Ohio History Journal

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The Political Career of

Harry M. Daugherty, 1889-1919




Historians have written about Harry Micajah Daugherty only within the context

of the Warren G. Harding era. His association with the 1920 campaign and the

Harding presidency has received extensive coverage. Works on the 1920's have

amply covered his involvement in the administration scandals. Daugherty's pre-

1912 career, however, has been virtually ignored; only a scant outline of early

political adventures has come from the writings of Harding scholars.1 No criticism

is intended. The fact is, their focus is on Harding and he was not aligned with

Daugherty until 1912. By that time, Daugherty's political career had already under-

gone thirty years of ups and downs. Scandal, overambition, and some bad luck

had incurred him enough opposition within the party to prevent his ever gaining

election for any important elective office. He managed to hang on as a factional

leader-one who had as many enemies as friends. This article seeks to explore

Daugherty's political setbacks and how he overcame them to become Harding's

presidential campaign manager in 1919.

In 1889 Daugherty won his first state office. Rural Fayette County, some thirty

miles southwest of Columbus, elected the twenty-nine year old lawyer from Wash-

ington Court House to the Ohio House of Representatives. The Cyclone and Fay-

ette Republican had assured the local farmers and businessman "that their interests

will be well subserved . . ." because "there is no more levelheaded or industrious

gentleman in Fayette county than Mr. Daugherty."2 The thin and mustachioed

legislator intended to repay such accolades. He sponsored several bills that were

beneficial to his constituency; he also became an excellent organizer and speaker

and an expert on parliamentary law. On several occasions he ably occupied the

speaker's chair. For that reason he was considered a possible choice as speaker

of the house in the event the Republicans regained a legislative majority in the

fall election of 1891. The Republican state convention of 1890 further enhanced

Daugherty's reputation as a coming political figure. Not only was he named chair-




1. See Andrew Sinclair, The Available Man: The Life Behind the Masks of Warren Gamaliel Harding

(New York, 1965), 37-38; Francis Russell, The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding in His

Times (New York, 1968), 108-112; Robert K. Murray, The Harding Era: Warren G. Harding and His

Administration (Minneapolis, 1969), 18-19; and Mark Sullivan, The Twenties (Our Times, 1900-1925, VI,

New York, 1935), 19-22.

2. Cyclone and Fayette Republican (Washington Court House), August 7, 1889.

Mr. Giglio is assistant professor of history at Southwest Missouri State College, Springfield.