Warren Harding: His Last Trip

Harding's final illness occured during an extended trip to the West in summer 1923 SEE BELOW, but the illness had started earlier: Harding told his physician [correctly] that he would not return alive from the trip 1.

After playing six holes of golf in Vancouver, Canada, Harding became so tired that, to quell any suspicions, he moved to the 17th hole, then finished the 18th. He later called for White House homeopath Sawyer, complaining of nausea and pain in the upper abdomen. Sawyer found the President had a pulse of 120 beats per minute and was breathing 40 times per minute. (Both of these readings are abnormally high.) "Intensive cardiac therapy including digitalis was started." 2

Harding died suddenly and unexpectedly in his bed in a San Francisco hotel room several days later, on August 2, 1923. Mrs. Harding refused permission for an autopsy. 2 3a Comment: It is often supposed that Harding died of an acute myocardial infarction, that is, a " heart attack" or "coronary occlusion." However, this should not be supposed merely because he died suddenly. Harding clearly had heart failure (recall the valet's statement), and persons with heart failure are prone to sudden death as well.

His physician diagnosed Harding's fatal myocardial infarct as crab meat poisoning 4a. Lyman Wilbur, who was a cardiologist and president of Stanford, forecast his death 5 MORE, as did renowned New York cardiologist Emmanuel Libman 6a. It was also reported initially that Harding died of a blood clot in the brain, complicated by pneumonia 3a.


This useful summary of Harding's pre-terminal west-coast tour (1923) was published shortly after his death 7.


July 16.-The President, in Alaska, visits the new Government Agricultural College and School of Mines and the Experiment Station of the Department of Agriculture at Fairbanks, before leaving for Seward.

July 22.-After a strenuous three-weeks' tour of Alaska, Mr. Harding departs from Sitka with a fine send-off from officials and citizens; Mrs. Harding is recovering from her exhaustion.

July 26.-Mr. Harding stops at Vancouver, B.C., setting a precedent as the first President of the United States to visit Canadian territory while in office; he speaks at Stanley Park to an extremely cordial audience.

July 27.-Seattle greets Mr. Harding with enthusiasm upon his return from Alaska; he speaks encouragingly of Alaska's future statehood, and development along sound economic and political lines.

July 28.-President Harding is stricken with ptomaine poisoning at Grant's Pass, Oregon, on his way by train to Yosemite Park; the itinerary is changed, and he goes direct to San Francisco.

July 29.-Mr. Harding, arriving at San Francisco, though apparently recovered from the ptomaine poisoning, takes to his bed to regain his strength.

July 30-The President contracts bronchopneumonia in the right lung, and five prominent physicians hold consultations.

July 31.-The address that President Harding was scheduled to make in San Francisco on the World Court is published; he favors early entrance, regardless of technical details, saying, "I am more interested in adherence to such a tribunal in the best form attainable than I am concerned about the triumph of presidential insistence."

August 1.-President Harding shows improvement, with temperature reaching normal, pulse dropping from 125 to 116 and respiration from 44 to 36.

August 2.-At 7:30 P.M., in San Francisco, at the Palace Hotel, President Harding suddenly dies of a brain evolvement, probably an apoplexy, while conversing with Mrs. Harding and Dr. Sawyer.

August 3.-The body of President Harding is placed on a funeral train bound for the Capital, and many thousands of people pay homage as the coffin is transferred; Mrs. Harding bears up well and maintains her magnificent poise.

August 4.-Friday, August 10, is proclaimed a day of mourning and prayer for the late President Harding, who will be interred at Marion, Ohio; great crowds continue to witness the passage of the Harding funeral train across the continent.

August 7.-After four days, the body of President Harding reaches Washington and is placed in the East Room of the White House.

August 8.-The body of the President is taken to the rotunda of the Capitol to lie in state, where it remains for eight hours and is then started on its last journey to Marion, Ohio.
    Ex-President Wilson takes part in the public funeral procession down Pennsylvania Avenue, as does ex-President Taft; General Pershing acts as Grand Marshal, with Senator Lodge as Marshal of the civilian sections.

August 10.-President Harding's body is laid at rest in the brown stone vault in Marion Cemetery, near the graves of his old friends and neighbors and by the side of his deceased relatives.

Cited Sources
  1. Anonymous. The Progress of the World. The American Review of Reviews. 1923; 68: 227.   Available on the web at: https://books.google.com/books?id=MSwIAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
  2. Deppisch, LM. Homeopathic medicine and presidential health: homeopathic influences upon two Ohio presidents. Pharos. Fall 1997;60:5-10. Pubmed: 9385827.

    Comment: Discusses the relationships of Garfield and Harding with homeopathy. Also reprints a Currier & Ives drawing of "The Death of General James A. Garfield, Twentieth President of the United States."

  3. Parks, Lillian Rogers. My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House. New York: Fleet Publishing, 1961.
    a  p.171

    Comment: This book stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for 26 weeks, prompting Jacqueline Kennedy to require all staff at the White House to sign a pledge agreeing not to write about their experiences (NY Times, page B8, Nov. 12, 1997). Parks's mother, a maid at the White House from 1909-1939, had actually been encouraged by Eleanor Roosevelt to write and publish a memoir (p260).

  4. MacMahon, Edward B. and Curry, Leonard. Medical Cover-Ups in the White House. Washington, DC: Farragut, 1987.
    a  p.5
  5. Wilbur, Ray Lyman; with Robinson, Edgar Eugene and Edwards, Paul Carroll (eds.). The Memoirs of Ray Lyman Wilbur 1875-1949. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1960.
  6. Bumgarner, John R. The Health of the Presidents: The 41 United States Presidents Through 1993 from a Physician's Point of View. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Company, 1994.
    a  pp.190, 191

    Comment: Devotes one chapter to each President, through Clinton. Written for the layperson, well-referenced, with areas of speculation clearly identified, Dr. Zebra depends heavily on this book. Dr. Bumgarner survived the Bataan Death March and has written an unforgettable book casting a physician's eye on that experience.

  7. Anonymous. Record of Current Events. The American Review of Reviews. 1923; 68: 247.   Available on the web at: https://books.google.com/books?id=MSwIAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

George Washington · John Adams · Thomas Jefferson · James Madison · James Monroe · John Q. Adams · Andrew Jackson · Martin van Buren · William Harrison · John Tyler · James Polk · Zachary Taylor · Millard Fillmore · Franklin Pierce · James Buchanan · Abraham Lincoln · Andrew Johnson · Ulysses Grant · Rutherford Hayes · James Garfield · Chester Arthur · Grover Cleveland · Benjamin Harrison · Grover Cleveland · William McKinley · Theodore Roosevelt · William Taft · Woodrow Wilson · Warren Harding · Calvin Coolidge · Herbert Hoover · Franklin Roosevelt · Harry Truman · Dwight Eisenhower · John Kennedy · Lyndon Johnson · Richard Nixon · Gerald Ford · James Carter · Ronald Reagan · George Bush · William Clinton · George W. Bush · Barack Obama · Donald Trump · Joseph Biden