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The Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s shocked Americans by revealing an unprecedented level of greed and corruption within the federal government. The scandal involved ornery oil tycoons, poker-playing politicians, illegal liquor sales, a murder-suicide, a womanizing president and a bagful of bribery cash delivered on the sly. In the end, the scandal would empower the Senate to conduct rigorous investigations into government corruption. It also marked the first time a U.S. cabinet official served jail time for a felony committed while in office.
Before the Watergate Scandal, the Teapot Dome Scandal was regarded as the most sensational example of high-level corruption in the history of U.S. politics.
Albert Fall, a former Secretary of the Interior, was charged with accepting bribes from oil companies in exchange for exclusive rights to drill for oil on federal land. The sites included land near a teapot-shaped outcrop in Wyoming known as Teapot Dome, and two other government-owned sites in California named Elk Hills and Buena Vista Hills.
Teapot Dome: For Emergency Use Only
The oil reserves at Teapot Dome and in California had been set aside at the request of the U.S. Navy, which had been converting coal-fueled ships into oil-powered vessels since 1909.
As more ships were converted to run on oil, Navy officials wanted to ensure there would be enough oil at hand in the event of a war or other emergency. Under President William Howard Taft, Congress began to set aside federal lands believed to contain oil as emergency reserves.
In 1920, Warren G. Harding, a senator and Ohio newspaper publisher, won a long-shot bid for the White House with the financial backing of oilmen who were promised oil-friendly cabinet picks in return. As Laton McCartney wrote in his book The Teapot Dome Scandal, How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country, the back-slapping Harding was a consummate “go along to get along man.”
Despite making backroom deals with oil interests, Harding – a notorious womanizer who fathered a child with at least one of his mistresses – campaigned on a platform of balancing the interests of conservation and development. There was much debate at the time between the merits of conserving natural resources and permitting industry to tap into the nation’s wealth.
But once Harding appointed Senator Albert Fall from New Mexico as Secretary of the Interior in 1921, it was clear Harding would tip the scales in favor of development.
Fall was a politically powerful senator, rancher, lawyer and miner who, like Harding, enjoyed a game of poker with a glass of whiskey – Prohibition notwithstanding. Fall soon convinced Harding to transfer oversight of the petroleum reserves from the Navy to his Interior Department.
After the transfer of the oil-rich land holdings was complete, Fall started secret negotiations with two of his wealthy friends in the oil industry.
In 1922 – with no competitive bidding or any public announcement – Fall leased exclusive drilling rights to the entire Teapot Dome site to the Mammoth Oil Company, owned by longtime friend Harry Sinclair. Fall also leased the two reserves in California to the Pan-American Petroleum Company, owned by Edward Doheny, another old friend of Fall’s.
Oil Barons Hit a Gusher
Combined, the three sites were estimated to contain hundreds of millions of dollars worth of high-grade oil. In return, the oilmen were to fulfill only minor obligations to the federal government, such as constructing an oil storage facility at the naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and building a pipeline from Wyoming to Kansas City.
By April 1922, rumors of a shady deal began swirling after local Wyoming oilmen noticed trucks with the Sinclair logo hauling oilfield equipment up to Teapot Dome. The Wall Street Journal broke the news about the deal in an April 14, 1922, article.
The very next day, Wyoming Democratic Senator John Kendrick introduced a resolution to open a Senate investigation into the dealings, and one of the most significant criminal probes in Senate history was set in motion.
Paying Off the Press
At the same time, Fall was contending with another oilman and Harding supporter, Col. James G. Darden, who claimed he had first dibs on the Teapot Dome site before Fall leased it to Sinclair.
In a desperate move, Fall convinced a reluctant President Harding to dispatch the U.S. Marines to halt Darden’s efforts to drill at the site.
But when the publishers of the Denver Post got wind of the confrontation, they publicized the incident and used threats of additional withering editorials about Teapot Dome to blackmail Sinclair into paying $1 million to them and to another oilman who also felt cheated by the Teapot Dome lease.
President Harding, wary of more bad press, may also have played a part in pressuring Sinclair to pay off the Denver Post publishers and the oilman.
The Ohio Gang
By January 1923 – less than two years after taking office – Fall stepped down as Interior Secretary to enjoy time on his newly purchased ranch in New Mexico, as well as take part in lucrative oil deals in Mexico and the Soviet Union for both Doheny and Sinclair. But the Senate investigations into Teapot Dome continued.
President Harding, at the time, was apparently feeling the weight of anxiety around Fall’s possible corruption. Other members of Harding’s cabinet, which had become known as the “Ohio Gang” for their Ohio roots and scandalous dealings, were facing numerous accusations of corruption, including influence peddling and selling permits for confiscated liquor from government warehouses.
At one point, Harding complained to newspaper editor William Allen White, “I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends, my god-damned friends, White, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor nights!”
‘A Great Scandal’
In June 1923, Harding set off on a cross-country tour that included a first presidential visit to the territory of Alaska. While on the four-day boat voyage to Alaska, an ill-at-ease Harding asked Commerce Secretary and future president Herbert Hoover, “If you knew of a great scandal in our administration, would you for the good of the country and the party expose it publicly or would you bury it?”
Hoover said he advised the president to expose it, but Harding declined, fearing political repercussions. Harding himself had personally approved Fall’s plan to lease the oil reserves (although he may not have paid much attention to what he approved).
Harding may also have benefitted from the dealings: Just before Harding departed on his cross-country trip, Harding accepted a suspiciously high offer to buy the Marion Star, Harding’s newspaper, in a deal that some believed was orchestrated by Sinclair.
The president and his wife Florence Harding also told friends about a year-long, all-expenses-paid cruise around the world they planned to take, along with some 50 of their friends, once Harding’s four-year term was over. That cruise had likely been promised by Sinclair and was to take place on Sinclair’s luxury yacht.
But Harding and his wife would never take advantage of their new windfall nor enjoy an elaborate, post-presidency cruise. Upon returning from the Alaskan cruise, Harding began suffering from cramps and shortness of breath. On August 2, 1923, Harding died at age 57 in San Francisco’s Palace Hotel.
The cause of death was listed as a stroke, but some doctors suggested a heart attack was the more likely cause.
