Cabinet Member Resigns Following Political Scandal: January 2, 1923

Halifax Explosion: December 6, 1917

Teapot Dome scandal
On January 2, 1923, Albert Fall, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, announced his resignation from the Cabinet amidst news of his involvement in the Teapot Dome scandal, often considered the biggest American political scandal until Watergate.

Prior to World War I, the government had set aside two oil reserves in California and one in Wyoming to provide oil for the Navy in case there was ever a shortage. The one in Wyoming was referred to as Teapot Dome because of its proximity to a formation called Teapot Rock.

After President Warren G. Harding was elected in 1920, he appointed Albert Fall, a friend from Harding’s days in Congress, as Secretary of the Interior. While in this role, Fall oversaw the transfer of the Navy oil reserves in California and Wyoming from the oversight of the Secretary of the Navy to his own purview in May 1921.

Wyoming Oil Fields and Teapot Dome

In late 1921 and 1922, after accepting bribes, Fall secretly leased the federal oil reserves for development and drilling to two oil men, Edward Doheny and Harry Sinclair, without accepting competitive bids, shortchanging the government in favor of making millions for the oil men.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story of the lease on April 14, 1922, and almost immediately, the Senate began looking into the matter, quickly creating a committee, headed by Senator Thomas Walsh, to investigate. Hearings began in October the following year (1923), in which the Congressional committee called witnesses to testify, including Fall (who had by then resigned from the cabinet).

Sinclair jailed for contempt of Congress
In early 1924, two special prosecutors were appointed to handle the investigation, and later that year they filed several lawsuits that aimed to cancel the leases on the oil fields and convict Fall, Doheny, and Sinclair for their wrongdoing. Following various court battles, the leases were eventually overturned and Doheny and Sinclair had to pay hefty fines (Sinclair was also sentenced to six months in jail for contempt of Congress). Fall was eventually (in 1929) found guilty of accepting a bribe, fined, and sentenced to a year in prison—the first former Cabinet member to serve jail time for misconduct while in office.

The extent of President Harding’s possible involvement in the scandal remains unknown, as he died unexpectedly in August 1923 while still in office.

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63 thoughts on “Cabinet Member Resigns Following Political Scandal: January 2, 1923

      1. He was the most maligned president EVER! His accomplishments are many but, unfortunately, hidden by the bias media and journalists who constantly berate him and sensationalize the scandals, especially Teapot Dome. There are NO facts to connect him to these scandals. Perhaps poor judgment on some appointments and the fact that he was a man who completely believed in and supported his friends, somewhat naively, I am afraid! Trust and then betrayal sums up his presidency.

    1. Now you must LEARN from that lesson … and fight to avoid it (however – I think it’s to late!)

  1. The judge in this case was Frederick Lincoln Siddons, who had been brought up to believe he was descended from the actress Sarah Siddons. He wasn’t. My wife is distantly related to him and together we have researched his life. These newspaper articles will be useful additions to our portfolio!

  2. The Teapot Dome is part of the Salt Creek oil fields north of Casper, Wyoming, near Midland. Drove through there last year. The teapot formation has been lost to weather erosion, but there is a roadside historical plaque.
    I attended “University” High School in West Los Angeles, built in 1926. Above the Admin Bldg entrance, engraved in granite, was the name “Warren G. Harding High School.” Oops.

    1. I remember the teapot when it still looked like a teapot. As far as “Midland”, a small correction: my mom was born in a worker’s shack in the Salt Creek Oil Field, at Midwest, not Midland. Her toddler years were spent in Kaycee, north of Midwest before eventiually moving to Casper.

    2. Think there is still a Harding High in Marion, Ohio. In lieu of some of our more recent chief executives, Warren G Harding High Schools are justified! If the media and journalists can get over the Tea Pot Dome and VA scandals (pales to what that is today,) we can see that President Harding did a pretty good job in his limited time in the WH. Check out his record IF you can get by all the negative media hype;. Coolidge is considered a successful president; he followed Harding’s blueprints almost to the letter! Let the man from Marion rest in peace and give him his just dues! As for his dalliances, that is a joke compared to Cleveland, FDR, IKE, and our two recent demigods, JFK and Bill Clinton!

