her fingers.

    The audience was every shade of white, beige and brown, mostly women. There were no guitar solos — no guitarist, for that matter. Behind the twins, a screen displayed trippy video sequences — a far cry from the extended riffing and analog light shows of decades gone by.

    The twins closed with “Deathless,” an anthem of resilience, urging the audience to sing along until it seemed everyone on the floor was roaring.

    “We are deathless. Whatever happens, we are deathless.”

    Then we all filed out, collecting apples and posters as we went.

    The Boom Boom Room, a lounge and music venue that keeps a booth reserved for the late John Lee Hooker, stands across from the Fillmore at the corner of Geary Boulevard and Fillmore Street. Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times

    The Fillmore District

    For a jazzier scene in a throwback setting far smaller than the Fillmore, step across Geary Boulevard to the Boom Boom Room at 1601 Fillmore St. Once known for its association with John Lee Hooker, the Boom Boom Room is a long, narrow lounge (no food) with a round booth reserved in case Hooker, who died in 2001, should return.

    These days, owner Zander Andreas books “blues, boogie, soul, groove and funk,” usually with a cover charge of $7-$15. I caught a rollicking, organ-driven jazz-funk show by the Wil Blades Starting 5.

    The SF Jazz Center (201 Franklin St., San Francisco [866] 920-5299, www.sfjazz.org), about a mile southwest of the Fillmore, includes the 700-seat Miner Auditorium and the 100-seat Joe Henderson Lab.

    Japantown

    Just north of Geary Boulevard, a compact, reborn Japantown includes the Japan Center mall, several ramen and sushi spots, the graceful Peace Pagoda and the stylish Kabuki and Kimpton Buchanan hotels.

    Hotel Kabuki. Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times Peace Pagoda. Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times

    Pacific Heights

    Head north on Fillmore Street from the auditorium and within a few blocks you’ll notice the shops getting fancier, the prices getting higher. This is Pacific Heights. If you keep climbing to Broadway, you’ll be able to see San Francisco Bay from the top of the hill.

    Along the way you’ll pass dozens of boutiques and restaurants, including the Grove at 2016 Fillmore (where I had two hearty breakfasts) Jane at 2123 Fillmore (where I waited in a close-quarters line for a good lunch) and Chouquet’s, 2500 Washington St. at Fillmore (where I enjoyed a better lunch, smoked trout salad, at a sidewalk table).

    If you go

    THE BEST WAY TO SAN FRANCISCO

    From LAX, American, Delta, United, Southwest and Alaska offer nonstop and connecting service (change of planes) to San Francisco. Restricted round-trip airfare from $88, including taxes and fees.

    Kimpton Buchanan Hotel, 1800 Sutter St., San Francisco (415) 921-4000. This 131-room lodging was redone in 2015 in Japanese modern style. Doubles from $180, before taxes.

    Hotel Kabuki, 1625 Post St., San Francisco (415) 922-3200. This 225-room lodging fuses Japanese style with pop culture, including a lobby wall of vintage album covers and a large library. Rooms for two typically start at $220, before taxes.

    State Bird Provisions, 1529 Fillmore St., San Francisco (415) 795-1272. Regional dishes served dim sum style in a thunderously loud dining room. It and and its more casual next-door sibling, the Progress, both got one-star Michelin ratings this year. Small plates $3-$12, most larger dishes $15-$85. Dinner only.

    Hinodeya Ramen Bar, 1737 Buchanan St., San Francisco. Try the house ramen, which includes whole wheat noodles, bonito, kombu, scallop, pork, egg, seaweed and green onions. Small plates and side dishes $4-$9. Ramen $14-$15. Lunch and dinner. Closed Tuesdays. No reservations (and no phone number on website).

    Sweet Maple, 2101 Sutter St., San Francisco (415) 655-9169. Breakfast and lunch. Known for its “millionaire’s bacon” (baked with brown sugar, cayenne, red and black peppers). American comfort food with hints of Asian influence. Often a line. Breakfast and lunch. Main dishes $12-$22.


    Conspectus of the History of Political Parties and the Federal Government/Descriptive/Taylor and Fillmore

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    Millard Fillmore

    Millard Fillmore, a member of the Whig party, was the 13th President of the United States (1850-1853) and the last President not to be affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties.

    In his rise from a log cabin to wealth and the White House, Millard Fillmore demonstrated that through methodical industry and some competence an uninspiring man could make the American dream come true.

    Born in the Finger Lakes country of New York in 1800, Fillmore as a youth endured the privations of frontier life. He worked on his father’s farm, and at 15 was apprenticed to a cloth dresser. He attended one-room schools, and fell in love with the redheaded teacher, Abigail Powers, who later became his wife.

    In 1823 he was admitted to the bar seven years later he moved his law practice to Buffalo. As an associate of the Whig politician Thurlow Weed, Fillmore held state office and for eight years was a member of the House of Representatives. In 1848, while Comptroller of New York, he was elected Vice President.

    Fillmore presided over the Senate during the months of nerve-wracking debates over the Compromise of 1850. He made no public comment on the merits of the compromise proposals, but a few days before President Taylor’s death, he intimated to him that if there should be a tie vote on Henry Clay’s bill, he would vote in favor of it.

    Thus the sudden accession of Fillmore to the Presidency in July 1850 brought an abrupt political shift in the administration. Taylor’s Cabinet resigned and President Fillmore at once appointed Daniel Webster to be Secretary of State, thus proclaiming his alliance with the moderate Whigs who favored the Compromise.

    A bill to admit California still aroused all the violent arguments for and against the extension of slavery, without any progress toward settling the major issues.

    Clay, exhausted, left Washington to recuperate, throwing leadership upon Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. At this critical juncture, President Fillmore announced in favor of the Compromise. On August 6, 1850, he sent a message to Congress recommending that Texas be paid to abandon her claims to part of New Mexico.

    This helped influence a critical number of northern Whigs in Congress away from their insistence upon the Wilmot Proviso–the stipulation that all land gained by the Mexican War must be closed to slavery.

    Douglas’s effective strategy in Congress combined with Fillmore’s pressure from the White House to give impetus to the Compromise movement. Breaking up Clay’s single legislative package, Douglas presented five separate bills to the Senate:

    1. Admit California as a free state.
    2. Settle the Texas boundary and compensate her.
    3. Grant territorial status to New Mexico.
    4. Place Federal officers at the disposal of slaveholders seeking fugitives.
    5. Abolish the slave trade in the District of Columbia.

    Each measure obtained a majority, and by September 20, President Fillmore had signed them into law. Webster wrote, “I can now sleep of nights.”

    Some of the more militant northern Whigs remained irreconcilable, refusing to forgive Fillmore for having signed the Fugitive Slave Act. They helped deprive him of the Presidential nomination in 1852.

    Within a few years it was apparent that although the Compromise had been intended to settle the slavery controversy, it served rather as an uneasy sectional truce.

    As the Whig Party disintegrated in the 1850’s, Fillmore refused to join the Republican Party but, instead, in 1856 accepted the nomination for President of the Know Nothing, or American, Party. Throughout the Civil War he opposed President Lincoln and during Reconstruction supported President Johnson. He died in 1874.


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