A Black Bag of Cash
Under the new leadership of President Calvin Coolidge, two special prosecutors, one Democrat and one Republican, were appointed to take over the Senate investigation into Fall’s oil deals.
Soon the investigation would reveal that Fall had received a $100,000 interest-free “loan” from oilman Doheny to purchase land for his enormous New Mexico ranch. As Doheny admitted in a statement to the Senate, Doheny had arranged for his son, Ned Doheny, to deliver the cash – arranged in five $20,000 stacks in a black parcel bag – directly to Fall, accompanied by Ned’s friend, Hugh Plunkett.
In similarly suspicious dealings, investigations would show that Sinclair delivered a large herd of livestock to Fall’s ranch, and had his company transfer some $300,000 in Liberty bonds and cash to Fall’s son-in-law. While these were enormous sums in the 1920s, the amounts paled in comparison to the hundred of millions of dollars the oilmen would profit from the oil leases in Wyoming and California.
In his testimony to the Senate, Fall claimed that he had chosen to keep the lease agreements secret to protect the locations of valuable national resources, and to prevent oilmen from surreptitiously draining the federal sites via adjacent production operations.
Senate investigators, however, would have none of it. In the fall of 1929, Fall was convicted of accepting a bribe from Doheny and was fined $100,000 and sentenced to one year in prison.
Doheny was acquitted of offering the bribe, since both he and Fall had claimed the amount was simply a loan. But Doheny had little reason to celebrate.
Before the rulings came down, Doheny’s son, Ned, was shot and killed in February 1929 in the family’s luxurious new Beverly Hills mansion, Greystone.
An investigation concluded that the killer was his longtime friend Hugh Plunkett, who then killed himself. It’s believed Plunkett grew fearful that authorities would charge him and Ned Doheny for their role in delivering the black bag of cash to Fall.
Sinclair, meanwhile, refused to answer some of the Senate team’s questions, claiming that Congress had no right to probe his private affairs. That refusal was challenged and eventually reached the Supreme Court.
In the 1929 Sinclair vs. United States ruling, the court said that Congress did have the power to fully investigate cases where the country’s laws may have been violated. Sinclair would later serve six months in prison for contempt of Congress and jury tampering.
The fine against Fall was eventually waived because by the time he was fined, he had lost all his ill-gotten wealth and Doheny had foreclosed on Fall’s New Mexico ranch. Fall ended up serving nine months in jail before being released due to failing health. He died in 1944 after a long illness.
Teapot Dome Finally Sold – Legally
As for the oil reserves in Wyoming and California, the Supreme Court voided the suspicious oil leases in 1927 and production was halted at Teapot Dome and the California sites.
Under newly established protocols between the federal government and the oil industry, oil was eventually tapped at Elk Hills to support U.S. efforts during World War II. All naval oil reserves were later tapped to full production during the Energy Crisis of the 1970s.
In 1995, under President Bill Clinton, Congress authorized the sale of the Elk Hills site to the highest bidder in a broader effort to shift some federal roles to private industry. By 1998, Occidental Petroleum Company had taken over oil production at the site.
And in January 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy sold the infamous Teapot Dome reserve – this time, on the level – following a competitive bidding process. After producing 22 million barrels of oil and making $569 million for the U.S. government, Teapot Dome was sold to the Stranded Oil Resources Corporation, a unit of the Alleghany Corporation, for $45.2 million.
The Teapot Dome Scandal, How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country by Laton McCartney, published by Random House, 2008.
President Harding dies in San Francisco, Aug. 2, 1923, Politico.
The Naval Petroleum Reserves, U.S. Department of Energy.
Senate Investigates the “Teapot Dome” Scandal, U.S. Senate Stories.
The Teapot Dome Scandal, by Phil Roberts, WyoHistory.org.
The ‘Strange Death’ of Warren G. Harding, PBS Newshour.
Graft and Oil: How Teapot Dome Became the Greatest Political Scandal of Its Time, by Robert W. Cherny, History Now, The Journal of the Gilder Lehrman Institute.
Ohio Gang, Ohio History Connection.
Let’s Try That Again: Selling the Teapot Dome Oil Field, Energy.gov.
Sinclair Consolidated in Big Oil Deal with U.S. Wall Street Journal.
Bought Off by Big Oil. U.S. News and World Report.
DNA Is Said to Solve a Mystery of Warren Harding’s Love Life. The New York Times.
There have been presidential scandals before like Teapot Dome in the Harding administration.
The dome could be rebuilt by 2021 if work stays on schedule, according to workers at the site.
Eventually, the fire sale extended to his personal belongings—including a $20 enamel teapot.
From deep within, looking up at the tropical sky is like staring through the dome of some kind of earthen cathedral.
Nevertheless, should Iron Dome funding come up for a vote this week, it is expected to receive overwhelming support.
Without an Iron Dome defense system, air raid sirens or even bomb shelters, people resign themselves to their fate.
If it had not been for the high, dome-shaped roof, the air would have grown heavy and impure.
In front of him, dome upon dome of wooded mountain stood against the sky.
The buildings grew higher toward the center of the dome, but I stopped while they were still two stories.
The inside of Jorgensen's always surprised new visitors to Asaph Dome.
A trace of light had begun to soften the sky over the dome, but had not yet seeped down to ground level.
(1) (1)Robert La Follette explaining in the Senate why he was opposed to what Albert Fall had arranged with Harry F. Sinclair of the Mammoth Oil Corporation (13th May, 1922)
First. Against the policy of the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of the Navy in opening the naval reserves at this time for exploitation.
Second. Against the method of leasing public lands without competitive bidding, as exemplified in the recent contract entered into between Secretary Fall of the Interior and Secretary Denby of the Navy and the Standard Oil-Sinclair-Doheny interest.
Third. Against the policy of any department of the Government of the United States entering into a contract of any character whatsoever, whether competitive or not, which would tend to continue or perpetuate a monopolistic control of the oil industry of the United States or create a monopoly on the sale of fuel oil or refined oil to the Navy or any other department of the Government.
For the following reasons:
There exists no emergency or necessity which would warrant the opening of the naval reserves at this time for exploitation in order that the Navy might be supplied with the various grades of oil required by it, there being already above ground and in storage in the United States the greatest amount of oil that has been in storage in the history of all times.
