March 4

Warren Gamaliel Harding

On March 4,1921, Warren Gamaliel Harding was inaugurated as the twenty-ninth President of the United States. Upon his nomination the previous summer, he was referred to in the trade press as “Our Printer President,” the first presidential nominee to be so honored.

“Senator Harding is practical in every department of the newspaper game,” said George H. Van Fleet, Managing Editor of the Marion (Ohio) Star, which was owned by Harding. “He is an easy editorial writer, a strikingly good reporter; he knows the business of the mechanical department, is a cracker-jack publicity seller and a fine ad writer; and thoroughly at home in any place you may put him, either in the business, news, editorial or mechanical departments of a plant.”

To which The American Printer, in which this panegyric appeared, practically said “Amen,” stating editorially, “A man who does all these things cannot but be a great President.”

As a boy, Harding had learned to set type during a summer job. After deciding that the study of law was beyond his intellectual resources, he and a friend purchased for a few hundred dollars the Star, a weekly newspaper. At nineteen years of age the young editor was started upon a career which led to the White House. After marrying the daughter of the richest man in town, Harding made the Star a daily. Its editor became the most important person in Marion. While Harding enjoyed newspaper work more than anything else, he allowed his friends to promote him for the state Senate. Of this predilection to be easily swayed, his father had once said to him, “It’s a good thing you wasn’t born a girl, because you’d be in the family way all the time. You can’t say no.”

From the state Senate, Harding was elected Lieutenant Governor of Ohio and then United States Senator. Even with these responsibilities he “kept his hand in” on the paper. A friend had occasion to call upon him in Marion during his tenure in the Senate. He was amazed to find the Senator in the composing room, helping to make up the paper because the shop was short-handed. His fellow comps told the visitor that the Senator could “lift twice as much metal as the average stone man.”

While in Indiana on a speaking engagement, Harding went into a printing office and asked for a job as a linotype operator. After the Senator had set a galley of type, the foreman offered to recommend him to the proprietor, whereupon Harding presented him with a calling card listing himself as a United States Senator from Ohio.

After Harding’s nomination to the presidency, the printing organizations were quick to “honor” him. The Richmond (Va.) Club of Printing House Craftsmen inducted him as an honorary member. On January 10, 1921, he became an honorary member of Marion Typographical Union No. 675. In his acceptance speech upon the latter occasion, Harding told the members that labor must weed out the slackers in its ranks if the present scale of wages was to be maintained. He also mentioned that during the campaign it had been erroneously reported that he was a member of the printer’s union. “And I never denied it,” he said.

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