      1. I believe or at least thought, that Ike’s “dalliances” were limited to his driver during his wartime service overseas. Not that it excuses him, but even men who were under the pressure he was, need someone they can turn to, who will empathize and listen. It is not surprising that it turned into more than that. JFK and Clinton are altogether different stories, with multiple and indiscriminate encounters while in office and while they had their wives close at hand.

        1. And don’t forget FDR died with his mistress present in Warm Springs, GA.
          It was never proved that Cleveland had a child by an outside source since his lady friend was quite promiscuous,( a bed hopper in today’s parlance,) BUT, give the man credit, he admitted his affair, and supported the child; there was a good chance it was not his with all the other men involved. However, it became a campaign issue; “Ma! Ma! Where’s my pa? Gone to the White House, HA! Ha! Ha!” Cleveland’s campaign manager cried: “What shall we tell the people?” Cleveland replied, “The Truth.” And, he still one! This calls to mind an opposite “ditty” . . . . . “I did not have sex with that girl.”

      2. Yes. There IS a high school in Marion Ohio called Harding. Their sports teams are called THE PRESIDENTS and the band is called THE MARCHING PRESIDENTS. President Hardings historical MONUMENT/MEMORIAL is also located in Marion.

        1. that is all true,his home & the “portch”he campaigned from is still preserved,but the house he was born in was not saved. On a visit to Marion we found that it was raised & replaced by a gas station. Kind of ironic…

          1. Only thing more ironic , is the birth site were now a Sinclare station( but have’t seen a Sinclare gas station in decades)

  3. Great article . This shows that some of our governmental representatives are just as guilty of crimes as those who do not represent the public.

  4. It’s WORSE today than it was at that time … corporations are BIGGER and made up of MANY large corporations under one BIG umbrella … and they now are LEGALLY giving ‘money in the bag’ to ‘elected’ representatives of the PEOPLE… and are hiding MILLIONS overseas to fund WARS against the American peoples and laws that were structured to protect us… Of course these ‘killing’s’ are occurring slowly … using laws to work the people without protection and moving jobs around the world to the cheapest, filthiest environments available….. good luck to our children and grandchildren

  5. Today the the whole government as fallen to corruption from the top all the way down to little town America, corruption started out as a seed and now has grown into the mighty oak tree full of termites and we the people must come together and become the strong wind that brings it crashing down………choose your candidate wisely the one who “will not” fertilize this tree………

      1. Maybe a guy like Donald Trump could possibly be a good choice because he can’t be bought. I mean who’s got enough money or goods to bribe Donald Trump?

        1. You must always use common sense when voting. Trump, although wealthy, tends to insult first, and ask questions later. While that may satisfy some situations, we have to look at the big picture as to whether he would be good for this country on an international platform.

      1. Agreed. Give him a chance. Boot him out in four years if it does not work. Gads, we have had eight years of “not working.” At least give Trump a try. We have enough checks to prevent a catastrophe if we will just use them.

  6. Albert Fall was from Santa Fe, NM originally and part of a very notorious ring of lawyers noted for their efforts to steal from the public domain.

    1. President Harding should have known this before he appointed him Sect. of the Interior. Do not know what the vetting process was then, but Harding did make some good appointments, Hoover, Mellon, Hughes to name a few. And, what turned out to be a good choice for VP, Coolidge.

  7. Harry Sinclair under his agreement with the Sec. of the Interior Albert Fall, built oil storage tanks in the Hawaiian Islands which were filled by fifty percent of the oil he took out of Tea Pot Dome and transported to the Islands on his ships. Had this not happened the navy would have taken years to fuel its fleet in the Pacific and set back the victory of WWII significantly. Not a bad deal for the US at all! Thanks Albert Fall.

    1. A lesser know but significant aside. How quickly we rush to judgment! The process may have been unlawful but the results were favorable.
      Now, historians, journalists, writers, et al, let’s get off of President Harding’s back!