The prices of fuel oil at the seaboard are lower than they have been in years, and there is an abundant supply.
The oil industry of the United States is just now convalescing from the greatest depression it has ever suffered, the daily production now being the largest in its history, and therefore, the turning over of Government lands to the large pipe-line interests for exploitation will have the direct result of depressing the price of crude oil without in any way relieving the people of the onerous and burdensome high prices of refined products.
(2) Thomas J. Walsh, The True History of Teapot Dome, Forum Magazine (July, 1924)
In the spring of 1922 rumors reached parties interested that a lease had been or was about to be made of Naval Reserve No. 3 in the state of Wyoming, - popularly known, from its local designation, as the Teapot Dome. This was one of three great areas known to contain petroleum in great quantity which had been set aside for the use of the Navy - Naval Reserves No. 1 and No. 2 in California by President Taft in 1912, and No. 3 by President Wilson in 1915. The initial steps toward the creation of these reserves - the land being public, that is, owned by the government - were
taken by President Roosevelt, who caused to be instituted a study to ascertain the existence and location of eligible areas, as a result of which President Taft in 1909 withdrew the tracts in question from disposition under the public land laws. These areas were thus set apart with a view to keeping in the ground a great reserve of oil available at some time in the future, more or less remote, when an adequate supply for the Navy could not, by reason of the failure or depletion of the world store, or the exigencies possibly of war, be procured or could be procured only at excessive cost in other words to ensure the Navy in any exigency the fuel necessary to its efficient operation.
From the time of the original withdrawal order, private interests had persistently endeavored to assert or secure some right to exploit these rich reserves, the effort giving rise to a struggle lasting throughout the Wilson administration. Some feeble attempt was made by parties having no claim to any of the territory to secure a lease of all or a portion of the reserves, but in the main the controversy was waged by claimants asserting rights either legal or equitable in portions of the reserves antedating the withdrawal orders, on the one hand, and the Navy Department on the other. In that struggle Secretary Lane was accused of being unduly friendly to the private claimants, Secretary Daniels being too rigidly insistent on keeping the areas intact. President Wilson apparently supported Daniels in the main in the controversy which became acute and Lane retired from the cabinet, it is said, in consequence of the differences which had thus arisen.
The reserves were created, in the first place, in pursuance of the policy of conservation, the advocates of which, a militant body, active in the Ballinger affair, generally supported the attitude of Secretary Daniels and President Wilson.
They too became keen on the report of the impending lease of Teapot Dome. Failing to get any definite or reliable information at the departments, upon diligent inquiry, Senator Kendrick of Wyoming introduced and had passed by the Senate on April 16, 1922, a resolution calling on the secretary of the interior for information as to the existence of the lease which was the subject of the rumors, in response to which a letter was transmitted by the acting secretary of the interior on April 21, disclosing that a lease of the entire Reserve No. 3 was made two weeks before to the Mammoth Oil Company organized by Harry Sinclair, a spectacular oil operator. This was followed by the adoption by the Senate on April 29, 1922, of a resolution introduced by Senator LaFollette directing the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys to investigate the entire subject of leases of the naval oil reserves and calling on the secretary of the interior for all documents and full information in relation to the same.
In the month of June following, a cartload of documents said to have been furnished in compliance with the resolution was dumped in the committee rooms, and a letter from Secretary Fall to the President in justification of the lease of the Teapot Dome and of leases of limited areas on the other reserves was by him sent to the Senate. I was importuned by Senators LaFollette and Kendrick to assume charge of the investigation, the chairman of the committee and other majority members being believed to be unsympathetic, and assented the more readily because the Federal Trade
Commission had just reported that, owing to conditions prevailing in the oil fields of Wyoming and Montana, the people of my state were paying prices for gasoline in excess of those prevailing anywhere else in the Union.
(3) (3)George Norris, Fighting Liberal (1945)
Still another impressive bit of evidence of national apathy presented itself in the Teapot Dome scandal. It had its origin in the early months of the Harding administration. It became the subject of common gossip in Washington, and yet no betrayal of public trust resisted exposure and punishment more tenaciously.
Teapot Dome involved the conservation of the oil resources of the United States, especially those situated upon the public lands. The investigation of alleged irregularities had been in progress for some time, under the auspices of the Senate Committee on Public Lands and Surveys, when the decision was reached to institute court action to cancel the leases granted to private interests at Teapot Dome and Elk Hills.
My old friend Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin, always alert and vigilant, had introduced and procured passage of the two resolutions - Senate Resolution 282, and Senate Resolution 294 - authorizing the Public Lands Committee to make the inquiry. Out of it came the evidence supporting the inescapable conviction that immense combinations of wealth, large corporations, under leases fraudulently obtained, were systematically robbing the government of the oil stored in the public lands by Nature. The evidence pointed straight to the guilt of a former colleague, A. B. Fall of New Mexico, who had become Secretary of the Interior.
(4) Statement issued by President Calvin Coolidge on 27th January, 1924.
It is not for the President to determine criminal guilt or render judgment in civil causes. That is the function of the courts. It is not for him to prejudge. I shall do neither but when facts are revealed to me that require action for the purpose of insuring the enforcement of either civil or criminal liability, such action will be taken. That is the province of the Executive.
Acting under my direction the Department of Justice has been observing the course of the evidence which has been revealed at the hearings conducted by the senatorial committee investigating certain oil leases made on naval reserves, which I believe warrants action for the purpose of enforcing the law and protecting the rights of the public. This is confirmed by reports made to me from the committee. If there has been any crime, it must be prosecuted. If there has been any property of the United States illegally transferred or leased, it must be recovered.
I feel the public is entitled to know that in the conduct of such action no one is shielded for any party, political or other reason. As I understand, men are involved who belong to both political parties, and having been advised by the Department of Justice that it is in accord with the former precedents, I propose to employ special counsel of high rank drawn from both political parties to bring such action for the enforcement of the law. Counsel will be instructed to prosecute these cases in the courts so that if there is any guilt it will be punished if there is civil liability it will be enforced if there is any fraud it will be revealed and if there are any contracts which are illegal they will be canceled.
