Warren G. Harding

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Warren G. Harding : biography

02 November 1865 – 02 August 1923

According to author Douglas Brinkley, Harding came to the most northern U.S. territory to "open up Alaska lands" for oil, mining, timber development, and industry.

Harding arrived in Alaska on the USS Henderson on July 7, 1923. Harding and his presidential party first visited Metlakatla, Ketchikan (July 8), and Wrangell (July 9). They continued on to Juneau (July 10), Skagway, and Glacier Bay (July 11). The President then cruised to Seward (July 13). They then proceeded to travel by Presidential railway car and automobile. Harding visited Snow River on the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage (July 13), Chickaloon, Wasilla and Willow (July 14). The U.S. government had bought up the financially unstable Tanana Valley Railroad. The President continued his Alaska journey through Montana Station, Curry (July 14) Cantwell, McKinley Park and Nenana(July 15).; On July 15, 1923, Harding drove in the golden spike on the north side of the steel Mears Memorial Bridge that completed the Alaska Railroad. The trip continued to Fairbanks (July 15) where it was decided (July 16) that the President and his wife would return to Seward (July 17) via the railroad. They spent a restful day at Seward (July 18). From there they took the Henderson to Valdez (July 19), Cordova (July 20), and Sitka (July 22). While in Sitka, Harding visited and shook hands with Alaskan Native Tlingit elder chief Katlean outside in a crowd of people.; The information gathered by Harding’s Alaska tour found that improving agriculture in south central Alaska, would require irrigation because of the low territory rainfall totals. By 1923, the Alaskan salmon population was being depleted from overfishing. Harvesting and transporting coal by ship from Alaska through the territory’s panhandle would be very expensive.

On July 26, 1923, having departed Alaska on the USS Henderson, Harding toured Vancouver, British Columbia as the first sitting American President ever to visit Canada. Harding became exhausted while playing golf at the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club, and complained of nausea and upper abdominal pain. His doctor, Charles E. Sawyer, believed Harding’s illness was a severe case of food poisoning. Nevertheless, Dr. Joel T. Boone also examined the President and noticed an enlargement of his heart. Harding’s pulse and breathing rate were rapid. The President was given digitalis. Harding met with British Columbia Premier John Oliver and Mayor of Vancouver Charles Tisdall at the Hotel Vancouver. Harding spoke in front of 50,000 people at Stanley Park with his voice projected by microphones. Harding inspected The Vancouver Regiment honor guard accompanied by Canadian Brig. Gen. V.W. Odlum.; ;;

Coming into Seattle, Washington, Harding’s transport ship, USS Henderson, accidentally rammed into the USS Zeilin (DD-313), a U.S. naval destroyer, due to fog. Harding was not harmed in the incident. While in port, Harding reviewed the U.S. naval fleet and visited the Bell Street Pier. In Seattle, Harding greeted children and led 50,000 Boy Scouts in the Pledge of Allegiance. Harding gave his final speech to a large crowd of 25,000 people at the University of Washington stadium in Seattle. Harding spoke on the magnificence of Alaska’s wilderness, conservationism, and "measureless oil resources in the most northerly sections." Sec. of Commerce Herbert Hoover wrote the Seattle speech and Harding claimed he would protect the territory from looters and profit seekers; a rebuff to former Sec. of Interior Albert Fall.Russell (1968), The Shadow of Blooming Grove, pp. 588–589 Harding had rushed through his speech not waiting for applause by the audience. Harding traveled by train from Seattle to Portland, Oregon. Harding’s scheduled speech in Portland was canceled.

Death in San Francisco, state funeral and memorial

Funeral procession for President Harding passes by the front of the [[White House]] The President’s train continued south to San Francisco. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover sent a telegram from Dunsmuir, California, to his friend Dr. Ray L. Wilbur, asking Wilbur to meet and to personally evaluate the President. Arriving at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, Harding developed a respiratory illness believed to be pneumonia.Russell, p. 591.; Harding, severely exhausted, ordered that his planned speech be issued through the national press in order to communicate with the public. The President was given digitalis and caffeine that momentarily helped relieve his heart condition and sleeplessness.; On Thursday, the President’s health appeared to improve, so his doctors went to dinner. Harding’s pulse was normal and his lung infection had subsided. Unexpectedly, during the evening, Harding shuddered and died suddenly in the middle of conversation with his wife in the hotel’s presidential suite, at 7:35 p.m. on August 2, 1923. Dr. Sawyer (a homeopath, and friend of the Harding family), opined that Harding had succumbed to a stroke, but doctors there disagreed.