Ohio History Journal

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Historiography and




re: The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding in his Times,

by Francis Russell (New York: McGraw-Hill Company, 1968; xvi??691p.;

index, $12.50).

The image of Warren G. Harding has been derived largely from pre-

1940 books by Samuel Hopkins Adams, Frederick Lewis Allen, Mark Sul-

livan, and William Allen White. To these life-and-times accounts must be

added the memoirs of Nan Britton, Harry Daugherty, and Gaston B.

Means. The picture presented was that of a lazy youth, a small town news-

paper editor dominated by his wife, a "bloviating," do-nothing Ohio poli-

tician, a roll call-missing Senator introducing vote bait bills on the occa-

sions he showed up, and an insecure and incompetent President. Sex, pub-

lic scandals, and whispered claims of Negro blood dominated the story.

Available since 1964, the Harding Papers as well as those of close friends

Charles E. Hard, Malcolm Jennings, and Frank E. Scobey offer researchers

the challenge to discover whether there is more to the Harding story than

ineptness, low politics, and moral degradation. Moreover, alert scholars

should be prepared to look for errors in the Harding Profile as formerly

presented since none of the four biographers mentioned was an historian

but rather a popular writer who was looking for wide readership and was

bent upon placing "W. G." in the prevailing "Ford, Flapper, and Fanatics"

and isolationist views of the 1920's. Also, since the works of Britton and

Daugherty have been thoroughly discredited and Means has admitted to

deliberate falsehood, a critical approach to these writings is definitely in-

dicated. A call for a new historiography is seen in the epochal monograph

by Henry F. May, "Shifting Perspectives on the 1920's," and the equally

significant, "The Legend of Isolationism in the 1920's," by William Apple-

man Williams, both of which encourage students to take a fresh look at

the decade and at the Presidents of that era as well.

It is regrettable to state that neither of the two biographers who have

published books since the release of the Harding Papers have added any

basic new insights to the early accounts. Andrew Sinclair in The Available

Man offers an attractive literary style but little else as he repeats the familiar

arguments for Harding's "availability" and pursues the hoary theme of a

rural man lost in the big urban world. Indeed, in his preface, Sinclair has

the integrity to explain away his inadequate research by telling his readers

to await more definitive histories.

Francis Russell tells a full story in 691 pages, covering the period from

Harding's ancestry to the centennial celebration of 1965. He adds new de-