(5) Thomas J. Walsh, The True History of Teapot Dome, Forum Magazine (July, 1924)
The climax was reached when on January 24 Doheny voluntarily appeared to tell that on November 30, 1921, he had loaned $100,000 to Fall without security, moved by old friendship and commiseration for his business misfortunes, negotiations between them then pending eventuating in the contract awarded to Doheny on April 25, following, through which he secured, without competition, a contract giving him a preference right to a lease of a large part of Naval Re-
serve No. 1, to be followed by the lease of the whole of it, as above recited.
Followed the appearance of Fall, forced by the Committee to come before it, after pleading inability on account of illness, to take refuge under his constitutional immunity, a broken man, the cynosure of the morbidly curious that crowded all approaches to the committee room and packed it to suffocation, vindicating the wisdom of the patriarch who proclaimed centuries ago that the way of the transgressor is hard.
(6) Attlee Pomerene, Special Counsel in the Teapot Dome Scandal, letter to M. T. Everhart (24th September, 1924)
Our contention is that in the bribery case evidence of similar transactions is competent for the purpose of showing the intent in other words to characterize the end. It will be contended on the part of the defendant that the $100,000 was a loan. You and I feel confident that it was never intended that it should be repaid. Similarly, the Sinclair-Fall transaction in the form it took was a mere ruse.
The Teapot Dome Scandal
The Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s involved national security, big oil companies and bribery and corruption at the highest levels of the government of the United States. It was the most serious scandal in the country’s history prior to the Watergate affair of the Nixon administration in the 1970s.
And this controversy was named for an oil reserve near a rock formation north of Casper, Wyo., that looked just like a teapot.
Events that led to the scandal began decades before when government and U.S. Navy officials, contemplating a new, global presence, realized they needed a fuel supply that was more reliable and more portable than coal.
During the Theodore Roosevelt presidency early in the 20th century, Department of the Navy officials aspired for an American navy that could sail all the world’s oceans, demonstrating the country’s newly found imperial powers. The U. S. Navy, bound by weight limitations with coal-fired ships, resorted to building coal-fueling stations around the world.
They watched carefully as other nations began development of petroleum-powered ships. Beginning in 1909, during the Taft administration, Navy administrators decided to convert the fleet to the more efficient petroleum. Ships would have no need for coaling stations. Once fueled, the petroleum-powered ships had far greater range.
The USS Wyoming, a battleship initially launched in 1900, became the first ship in the fleet to be converted to oil power in 1909. (The vessel was later renamed the USS Cheyenne when the new battleship USS Wyoming was launched in 1910.), As more ships were converted from coal, Navy officials grew more concerned about the long-term availability of oil. What would happen if oil were to run out? The Navy would be paralyzed.
Consequently, Navy administrators asked Congress to set aside federally owned lands in places where known oil deposits most likely existed. These “naval petroleum reserves” would not be drilled unless a national emergency made it necessary. One of the three petroleum reserves set aside was near Salt Creek in northern Natrona County in a place named for an unusual rock formation nearby—Teapot Dome. A dome is a geological formation that traps oil underground between impervious layers of rock, with the upper layer bent upward to form a dome.
Oilmen throughout the West coveted the opportunity to drill within these federally owned reserves. Soon after Republican Warren G. Harding was elected president in 1920, he appointed his poker-playing friend, U.S. Sen. Albert Fall, to be his secretary of Interior.
Fall, a rancher and New Mexico’s first U.S. senator, accepted the cabinet post. Within a few weeks, he convinced President Harding to allow transfer of the naval petroleum reserves from the Navy to the Department of the Interior, arguing that the department was “better able” to oversee the protection of these areas where oil was not to be produced, but kept in case of emergency.
What resulted became known as the Teapot Dome scandal, but even though the scandal gained its name from a Wyoming place, the wrongdoers were from elsewhere.
Secretary Fall, once the Teapot Dome oil field was under his control, made secret deals with two prominent oilmen, Edward Doheny and Harry Sinclair. Both men, close friends of Fall, paid him bribes to authorize them to drill in the three naval petroleum reserves—contrary to the letter and spirit of the law.
Back in Wyoming, independent oilman and later, Democratic Wyoming Gov. Leslie Miller became suspicious when he saw trucks with the Sinclair company logo hauling drilling equipment into the Teapot Dome naval petroleum reserve. He asked U.S. Sen. John B. Kendrick, also a Democrat, to look into the matter. Kendrick, sensing wrongdoing, turned the question over to a special Senate investigating committee.
Meanwhile, President Harding took a summer trip west, stopping in Wyoming, enjoying Yellowstone and continuing on to Alaska and, eventually, to San Francisco. While there, the President died suddenly. Some historians believe Harding escaped impeachment for his role in Teapot Dome by having the “good fortune” of dying as the scandal was unfolding. Of course, such a conclusion cannot be proven.
Fall was not so lucky. Following a lengthy Senate investigation, he was tried for accepting bribes. He was convicted and sent to federal prison, the first Cabinet-level officer in American history to go to jail for crimes committed while serving in office.
Both Sinclair and Doheny were exonerated of the main charge—giving bribes to Fall. As a newspaper reporter observed when the two wealthy oilmen were found not guilty, “You can’t convict a million dollars.” Sinclair was sentenced to a 9-month prison term not for bribery but for contempt of Congress, and for charges connected to his hiring of detectives to trail members of the jury in the original bribery trial.
Webster’s dictionary says that “normality” is the noun form of the adjective “normal,” and then right beneath that it says that “normalcy” is the state or fact of being normal. normality and normalcy are both accepted, and they have no difference in meaning, but the former is generally preferred to the latter.
Both normalcy and normality have the definition of “the state of being normal.” From Wiktionary: Normalcy – “The state of being normal the fact of being normal normality.” Normality – “The state of being normal or usual normalcy.”
Warren Harding's Surprise Nomination
Warren Harding had prospered as a newspaper publisher in Marion, Ohio. He was known as an outgoing personality who enthusiastically joined clubs and loved to speak in public.
After entering politics in 1899, he held a variety of offices in Ohio. In 1914 he was elected to the U.S. Senate. On Capitol Hill he was well-liked by his colleagues but did little of any real importance.