    2. YES! AND, according to the General Leasing Act of 1920, it permitted the private leasing of reserve land if in the national interest. Of course, this does not include kickbacks for these leases which Fall was found guilty of. He paid his fine and went to prison in July, 1931.

  8. So, Sinclair continued with Sinclair Oil after his stint in jail and it never affected the billions in oil money he and his company made.



    our government is one corrupt bunch of thugs and still are just richer.

  9. The Supreme Court ruled when it comes to making political contributions Corps can make as much as they can raise. How can that be moral let alone legal ? Unbridled Corps are unfair in business but OK for politics? The ruling was innately unfair to individuals, and has led to corruption/manipulation/gridlock of the highest order. I thought the Supreme Court was in place to balance the excesses that occur when the other two parts of government get out of balance/control in respect to the good of the land. Oh well, another mess the future generations must solve or knuckle under.

  10. So, we all have feet of clay. What else is new. That aside, let’s now elect the one person who has the best resume and can get the job done. Who else, Hillary Clinton. I was for her the last time and I haven’t changed my mind about her for this time. She is extremely qualified having been first lady of a state as well as the nation, having served as a senator and most recently as Secretary of State making her the most qualified in foreign policy issues, knows the leaders of the world on a first name basis, and has thick enough skin to overcome the verbal bashing she’ll most assuredly have to take from her opponents.

    1. Hillary engineered the removal of United States uranium from the US to Russia while she was Sec. of State. She received compensation through her Clinton Foundation. Is this any different from what Sec. of the Interior Fall did in the Teapot Dome Scandal?

      1. The “Clinton Foundation.” Only 15% of their contributions go towards charity; the other 85%?????? Pray tell, what did Hillary really accomplish as Sect. of State? Ever heard of Benghazi? She moved to NY state so she could fill that state’s senate seat. What did she accomplish in the senate? Hmm, wonder if all those who constantly harp on the GOP as supporting big business and being in their pockets know that Hillary has received more Wall Street money than any other presidential candidate, ever!!!!

      2. Great comparison! Don’t see much difference today except Hillary is regarded as a queen to many. AND, what is going to become of these emails being investigated by the FBI? Is this going down as one of the MAJOR cover ups of all time? Fall goes to jail and is fined in 1931. What a contrast!

        1. Bill gets a Presidential pension, Secret Service coverage for life, Hillary already gets a Congressional pension (which none of the voting public had a say in), and she’s had a medical issue, and you fools still want to put her back in the WH? The Clintons disrespected the WH staff, the SS who are their sworn bodyguards, and did not earn the respect of the Marines. Are they what you want in the highest office?

          1. Apparently the polls say “yes.” This, of course, is unfortunate. The voters already made a mistake twice in ’08 & ’12. Guess they are on a streak!

    2. Oh dear God! Where does one begin…..

      The gal’s A BILLIONAIRE!!!!

      What’s she done?

      First Lady of Arkansas
      First Lady of the US
      Secretary of State

      And YOU are going to VOTE for this lying piece of human trash?

      Everything she touches has “corruption” all over it.

      Deals with the Chinese back in the 90s. Are you aware Bill’s biggest contributor back then was Bernie Schwartz, CEO of Loral Corp? They make key components in ballistic missiles……you know the kind that are tipped with nuclear warheads? Well, she and Bill arranged for the sale of that technology to the Chicoms……against the wishes of the US Military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Agency, US State Department, and the LIST GOES ON!

      Now North Korea has that technology, thanks to your BILLIONAIRE candidate and her husband.

      So Barbara, why do you think those THOUSANDS OF EMAILS DISAPPEARED from her computer?

      Barbara, I am NOT A REPUBLICAN. I am an American. First. Foremost.

      You and your blind ilk of Republicrats are ruining this nation. You follow crook after crook after crook…..all leading this nation into Hell. We’re bankrupt. We have terrorists pouring across our borders. We have banks and corporations stealing from both the government and the public…..and we are ALL paying for it!!!

