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The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  384 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
In this amazing and at times ribald story, Laton McCartney tells how Big Oil handpicked Warren G. Harding, an obscure Ohio senator, to serve as our twenty-third president. Harding and his “oil cabinet” made it possible for cronies to secure vast fuel reserves that had been set aside for use by the U.S. Navy. In exchange, the oilmen paid off senior government officials, bri ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 13th 2009 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2008)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 21, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: presidents-staff
”Warren Harding seemingly exemplified the Middle American values held near and dear. It is not simply a coincidence that seven U.S. presidents before Harding had hailed from Ohio. He was also strikingly handsome, usually impeccably tailored, had a vibrant speaking voice that reached the rear seats of the biggest auditoriums, and was as amiable as a Labrador retriever. But Harding had a long history of pursuing every comely female who came his way. And unlike some of similarly inclined successors ...more
Reading the Presidents: Warren Harding

Another Update as of January 30, 2015 (Teapot Dome—the scandal that keeps on giving*) Government sells Teapot Dome — on the level, this time.

Update Giving this a well-deserved bump in honor of the recent release of the love letters between Harding and his mistress!
The Mistress and the POTUS, Carrie Fulton Phillips and Warren G. Harding
For a nice sampling of the "sexy pen pal" action, check out The Letters That Warren G. Harding’s Family Didn’t Want You to See

Original Review:
In an era that has featured a crack-smoking m
Richard Derus
Jun 05, 2013 Richard Derus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Big Oil bought the election of 1920 for Sen. Warren G. Harding of Ohio, because he was amenable to giving away huge amounts of money to the oil companies, including using American power in Mexico to undo the Mexican nationalization of the oil companies' assets there. Part of the payoff to the oil interests was assigning leases worth about $100 million (in 1920 dollars...well north of a billion now) in the US Navy's strategic petroleum reserve in several lo
The Hollywood Babylon of political skullduggery. Murder (chapter 1!), several questionable (and convenient) suicides, sex, payoffs, dirty judges, dirty politicians, dirty oil, illegal booze, one poor dancing girl who gets hit in the head by a flying bottle (and who eventually dies) at a poker party the president is attending, destruction of evidence, witness intimidation, it's pretty much all here. I turned to this book after a scene from episode 8 of Boardwalk Empire, involving the nomination o ...more
Aug 23, 2009 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
McCartney, Laton. THE TEAPOT DOME SCANDAL: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country. (2008). ****. I remember zipping through this period in American History both in high school and college. The “Teapot Dome” scandal was mentioned, but not in much detail. What we probably learned was equivalent to the extended title of this book. Now we can learn about all the players and most of their sneaky moves during Harding’s run for president and during his short term in o ...more
Clif Hostetler
Oct 28, 2012 Clif Hostetler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Rich man's justice, secret campaign contributions, disregard for conservation of natural resources, and Republican Party arrogance, it seemed like deja vu all over again. But this book is not about today's news, it's about the 1920s. Some say it's the biggest scandal in U.S. history, but others say that honor now belongs to the Watergate scandal, which is also owned by a Republican administration.

The actual bribery incident that was the heart of the Teapot Dome scandal occurred in 1922-1923 duri
Jun 26, 2008 Yoel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had to stop reading this after reading about 30 pages. I was skeptical about some of the stuff he presents as facts, and when I checked them out, turns out some of the "facts" are hotly disputed.

For example: the author presents as FACT that Harding was the father of Nan Britton's child. Turns out this was Nan Britton's assertion and has never been proven; it is still disputed to this day.

In fact, turns out the entire affair with Nan Britton is alleged, but has never been proven.

Yet, you would
Wow...great book. But this will make you very, very cynical.

All the stuff people accuse Presidents Clinton and Bush Jr. of are combined and documented in Harding's presidency. Flagrant womanizing, drunken parties, dumb guy with pretty face put into office by oil interests (I'm not saying Bush is pretty. This one is a combo of Bush and Clinton), political appointments to loyal money men and flunkies, misuse of power by those political appointees for profit, environmental attacks, encouragement of
Gilda Felt
May 18, 2016 Gilda Felt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The more things change, the more things stay the same. Isn’t that the truth, as this book so aptly demonstrates.