In late 1919, Harding, encouraged by others, began to think of running for president. America was in a period of turmoil following the end of World War I., and many voters were tired of Woodrow Wilson's ideas of internationalism. Harding's political backers believed his small-town values, including quirks such as his founding of a local brass band, would restore America to a more placid time.
Harding's odds of winning the presidential nomination of his party were not great: His one advantage was that no one in the Republican Party disliked him. At the Republican National Convention in June 1920 he began to appear to be a viable compromise candidate.
It is strongly suspected that lobbyists of the oil industry, sensing that enormous profits could be made by controlling a weak and pliable president, influenced balloting at the convention. The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Will Hays, was a prominent attorney who represented oil companies and also served on the board of directors of an oil company. A 2008 book, The Teapot Dome Scandal by veteran business journalist Laton McCartney, provided evidence that Harry Ford Sinclair, of the Sinclair Consolidated Oil Company, funneled $3 million to fund the convention, which was held in Chicago.
In an incident that would later become famous, Harding was asked, late one night in a backroom political meeting at the convention, if there was anything in his personal life that would disqualify him from serving as president.
Harding did, in fact, have a number of scandals in his personal life, including mistresses and at least one illegitimate child. But after thinking for a few minutes, Harding claimed nothing in his past prevented him from being president.
Social Studies (Ms. Sue)
1) Evaluate the effects of the Teapot Dome scandal on citizens' views of the federal government?
A: Because of the Teapot Dome scandal, citizens viewed the federal government as corrupt. They lost their faith in the federal government until Harding's successor Calvin Coolidge, who was viewed as a welcome change.
2) How did the Ohio Gang tarnish the Harding Administration?
A: The Ohio Gang tarnished the Harding Administration by using their positions for personal advantage. For example, they used their positions to sell government jobs, pardon from criminal convictions, and protection from prosecution.
3) Summarize the factors that led to the new consumer society in the United States during the 1920s.
A: Mass production, easy credit, mass advertisement, and economic prosperity led to the new consumer society in the United States during the 1920s.
4) How did the automobile impact American society?
A: The automobile created new small-business opportunities for such enterprises as garages and gas stations. The automobile also eased the isolation of rural life and enabled more people to live farther from work.
5) How did the United States government help spur the growth of the airline industry?
A: The United States government helped spur the growth of the airline industry by introducing the world's first regular airmail service and passing the Air Commerce Act, which provided federal aid for building airports.
6) Why did Andrew Mellon work to reduce federal tax rates?
A: Andrew Mellon worked to reduce federal tax rates because he believed that high taxes reduced the money available for private investment and prevented business expansion. Mellon further argued that high taxes actually reduced the amount of tax money the government collected. If taxes were lower, businesses and consumers would spend and invest their extra money, causing the economy to grow. As the economy grew, Americans would earn more money, and the government would actually collect more taxes at a lower rate than it would if it kept tax rates high.
Teapot Dome Scandal - Definition, Dates and Effects - HISTORY
A Timeline of Corruption and Attempts to Combat Corruption in New York State
Pre-revolutionary times through the 1700’s
1779 a New York governor, judge and two Indian affairs officials spent a weekend at an Albany tavern. They treated themselves to lamb, rum, sweet cakes, shaves and haircuts, and billed the state for $1,000 https://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-local/article/Political-corruption-in-Albany-a-very-old-story-6073854.php
1787 “A New York rule in 1787 was that any individual who would “directly or indirectly, attempt to influence any free elector of the state” would have to pay 500 pounds and be ‘utterly disables, disqualified and incapacitate, to hold exercise or enjoy any office, or place of trust or profit, whatsoever within this state.’” (Teachout 109)
Eighteenth Century NY Corruption
Tammany Hall Era
George Washington Plunkitt (1842-1924) was a Tammany Hall Boss. He gave talks on what he called "honest graft." Have a listen :
A Timeline of Corruption and Attempts to Combat Corruption in the United States
1758 “George Washington’s campaign for the Virginia House of Burgesses spends 39 Pounds (roughly $8,000 today) on alcohol to “treat” voters on Election Day. This is not considered unusual. http://www.newrivernotes.com/topical_books_1892_virginia_washingtontohouseofburgess.htm
1776 Maryland rule on bribery: “If any person shall give any bribe, present or reward, or any promise…to obtain or procure a vote….or to be appointed to…any office of profit or trust….[he] shall be forever disqualified to hold any office of trust or profit in this state.” (Teachout 108-109).
1778 American emissary to France, Silas Deane, accepts golden snuff box from the King in contravention of the law that "no person in the service of the United States should accept from any king, prince, or minister any present or gratuity whatsoever….”(Teachout 23) (later on Arthur Lee and Benjamin Franklin also accepted golden snuff boxes).
1787Constitutional Convention & Federalist Papers
Franklin speaking at the Constitutional Convention: The Constitution was “likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.” (Teachout, p. 15)
Constitution provision Article I, Section 9 (the "Emolument Clause"): “No person holding any office of profit or trust under them [the United States], shall without the consent of the Congress accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatsoever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
"A number of Republicans, including most of their leaders, are bad enough, but over half the Democrats. are vicious, stupid-looking scoundrels with apparently not a redeeming trait.
-NY Assemblyman Teddy Roosevelt
1882Teddy Roosevelt as a NY Assemblyman witnesses several accept bags of cash from Tammany Hall operatives to kill bills in committee that would adversely affect their business partners.
To own our future, we must first own our past.
We are working on a series of timelines for corruption and corruption reform in New York State and throughout the U.S.
This exhibition is currently under construction.
The Museum of Political Corruption
Washington DC was an:
"Out-of-the-way, one horse town, whose population consists of office-holders, lobby buzzards, landlords, loafers, blacklegs, hackmen and Cyprian – all subsisting on public plunder…The paramount, overshadowing occupation of the residents, is office-holding and lobbying, and the prize of life is a grab at the contents of UNCLE SAM’s till. The public plunder interest swallows up all others, and makes the city a great festering, unbealable sore on the body politic. No healthy public opinion can reach down here to purify the moral atmosphere of Washington.
