Teapot Dome Oil Scandal
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*Includes quotes from participants and Congress
*Includes footnotes, online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents
“I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends, my goddamned friends, they're the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights!” – President Warren Harding
Americans in the 21st century cite the relatively recent Watergate Scandal, and to a lesser degree the Enron Oil Scandal, as prime examples of modern governmental corruption. It is a widely held perception that these incidents, particularly the one bringing about the first resignation of an American president, caused the public to lose trust in federal institutions and political figures.
However, the prototype for the breakdown of governmental fidelity lies in the early 20th century, a time in which the recent territories of the United States struggled to evolve from a lawless, Wild West culture. The federal government viewed its western resources as both unlimited and outside the grasp of the government. The leading oil barons, born and raised in the 19th century, were accustomed to federally-blessed land-grabs and easily obtained mining and lumber interests, often doled out to the social and financial elite under the guise of exploration. Federal interference was minimal in contrast to later decades, and the government itself was eager to conquer the West through large-tract farming, river management, mineral and timber development, not to mention the procurement of oil for a growing society as coal gave way to new types of fuel.
The early 20th century was a time of sudden growth for the young American automobile industry, and of a military beginning to extend its reach around the world. In what would become largely a jurisdictional dispute over Western natural resources, the unbridled oil industry of the new century collided with the United States military and the Department of the Interior, set against the dominance of a corruption-riddled presidential administration. For the first time in American history, in a test between entrepreneurism and government management, a high-ranking cabinet official was convicted of corruption and sent to prison in the aftermath, along with his co-conspirators.
In the ensuing Congressional investigation that sought to root out the widespread graft, bribery, and usurpation of government property over the following decade, the two-year affair became commonly known as the Teapot Dome Scandal. Although three major oil fields were actually involved, including Elk Hills and Buena Vista in the San Joaquin Valley of California, the symbol of the incident became a rock formation north of Casper, Wyoming, shaped in what most observers would describe as a teapot. Beneath this formation lay an enormous reservoir of crude oil, and all of it the property of the United States Navy.
On June 4, 1920, Congress at last declared that the Secretary of the Navy was to hold the power to “conserve, develop, use and operate,” at its discretion, a tract of approximately 70,000 acres in California. The Wyoming fields fell under the same dictate, and although Teapot was the smaller reserve in terms of acreage, it contained a great deal more oil than its Californian counterparts.
Although never directly implicated in the row over Teapot Dome and its sister fields, the administration of Republican Warren G. Harding, elected in November of 1921, set the scandal in motion by transferring control of the Navy’s oil fields to the Department of Interior, at the Secretary of the Interior’s incessant urging. Albert Fall, the Secretary of the Interior at the time and a Harding appointee, was one of several poker-playing cronies in the president’s cabinet. Once his department gained control over the Navy’s oil fields, Fall subsequently took it upon himself to offer secret leases and contracts to independent oil companies.
Mix hundreds of millions of dollars in petroleum reserves; rapacious oil barons and crooked politicians; under-the-table payoffs; murder, suicide, and blackmail; White House cronyism; and the excesses of the Jazz Age. The result: the granddaddy of all American political scandals, Teapot Dome.
In The Teapot Dome Scandal, acclaimed author Laton McCartney tells the amazing, complex, and at times ribald story of how Big Oil handpicked Warren G. Harding, an obscure Ohio senator, to serve as our twenty-third president. Harding and his so-called “oil cabinet” made it possible for the oilmen to secure vast oil reserves that had been set aside for use by the U.S. Navy. In exchange, the oilmen paid off senior government officials, bribed newspaper publishers, and covered the GOP campaign debt.
When news of the scandal finally emerged, the consequences were disastrous for the nation and for the principles in the plot to bilk the taxpayers: Harding’s administration was hamstrung; Americans’ confidence in their government plummeted; Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall was indicted, convicted, and incarcerated; and others implicated in the affair suffered similarly dire fates. Stonewalling by members of Harding’s circle kept a lid on the story–witnesses developed “faulty” memories or fled the country, and important documents went missing–but contemporary records newly made available to McCartney reveal a shocking, revelatory picture of just how far-reaching the affair was, how high the stakes, and how powerful the conspirators.
