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Ohio Gang

Warren Harding

Ohio Gang: Warren Harding was the 29th American President who served in office from March 4, 1921 to August 2, 1923. One of the important events during his presidency was the Ohio Gang.

Definition and Summary of the Ohio Gang
Summary and definition:
Warren Harding, a Republican from Ohio, assumed the presidency on March 4, 1921 after a successful campaign promising a "Return to Normalcy" following the rigors of WW1. President Harding was easy-going, charming and relaxed but lacked confidence and surrounded himself with friends and political allies from Ohio - the group were given the nickname of the "Ohio Gang".

Members of the Ohio Gang were given powerful positions in the Harding administration, including positions in the cabinet. The financial and political scandals caused by men in the "Ohio Gang", notably the "Teapot Dome Scandal" shocked the nation and severely tarnished the reputation of President Warren Harding. Powerful members of the Ohio Gang included Harry M. Daugherty, Albert B. Fall, Will H. Hays, Charles R. Forbes and Jess Smith. Investigations following the unexpected death of the president in 1923 led to convictions for fraud, conspiracy, and bribery. 

Ohio Gang Facts for kids: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Ohio Gang.

What was the Ohio Gang? The Ohio Gang was a 'good ol' boy network' of old friends, campaign organizers and political allies of President Warren Harding. Many had supported his presidential campaign from Ohio and were given prominent posts in the Harding Administration.

Who is most often associated with the Ohio Gang? The names of the men most associated with the Ohio Gang were Harry M. Daugherty, Charles R. Forbes, Albert B. Fall, Will H. Hays and Jess Smith

What problems did the Ohio Gang cause? Members of the  Ohio Gang abused their positions of power and betrayed the public's trust by using illegal dealings, bribery and kickbacks which led to financial and political scandals.

Facts about Ohio Gang
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Ohio Gang.

Not all members of the Ohio Gang were in the cabinet. As president, Warren G. Harding assembled a respected and geographically diverse cabinet, including Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover and Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon.

Socially, the president preferred relaxing with his cigar-smoking, poker-playing, drinking friends from the Ohio Gang, than the serious and sober men in his administration.

The Weekly White House poker parties involving the Ohio Gang often lasted all night which raised eyebrows in the administration.

The Ohio Gang abused their positions of power in the Harding administration by using bribery, corruption and kickbacks which eventually led to financial and political scandals and resulted in disgrace, jail and hefty fines for some of its members.

By 1923, rumors of corruption in Harding's administration and the Ohio Gang had begun to surface. Although Harding was not guilty of any misconduct, the conduct of his administration reflected badly on him and began to distance himself from his old cronies.

Warren Harding was not a bad man, but he displayed extremely poor judgment in his choice of friends. In 1923, Harding declared "I have no trouble with my enemies...but my damned friends, they're the ones that keep me up at night!"

After serving as president for less than three years, Warren Harding died unexpectedly of a heart attack on August 2, 1923. There was wild speculation that his wife, Florence Harding, had poisoned him to prevent him from facing charges of corruption which added to the scandalous revelations following investigations into the Harding administration and the Ohio Gang. The subsequent Teapot Dome Scandal was regarded as the "greatest and most sensational scandal in the history of American politics" and remained so until the Nixon administration and the  Watergate Scandal.

The names of men most associated with this close network of friends in the Ohio Gang were:

  • Harry M. Daugherty - appointed as US Attorney General (Cabinet Member)

  • Albert B. Fall - Secretary of the Interior Cabinet Member)

  • Edwin C. Denby - Secretary of the Navy (Cabinet Member)

  • Charles R. Forbes - appointed head the Veterans Bureau

  • Daniel Crissinger - boyhood friend, appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve Board

  • Thomas W. Miller - member of the Harding administration

  • Ed Scobey - Director of the United States Mint

  • Jesse Smith - an aide to Harry Daugherty as Attorney General at the Department of Justice

  • Charles "Doc" Sawyer - White House physician

  • Ed Scobey, former Sheriff of Pickaway County, Ohio, who became Director of the United States Mint

  • Gaston Means - Acted as a general 'Gofer' for the Ohio Gang

Harry M. Daugherty: Harding's campaign manager, Harry M. Daugherty (1860-1941), was appointed to the Cabinet as US Attorney General. Daugherty became involved in the illegal sale of Presidential pardons and liquor permits but was acquitted when he was sent to trial.

Albert B. Fall: Albert B. Fall (1861-1944), Senator of New Mexico, was appointed to the Cabinet as Secretary of the Interior. Albert B. Fall receive "loans" (bribes) to lease land in Teapot Dome, Wyoming, and Elk Hills, California, to oilmen Harry F. Sinclair and Edward L. Doheny. He was fined $100,000 and served a year in jail refer to the Teapot Dome Scandal.

Edwin C. Denby: Edwin C. Denby (1870-1929) was appointed to the Cabinet as Secretary of the Navy and played a notable, corrupt role in the Teapot Dome scandal, leasing oilfields to friends in exchange for bribes.

Charles R. Forbes: Charles R. Forbes (1878-1952) was appointed to head the Veterans Bureau and became involved with corrupt financial dealings with a number of contractors. He was convicted for bribery and corruption, and  fined $10,000 and sentenced to 2 years in Leavenworth. Forbes involved Charles Cramer, the general lawyer for the Veterans Bureau, in his unscrupulous deals. One the scandal erupted Cramer committed suicide, shooting himself in the head.

Daniel Crissinger: Daniel Crissinger (1860-1942) was a boyhood friend of the president and member of the Ohio Gang was appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, even though he was not qualified for the job which gave him power over the Federal Reserve.

Thomas W. Miller: Thomas W. Miller (1886-1973) was appointed Custodian of the Office of Alien Property, which handled property seized during WW1. He became involved in the sale of the American Metal Company, whose assets were seized during WW1, to German metal magnate Richard Merton. This led to charges of conspiracy to defraud the government and was sentenced to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Jesse Smith: Jesse Smith (1871-1923) was an aide to Harry Daugherty as Attorney General at the Department of Justice. He was implicated in the financial scandals of the administration and was exposed as a "bagman" carrying bribes to and from the Attorney General's office. Jesse Smith was indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government but committed suicide before his case came to trial.

Charles "Doc" Sawyer: Charles "Doc" Sawyer was from Marion, Ohio and was appointed as White House physician and was a close confidante of President Harding and a member of the Ohio Gang.

Frank Edgar Scobey:  Ed Scobey (18661931), former Sheriff of Pickaway County, Ohio, became Director of the United States Mint but was not directly implicated in the scandals surrounding the Ohio Gang.

Gaston Means: Gaston Means (1879-1938) was a distinctly shady associate of the Ohio Gang. He was hired by by his friend, Attorney General Harry Daugherty to work in the Department of Justice. Gaston Means had nemerous underworld contacts that he had developed during his years as a detective. Many were now bootleggers during the Prohibition era. Means was indicted for larceny, conspiracy and nearly one hundred violations of the Prohibition Act and was sentenced to 2 years in jail to which another 2 years were added in subsequent trials.

US American History
1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition

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