" I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have some legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world,"
"Corruption strikes at the foundation of all law. The bribe giver is worse than the thief, for the thief robs the individual, while the corrupt official plunders an entire city or State.”
“If men were angels no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
and The Center for Ethical Governance
1888 Nellie Bly “purchases” New York State legislature for $1,000 (plus $250 fee) to have a particular bill killed.
20th Century New York State Politics
1901 Jotham P. Allds of Norwich, a Republican elected Senate majority leader in 1910. A bribe Allds took in 1901 as chairman of an Assembly committee was leaked by a legislator to the New York Evening Post. Allds originally asked for $5,000, but settled on $1,000 cash, handed over in an envelope. Allds resigned in disgrace, and a wide-ranging legislative corruption investigation was promised but never materialized. https://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-local/article/Political-corruption-in-Albany-a-very-old-story-6073854.php
1986: Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein was charged with assigning Senate staff to work on political campaigns in 1986 elections. The Manhattan Democrat was cleared after the Court of Appeals ruled the Legislature did not prohibit the practice, common at the time. He stepped down in 1995 after 34 years. He became a lobbyist. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)
1991 Assembly Speaker Mel Miller was accused of cheating clients out of proceeds in the sale of eight cooperative apartments and convicted by a federal jury in 1991. The conviction was overturned on appeal. He became a lobbyist. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)
21st Century Corruption
2000: Sen. Guy Velella, a Bronx Republican, pleaded guilty to taking bribes from contractors from 1995 to 2000 and helping them win public works contracts. He resigned from his seat and spent six months in jail. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)
2006 State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a Democratic assemblyman from Queens for 22 years and later New York City comptroller, pleaded guilty in state court to fraud in 2006 for using state workers to chauffeur his wife. He was fined $5,000 and barred from holding public office. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to corruption charges in a pay-to-play scandal involving the state's massive pension system. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)
2009 Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio pleaded guilty to defrauding his Queens constituents of honest services and collecting $1 million in consulting fees by leveraging his legislative job. He was sentenced in February to six years in prison. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)
2010 Then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed suit in April against Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, accusing the Bronx Democrat of siphoning $14 million for himself and his family from his government-funded health care clinic in the Bronx. A day later, federal agents raided the clinic as part of a criminal investigation. Espada was later found guilty on federal embezzlement charges. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)
2011 - 2013: Former State Rep. William Boyland Jr. is arrested and later acquitted of bribery charges stemming from allegations he took a no-show job in exchange for doing political favors for a corrupt hospital official in New York City. Less than two weeks after his acquittal, Boyland was arrested on bribery charges again, with prosecutors claiming to have secretly recorded the assemblyman soliciting $250,000 in bribes to pay his legal fees for the first trial, according to the New York Times. Then, in 2013, the Brooklyn Democrat was again arrested on mail fraud charges after he allegedly filed for travel reimbursements for his trips to Albany despite never leaving New York City. He was acquitted on those charges a few months later, then pleaded guilty in the second bribery case. He maintained his seat in the Assembly until his conviction in March of 2014.2012 (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)
2013 State Sen. Shirley Huntley was arrested after she was named in a 20-count indictment charging the Queens Democrat and others with fraudulently using $30,000 in state education grants to benefit associates in a nonprofit she founded. She pleaded guilty to one charge of mail fraud in 2013, and was sentenced to one year and a day in prison.
2013: State Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat, and New York City Councilman Dan Halloran were both arrested in April on conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion charges after the pair allegedly plotted to get Smith onto the New York City mayoral ballot by paying off GOP county chairmen. Smith was found guilty of federal corruption charges in February of 2015. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)
2014 State Rep. Eric Stevenson, a Bronx Democrat, was arrested on federal corruption charges in April for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for help he gave to businessmen trying to open an adult day care center. He was convicted of bribery and extortion in January of 2014. (Timeline: A History of Political Corruption in Albany https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-York-History-Political-Corruption-Albany-Sheldon-Smith-Spitzer-Cuomo-289436551.html)
2013 State Senator John L. Sampson was indicted by a federal grand jury for embezzlement, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation stemming from alleged theft of $400,000 from the sale of foreclosed homes, to which he pleaded not guilty. On the same day, Sampson was stripped of his committee assignments and ranking positions and removed from the Senate Democratic Conference. Despite the indictment, Sampson won re-election in 2014. On July 24, 2015, Sampson was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements to federal agents, which are felonies, and was automatically expelled from the Senate.
A common structural element of architecture that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere, a cupola.
Arches and Domes
- In this atom, we will discuss the history and physics behind arches and domes.
- Domes can be divided into two kinds, simple and compound.
- Simple domes use pendentives that are part of the same sphere as the dome itself.
- Compound domes are part of the structure of a large sphere below that of the dome itself, forming a circular base, as shown in .
- A compound dome (red) with pendentives (yellow) from a sphere of greater radius than the dome.
Arches, Vaults, and Domes
- The inclusion of domes represents a wider sense of the word vault.
- These are sometimes called false domes.
- True, or real, domes are formed with increasingly inward-angled layers of voussoirs which have ultimately turned 90 degrees from the base of the dome to the top.
- A dome can be thought of as an arch revolved around its vertical axis.
- Explain the architectural structure and purpose of arches, vaults, and domes.
Architecture in the Early Byzantine Empire
- Like most Byzantine churches of this time, the Hagia Sophia is centrally-planned, with the dome serving as its focal point.
- The nave is covered by a central dome which at its maximum is over 180 feet from floor level and rests on an arcade of 40 arched windows.
- The pendentives implement the transition from the circular base of the dome to the rectangular base below, restraining the lateral forces of the dome and allow its weight to flow downwards.
- At the western entrance side and eastern liturgical side are arched openings extended by half domes of identical diameter to the central dome, carried on smaller semi-domed exedras.
- A hierarchy of dome-headed elements built to create a vast oblong interior crowned by the central dome, with a span of 250 feet.
Florence in the Late 1400s
- He is perhaps most famous for his discovery of perspective and for engineering the dome of the Florence Cathedral, but his accomplishments also include other architectural works, sculpture, mathematics, engineering, and even ship design.
