"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Warren G. Harding

This 1923 portrait of Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865-1923) by Margaret Lindsay Williams hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
The first two decades of the twentieth century had been marked by American involvement in a world war and a host of progressive reforms in the country's economic and social institutions. By 1920, voters wanted a rest from all this change and ferment and were ready for a brand of White House leadership that did not threaten the status quo. In Warren G. Harding, that year's Republican presidential candidate, they found what they wanted. A convivial onetime newspaper editor, Harding made “normalcy” the keynote of his campaign. Although the meaning of the newly coined term was uncertain, it at least promised no unsettling changes. 
Harding's administration was marked by scandals. A trusting individual, he appointed cronies to his administration who proved all too ready to use their offices for private gain. Harding, however, escaped having to face the corrupt behavior of his appointees. Just as stories of their wrongdoing were coming to light, he collapsed and died. -- National Portrait Gallery (2015)
 Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865-1923)
by Margaret Lindsay Williams (d. 1960)

In 2019 the label on this portrait reads:
Warren G. Harding 1865-1923

Twenty-ninth president, 1920-1923

On November 2, 1920, less than three months after the nineteenth amendment had been signed into law, men and women elected Warren Harding to serve as their president. The former governor and senator from Ohio, who entered the White House following an era of upheaval, promised to restore “normalcy” after a period marked by sweeping social reforms and World War I.

Under Harding's leadership, the U.S. dampened a naval arms race with Japan and Great Britain, but in doing so, it agreed to provisions that in effect ceded naval control of the western Pacific to the Japanese, and that set the stage for future conflicts. Harding, who was an inept judge of character, is often criticized for having trusted corrupt cronies with positions of power. Scandals plagued his administration, but because he died in office just as the accounts of wrongdoing were surfacing, they remain opaque.
 Warren Gamaliel Harding
President of the United States of America
1920 - 1923

This photo by Herbert E. French taken some time  between 1921 and 1923 shows Margaret Lindsay Williams and her painting of Warren Harding.

Harding's image appeared on a 2¢ postage stamp designed by Clair Aubrey Houston in the month following his death.

Wikipedia tells the story of Houston's rush to issue the stamp.

Houston is ... noted for designing the Warren G. Harding memorial issue of 1923, which he designed in one day using a modified version of the Fourth Bureau Issue frame and a copperplate etching of the late Harding. The prompt and speedy production of the Harding memorial issue was the result of overwhelming public pressure and the stamp was issued only a month after the late President Harding's passing, a record for U.S. postal history that has never since been broken. -- Wikipedia

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