The 1920's challenge the historian and the general reader with the controversial and misunderstood figure of Warren G. Harding, president from 1921 until his death in 1923. Professor Murray re-examines and re-evaluates Harding's nomination, election, and presidency in the light of newly available materials, especially the Harding Papers. He demonstrates that Harding was not a bumbling nonentity as heretofore pictured and that his administration was surprisingly successful in solving its immediate problems. Inheriting domestic and international chaos, the administration engineered an efficient transition from the postwar turmoil of the late Wilson years to a time of prosperity under Collidge. Significantly also, it established the basic outlines of Republican party policy for the rest of the decade. As Professor Murray makes clear, Harding was more than a bystander in these accomplishments; he was a catalytic influence, succeeding where a different personality might have failed. Harding's failure, the author concludes, was not in the nature of his administration but in himself and his friends. His own flaws, coupled with the corrupt activity of such associates as Forbes, Miller, and Fall, tipped the scales in the public's eyes against his administration's achievements. In the process, many persistent myths were created. Now, in this book, the myths are analyzed and, wherever necessary, dispelled.
Robert K. Murray is Professor Emeritus and former chairman of the department of history at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of another University of Minnesota Press book, Red Scare: A Study in National Hysteria, 1919-1920.