- The dome, the lantern (built 1446–ca.1461), and the exedra (built 1439-1445) occupied most of Brunelleschi's life.
- Brunelleschi used more than 4 million bricks in the construction of the dome of the Florence Cathedral.
- Brunelleschi dedicated much of his life to the completion of the Florence Cathedral's dome.
- By far the most damaging was the so-called Teapot Dome Scandal, a bribery conspiracy that occurred in 1922-1923.
- In 1927 the Supreme Court ruled that the oil leases involved in the Teapot Dome Scandal had been fraudulently obtained.
- Before the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, Teapot Dome was largely regarded as the greatest and most sensational scandal in American political history.
- Doheny, second from right at table, testifying before the Senate committee investigating the Teapot Dome oil leases in 1924.
- Identify the Teapot Dome Scandal and its effect on the Harding administration
- Rome remains the world's epicenter of classical architecture, and ancient Romans are considered innovators of the arch and the dome.
- Rome remains the world's epicenter of classical architecture, and ancient Romans are considered the innovators of foundational architectural forms, such as the arch and the dome.
- The dome permitted Romans to construct vaulted ceilings and provided covering for large public spaces like baths and basilicas.
- The Romans based much of their architecture on the dome, such as Hadrian's Pantheon in the city of Rome .
- Massive buildings soon followed, with great pillars that supported broad arches and domes, rather than dense lines of thin columns suspending flat architraves.
- Four minarets frame the tomb, one at each corner of the plinth facing the chamfered corners.The marble dome that surmounts the tomb is the most spectacular feature.
- Because of its shape, the dome is often called an onion dome or amrud (guava dome).
- The shape of the dome is emphasised by four smaller domed chattris (kiosks) placed at its corners, which replicate the onion shape of the main dome.
- Tall decorative spires (guldastas) extend from edges of base walls, and provide visual emphasis to the height of the dome.
- The dome and chattris are topped by a gilded finial, which mixes traditional Persian and Hindustani decorative elements.
Renaissance Architecture in Florence
- Known as the Duomo, the dome was engineered by Brunelleschi to cover a spanning in the already existing Cathedral.
- The dome retains the Gothic pointed arch and the Gothic ribs in its design.
- The dome is structurally influenced by the great domes of Ancient Rome such as the Pantheon, and it is often described as the first building of the Renaissance.
- It remains the largest masonry dome in the world and was such an unprecedented success at its time that the dome became an indispensable element in church and even secular architecture thereafter.
- The Florence Cathedral is the first example of a true dome in Renaissance architecture.
- Although studying and mastering the details of the ancient Romans was one of the important aspects of Renaissance architectural theory, the style also became more decorative and ornamental, with a widespread use of statuary, domes, and cupolas.
- The dome is used frequently in this period, both as a very large structural feature that is visible from the exterior, and also as a means of roofing smaller spaces where they are only visible internally.
- Domes had been used only rarely in the Middle Ages, but after the success of the dome in Brunelleschi's design for the Florence Cathedral and its use in Bramante's plan for St.
- Peter's Basilica in Rome, the dome became an indispensable element in Renaissance church architecture and carried over to the Baroque.
- The Dome of St Peter's Basilica, Rome is often cited as a foundational piece of Renaissance architecture.
- Building reached its peak in the 16th century when Ottoman architects mastered the technique of building vast inner spaces surmounted by seemingly weightless yet incredibly massive domes, and achieved perfect harmony between inner and outer spaces, as well as articulated light and shadow.
- They incorporated vaults, domes, square dome plans, slender corner minarets, and columns into their mosques, which became sanctuaries of transcendently aesthetic and technical balance and may be observed in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
- Dome of the mihrab (9th century) in the Great Mosque of Kairouan, also known as the Mosque of Uqba, in Kairouan, Tunisia
- The Blue Mosque represents the culmination of Ottoman construction with its numerous domes, slender minarets and overall harmony.
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The Oil Business in Wyoming
The oil industry has been a part of the Wyoming economy since the beginning days of statehood. As far back as the early 19th century explorers in what is now Wyoming reported evidence of oil. In 1832, when fur trader Capt. B. L. E. Bonneville traveled to the Wind River Valley, he found oil springs southeast of present Lander near Dallas Dome, where the state’s first oil well would be drilled five decades later.
During the fur trade and Overland trails periods, travelers commented on “oil springs” where oil bubbled to the surface of water pools. For centuries, native people seined off the oil, using the greasy residues for war paint, decoration on hides and teepees, horse and human liniments and other medications. An oil spring near Hilliard in present Uinta County was well known when Fort Bridger was established nearby in 1842.
The first recorded oil sale in Wyoming occurred along the Oregon Trail when, in 1863, enterprising entrepreneurs sold oil as a lubricant to wagon-train travelers. The oil came from Oil Mountain Springs some 20 miles west of present-day Casper.
Nationally, oil had a similar history. Thirteen years after the world’s first oil well was drilled in Baku, Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea, America’s first gusher was struck. Made by “Colonel” Edwin Drake, America’s initial discovery was at Titusville, Pa., in 1859. It led to an oil rush to western Pennsylvania. Initially, even the newly “drilled” oil had only nominal use in transportation—as axle grease for wagons and coaches or lubricant for steam engines powered by wood or coal.
Early Wyoming discoveries
In 1866, John C. Fiere, an employee of Fort Bridger Sutler William A. Carter, reported to his boss that he had found oil nearby. He had experience in the Pennsylvania oil fields and offered to develop the oil spring commercially. In the following years, the spring produced 150 barrels of oil. The entire amount was sold to the Union Pacific Railroad.
In the spring of 1867, Judge C. M. White dug a hole next to the oil spring where Carter’s employees had been skimming oil from the surface of the water. White’s crew scooped oil from hand-dug trenches. He shipped modest amounts to Salt Lake City tanners until the transcontinental railroad passed nearby the following year, giving him additional markets for lubrication.
By comparison, Wyoming’s first commercial coal mines also opened in the late 1860s to fuel the Union Pacific Railroad. Coal remained vastly more important than oil to Wyoming’s economy for the rest of the century.