The book is ultimately interesting, but it took awhile to get to the meat of the issue, as there are many threads to follow, a veritable who’s who of corrupt Oilmen of the Gilded Age. And a cautionary tale, since I often felt like I was reading about today’s issues. And though Fall was convicted, the vast majority of the conspirators got off scott free.

The book often reads like a novel
Aug 18, 2014 Dennis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Harding presidency was conceived in corruption, and this is a fine account of the largeness and complexity of that corruption. Harding was brought out of near obscurity for the purpose winning the presidency and immediately appointing a Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, who resided deep in the pockets of Big Oil. Fall shifted control of large naval oil reserves to his department and all but gave them to his buddies. Other areas of the Harding adminstration were equally corrupt, i.e the ...more
Jennifer Heise
Nov 03, 2015 Jennifer Heise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, presidential
Almost everything I learned about 20th-century history until I was 20, I learned from Lillian Rogers Parks and J.B. West, so though I was fascinated by the stories of Teapot Dome scandal and the poker-playing, cigar smoking cabinet-cabal that was said to have run the Harding White House around, not through, Warren Gamaliel Harding.

What I found out from McCartney was that it was worse than I imagined. Allegedly, oilman Jake Hamon set out to buy the right candidate for President of the US so that
Loring Wirbel
Sep 25, 2011 Loring Wirbel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This came close to a five-star rating, as McCartney assembled a wealth of direct and peripheral information on the various scandals of the Harding administration, and wove them into an aw-shucks good-ol'-boy tale of blatant corruption that challenges even the worst days of Watergate and Iran-contra. What makes the book simultaneously sinister and hilarious is McCartney's matter-of-fact, almost droll way of relating unbelievable details of an oil scandal that involved not just huge payoffs, but l ...more
Alisha Bennett
Feb 26, 2014 Alisha Bennett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely worth a read! I enjoyed this book; while desperately wanting to punch many of the people in it!

First off, McCartney does an excellent job of guiding the reader through the murky political waters and smoky back-room deals that abound in this book. The ins and outs of who is who and how they are connected can get a bit complicated and he keeps this in mind while never seeming to talk down to the reader.

The con-man, big $$ and crooked politician are all as old as the country itself so i
May 23, 2012 Kelley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, it's been 90 years since the beginning of this scandal took shape, and after reading it I am sickened by the lack of integrity, greed, and complete indifference that took place. I don't even want to buy Sinclair gas after this book. Sadly this really was just a precursor to the scandal and shame of wall street and those companies that stole, lied, cheated and did whatever it took to make more money and take it from those who deserve it.
I am amazed that Coolidge was elected president in 1924
Although the author adopts a sardonic tone of wry amusement, this appalling tale of blatant corruption and criminal behavior during the Harding administration is not a fun read. Worse than the crimes themselves, which include murders and theft as well as graft and bribery, is the casual acceptance of this looting of public resources as perfectly acceptable by the wealthy Republican perpetrators, today's 1%.
I found the first third of the book, which describes the various schemes and details wh
Matt Carpenter
Feb 05, 2014 Matt Carpenter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is rare in that it is non-fiction history that reads better than many novels. It is a factual retelling of the Teapot Dome Scandal which took place during the 1920's under the Warren Harding Administration. The author, Laton McCartney, is a gifted writer. He made the characters come to life in a way many authors can't. The story epitomizes the human condition. Murder, bribery, graft, adultery, and courtroom drama make just some of the details of the book. Not that I approve of those th ...more
The Teapot Dome Scandal takes a look at the first efforts of Big oil to buy the White House and take advantage of the resources of the United States. Laton McCartney takes a look at the bizarre events that led up to Teapot Dome and the purchase of the republican nomination by big oil. Originated by Jack Hamon who was a big oil producer in Oklahoma and Texas and involving Senator Albert Fall (NM) and corrupt Harry Daughtery (along with his croneys like Jess Smith) with a plan to move the oil rese ...more
Apr 01, 2008 HBalikov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Plenty to understand and relate to what has been going on in recent years. McCartney retells the story well with new material not in other versions.
Aaron Million
Feb 28, 2013 Aaron Million rated it really liked it
Great chronicle of the inner workings and sordid dealings behind the Teapot Dome oil scandals during Warren Harding's administration. Big oil basically bought the 1920 Republican nomination for Harding, and once he got in office, his Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, and Attorney General, Harry Daugherty, thought they were invincible. The corruption was rampant, and the actions and motives behind almost everyone in this gigantic mess left a lot to be desired.