In giving us a gimlet-eyed but endlessly entertaining portrait of the men and women who made a tempest of Teapot Dome, Laton McCartney again displays his gift for faithfully rendering history with the narrative touch of an accomplished novelist.
Learn about the Teapot Dome Scandal and its tie to Casper, Wyoming. Historian Phil Roberts talks about the history of the scandal that happened in the 1920s.
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Dark Side of Fortune contains all the elements of a Hollywood thriller. Filling in one of the most important gaps in the history of the American West, Margaret Leslie Davis's riveting biography follows Edward L. Doheny's fascinating story from his days as an itinerant prospector in the dangerous jungles of Mexico, where he built the $100 million oil empire that ushered in the new era of petroleum. But it was a tale that ended in tragedy, when - at the peak of his economic power - Doheny was embroiled in the notorious Teapot Dome scandal and charged with bribing the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
Navel Oil Reserves were three areas known to be rich with oil, which had been set aside by the Taft administration, in case the Navy ever needed fuel during a national emergency. They were Elk Hills, and Buena Vista, both in California, and Teapot Dome
Harding's political scandals. Then there were the political scandals of the Harding administration. Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall secretly leased federal oil reserves to big oil companies, triggering what became known as the Teapot Dome
The appearance of the book at a time when Congress was investigating the Teapot Dome scandal, a bribery scheme to lease federal oil reserves in Wyoming to private parties (with which Harding had no involvement), only served as an early death blow to
RT @OKKinderhookRG: US President during the Teapot Dome oil scandal http://t.co/2Y53KAx9Ex #USHistory #waxmuseum 08/16/15, @AspieTees
US President during the Teapot Dome oil scandal http://t.co/2Y53KAx9Ex #USHistory #waxmuseum 08/16/15, @OKKinderhookRG
RT @ProdBrokers: Oil & Gas History - The Teapot Dome Scandal http://t.co/axprTFViel #oilfield #history #oilandgas #oil #crude http://t.co/s… 08/13/15, @MartinR_Eng
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Mix hundreds of millions of dollars in petroleum reserves; rapacious oil barons and crooked politicians; under-the-table payoffs; murder, suicide, and blackmail; White House cronyism; and the excesses of the Jazz Age. The result: the granddaddy of all American political scandals, Teapot Dome. In The Teapot Dome Scandal, acclaimed author Laton McCartney tells the amazing, complex, and at times ribald story of how Big Oil handpicked Warren G. Harding, an obscure Ohio senator, to serve as our twenty-third president. Harding and his so-called “oil cabinet” made it possible for the oilmen to secure vast oil reserves that had been set aside for use by the U.S. Navy. In exchange, the oilmen paid off senior government officials, bribed newspaper publishers, and covered the GOP campaign debt....
The appearance of the book at a time when Congress was investigating the Teapot Dome scandal, a bribery scheme to lease federal oil reserves in Wyoming to private parties (with which Harding had no involvement), only served as an early death blow to his ...
Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall secretly leased federal oil reserves to big oil companies, triggering what became known as the Teapot Dome scandal. Shortly thereafter, Harding received word that political friends were using their positions in ...
However, his administration endured failure as well, most notably the Teapot Dome Scandal. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall secretly sold the right to oil reserves in Teapot Dome, Wyoming, and two other locations in California to private oil companies ...
Teapot Dome around the time of the scandal, featuring Teapot Rock ... The Teapot Dome scandal was a bribery incident that took place in ... Teapot Dome: Oil and ...
Teapot Dome Scandal, also called Oil Reserves Scandal or Elk Hills Scandal, Teapot Dome Scandal: cartoon The Granger Collection, New York in American history, scandal ...
Graft and Oil: How Teapot Dome Became the Greatest Political ... named for nearby Teapot Rock, and the site of an oil ... As the Teapot Dome scandal ...