      Yet, educated people such as yourself continue to BURY YOUR COLLECTIVE HEADS IN THE SAND as if the “bad guy” exists ONLY in the other party.

      Barbara, YOU and your ilk ARE KILLING THIS NATION.!!!!

      STOP IT!!!!

      Back away from whatever political Crack pipe you’ve been smoking from and look at the Big Picture. LOOK AT IT!!! Don’t listen to the TV, or to the candidates.

      Ask yourself, “Has ANYTHING actually changed for the better?”

      Barbara, the world is in DEEP PERIL! VERY DEEP PERIL.

      I’m 60, and I’m living in an era I never expected to see. NEVER!

      None of these candidates are fit to lead anyone, anywhere…….and the LEAST OF THIS LIST IS HILLARY CLINTON!

  11. I like that the issue was dealt with in a timely manner, not dragging on years and years like today, so that by the time the case gets anywhere, those involved have run for and/or served the terms in office.

    1. Thats what i was thinking. Does that mean Congress was less corrupt in those days? Or maybe the oil industry had less lobbyists. When was lobbying officially allowed? I believe it wasn’t that long ago.

    1. It was some eight months later that President Harding died, many believing part of the cause was his recent awareness of the scandals that were overtaking his administration. He had already dealt with the VA scandal. Alternating between rage and despondency, the president was so shocked that he called the VA Director Charles Forbes to the Oval Office and, it has been reported, revealed anger and tumult, demanding that he resign. and leave the country. Forbes was found guilty of illegally selling VA equipment, bribery and greed, and was fined, and sent to Leavenworth in 1926. Technically, the president tried to cove up this incident by NOT reporting it, but it leaked because matters got worse. Charles Cramer, a close friend to Forbes and a VA general counsel killed himself. So, the president was fully aware of the VA scandal and probably had some inkling of Tea Pot Dome and maybe even hints of more bribery and malfeasance in his Attorney General’s department while on his Alaskan trip in August of 1923. It became apparent these problems were weighing heavily on the president. Sect. of Commerce Herbert Hoover, accompanying the presidential party, attested to this. Had Harding lived, it would have been interesting to learn how he would have addressed these two latest scandals. The scandals were finally litigated under President Coolidge.

  12. I was born in 1929 and remember a lot of what has been said. Our good ole USA has gone from bad to worse, and our grand kids have a real mess to clean up sorry to say. I have enjoyed reading about our past, the good and the bad. Keep up the good work.

  13. The BLM guy named Steve let NM leases then left for his plum job at the NM Oil and Gas Association. Go figure.

  14. I wish to address R.J. Mattes’ allegation that nothing has been accomplished in the current 8-year administration.
    If you listen to tonight’s State of the Union, 1/12/15, you will learn of many of the achievements by the Obama Administration, probably more in volume and quality than under any President other than Barack Obama in our history. History will see him as THE GREATEST PRESIDENT!, even with almost ZERO help from Congress against which he lawfully did much via Executive authority. I hope this apprises you, Mr./Ms. Mattes, of the truth against which you have rallied so naively and ardently.

    1. IF I said “nothing has been accomplished”. . . . in the Obama administration, then you are right and I am wrong. I did not mean to imply that, but perhaps I did? I checked; I cannot find that quote. Maybe it was a tacit remark I made?

      1. I do not wish to belabor this issue and with all due respect to Dr. Belgray, and I hope I do not sound condescending, President Obama had full control of congress his first two years in office and had ample time to achieve some goals; what were they?
        We live in a democracy. The citizens choose their political leaders. I am just as disgusted and piqued as the next person with the lethargy and torpor displayed by our federal government! But the people elected them and that’s the way the system works, (until next time.) If the chief executive cannot get congress to do what he wishes, then he should not circumvent this legislative body like a petulant child who, because he cannot get his way, takes his toys and goes home. That is not how the system works, at least, it was not the last time I consulted the U.S. constitution.

  15. Wow, I wished our Congress worked like this today. Now, they would all have their hands out wanting their share

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