One thing that I did notice fr
Mar 10, 2009 Krenzel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
One of the first signs you see when you enter Marion, Ohio points you to the Harding Memorial to learn about the city’s famous son, Warren Harding. I’m not sure when I started to like history, but it might have started with my visit as a child to Harding’s home. The major theme of the tour was to show what life was like back in the 1920s. Of course, nothing at the house tells you about the Teapot Dome scandal, and all I ever learned about the scandal was a one paragraph discussion in my high sch ...more
Apr 18, 2009 Cwl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A book seemingly written specifically to annoy me. Flush with tabloid gossip, sourced with the scholarly drive of a twelve year old's Wikipedia article. McCartney cites a riotous H Street party which terminates in the death of a dancing girl, then implies that the scandal was hushed up by corrupt Harding politicos, then confesses in the notes that "Gaston Means is the sole source of the dead showgirl story". Gaston Means, by the way, appears in a later chapter, described by the author as "an unc ...more
Julie Duffy
Nov 07, 2012 Julie Duffy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
This was great fun: a wonderfully vivid account of the election campaign for Warren Harding, and of the nefarious characters running around government at the time. It had lovely details of how life and politics were different in the age of steam and telegraphs and bunting and straw hats. Captivating storytelling by Laton McCartney.

However --- and it's a big however --- from the little I've read around the edges of this era, it seems like there is very little in here that can be taken as fact. It
George Mead
Nov 30, 2009 George Mead rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After I finished this book I was struck with two overriding emotions: 1) Depression that there is a nothing new in the level of greed and deceit which certain groups in this country have been involved (substitute Blackwater or KBR for Sinclair and it's the same story)

2) I was appalled that nothing substantive happened after graft at this level was proven. No legislation, no creation of a new agency to monitor activities of this kind. After the crash of '29 Roosevelt created the SEC- nothing.

I n
Monte Lamb
Feb 19, 2015 Monte Lamb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us-history
This is a terrific book that explains the scandal. It goes through a lot of detail without becoming a bore. It ties together all the sordid parts of the story and shows who and how they were involved. You come away with a good understanding of how corrupt the people were in the Harding administration and what big oil was willing to do to get their way.
Robert K
Mar 11, 2014 Robert K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good appraisal of a Nasty oil leasing scandal that ended in the conviction of Albert Fall, the former Harding Administration Interior Secretary for accepting bribes & the acquittal of Edward Dohene, the man who allegedly bribed him. President Harding, whose Administration will forever be tarnished by the scandal died before finishing his term.
Nov 19, 2012 Danielle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Very interesting. If this were the plot for a movie, I'd have complained because it's like everything you could imagine about government corruption is here. Bribery, sex, murder, elections, jury-tampering, backroom agreements, flights of evasion...seriously, after a while I almost stopped believing this was nonfiction. There's so much corruption that various plots start to cross into each other. It gets complicated and confusing in spots. But then that might be why it took several years to sort ...more
May 07, 2015 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audiobook which made it tough to follow since there are so many characters and phenomena & the setting was a time in history and in an industry I am new to. So I might have been better off with the print edition. It is complete, exhaustive & dense but easy to "read" - no wasted words.
Toby McMillen
Mar 11, 2008 Toby McMillen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent recount of this famous scandal, but lordy, it can make a body cynical! I would like to read some accounts from the other side about this sequence of events, but if even half of this sad tale is taken as true, it appears as this is the harbinger of the current stranglehold that big oil has on this country and its government. It is not too much of a stretch to imagine Cheney and Bush and the 'Texas Gang' engaging in similar shameful shenanigans nearly a century later. But, unfortunately, ...more
David R.
A rather breathless "expose" on the 1922-28 Teapot Dome scandal. McCarthney ruins his otherwise fine narrative by engaging in the cartoonish White-hat-Black-hat style so common in recent history writing.
Kevin Scott
Aug 24, 2009 Kevin Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The style of the writing was a little bit breezy, but I thought that the approach worked most of the time. It's really distressing to see how deep the corruption ran in the Harding administration and how blase the members of his Cabinet were about these things. It certainly casts the Bush cabinet in a good light by comparison, though we can imagine many of the same tactics--opening public lands for exploitation--happening today but not for the out-and-out corruption reasons that drove Fall and D ...more
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