About the time of Drake’s Titusville discovery, meanwhile scientists found that a petroleum by-product, kerosene, could provide superior lighting to candles. The newly developed kerosene lamps gave off even better light than those that burned increasingly costly whale oil. Indeed, whales were becoming scarce and, were it not for kerosene, their extinction could have been a possibility.
In 1870, Cleveland merchant John D. Rockefeller formed a company he called Standard Oil. A purchaser of Rockefeller's kerosene, sold in one- or five-gallon blue cans, could be assured that the product contained no water or explosive gasoline that sometimes was dishonestly passed off as kerosene by other merchants. Gradually, through sound business deals as well as anticompetitive practices, Rockefeller gained near monopoly over oil in the Northeast.
When Thomas Edison invented the first practical incandescent light bulb in 1879, observers believed Rockefeller’s oil business would wither and die. But despite the seeming ruinous competition from electric lighting, Rockefeller persevered. In 1883, he and his partners expanded combined operations across several states into the Standard Oil Trust.
Well drilling begins
That same year, out west, Mike Murphy brought in Wyoming Territory’s first drilled oil well at Dallas Dome, finding oil at 300 feet in the Chugwater formation. (A dome is a geological formation that traps oil underground between impervious layers of rock, with the upper layer bent upward to form a dome.)
Markets for the unrefined petroleum were limited. Apparently, like Carter and White two decades earlier, Murphy sold most of his production to Utah tanners and to the Union Pacific to lubricate railcar axles. Electricity generation proved impractical for tiny towns and ranches, particularly in Wyoming where distances between ranches were great. Kerosene continued its dominance in rural lighting.
Soon after Murphy’s successful well, others entered the business. Cy Iba, a former gold prospector, started drilling for oil around Casper. Several others attracted investment to possible oil strikes in the Big Horn Basin at Bonanza, northeast of present Worland and in southwestern Wyoming around Hilliard and Mountain View. Iba’s first strike, “Discovery Well” north of Casper, began transforming that newly established, wool-shipping railhead into the “oil capital of the Rockies.”
In the 1890s, significant oil strikes were made in northern Natrona County. Investors, comfortable with dependable nearby supplies of crude oil, underwrote construction of Wyoming’s first refinery in 1895. Pennsylvania investors headed by Philip Shannon formed the firm at Casper and named it the Pennsylvania Refinery. They also struck oil at what became known as the Shannon Field north of Casper.
A new demand for gasoline
Kerosene and lubricating oils remained the primary petroleum-based products in demand, but that soon was about to change. In May 1898, Laramie bicycle shop owner Elmer Lovejoy ordered a one-cylinder, two-cycle marine engine. When it was delivered, Lovejoy assembled the combustion engine and mounted it and the frame on four bicycle wheels.
While American forces were winning the 14-week Spanish-American War in Cuba and the Philippines, Lovejoy’s “toy” clattered along the unpaved streets of Laramie, going five miles per hour in one forward gear and 10 mph in a second, but with no reverse. Of course, the single-seat runabout engine was fueled by gasoline, formerly a waste product dumped by refiners into nearby streams in earlier years.
Wyomingites began purchasing automobiles in 1900 and by the end of the decade cars were commonplace throughout the state. Medical doctors often were the first people in towns to buy cars. In Rawlins, Dr. John Osborne brought a car to town in 1900. Two years later, Dr. W. W. Crook became the first Cheyenne resident to own a car. Dr. J. L. Wicks had Evanston’s first car in 1906.
Several sheep ranchers were owners of early cars. In Fremont County, J. B. Okie pioneered motor vehicles at his ranch, “Big Teepee,” at Lost Cabin. John Sedgwick brought the first car to Weston County, driving his Model N Ford to and from his sheep ranch in 1905. Sheepman William Ayers owned Platte County’s first car. Automobiles became so widespread in the following decade that the first state speed limit of 12 mph maximum in towns was imposed in 1913. In the same year, the state required for the first time that all cars be licensed.
Demand for better roads
In order to drive the rather primitive motor vehicles around the state, Wyomingites became vitally concerned with road improvements. As a consequence, counties started grading roads. “Good roads associations” formed nationwide and lobbied for better highways. The Lincoln Highway (U.S. Highway 30) became the nation’s first designated transcontinental automobile route.
In 1917, the Wyoming Legislature created the Wyoming Highway Department and named various routes as state highways. Years later, in the 1950s, Congress authorized interstate highways and, eventually, Interstate 80 followed roughly the route of the Lincoln Highway across southern Wyoming.
During those early years, car owners purchased gasoline in gallon or two-gallon cans from general stores. The date of Wyoming’s first gasoline station is not known, but refineries produced gasoline in abundance by the late 19-teens. In 1917, five refineries were operating in the state, including small operations at Greybull and Cowley.
By 1923, Casper alone boasted five refineries—the tiny Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Company facility on South Center Street built in 1895 the Belgo-American refinery later known as the Midwest Refinery built east of Highland Cemetery in 1903 the giant Standard Oil refinery in southwest Casper, opened in March 1914 and expanded in 1922 into the largest gasoline-producing refinery in the world the Texaco refinery, three miles east of Casper that opened in 1923 and the small White Eagle refinery opened the same year.
The early 1920s were the heyday of Wyoming oil production and refining. Numerous wells were in production in the Big Horn Basin, in the Oregon Basin, Elk Basin, Greybull, Garland and Grass Creek fields. In eastern Wyoming, the Lance Creek field near Lusk was one of the state’s largest, causing the town of Lusk to grow to an estimated population in excess of 5,000 people by the early 1920s.
Oil had been found on part of the University of Wyoming’s land grant, meanwhile, near Glenrock in 1916. Royalties from the production from the “university well” in the Big Muddy field made it possible for the institution’s administrators to stave off the bad economic conditions of the 1920s and build the Half Acre Gymnasium and the university library, now the Aven Nelson Building.
Important refineries popped up throughout the state. The Producers and Refiners Company (PARCO) built a refinery and a complete town for its employees on the Union Pacific line in Carbon County in 1923. When the firm went into bankruptcy in the early 1930s, oilman Harry Sinclair bought the town on April 12, 1934, and renamed it Sinclair.
An active stock exchange, known as the Midwest Oil Exchange, operated in Casper, Wyoming’s “oil city.” There, on the corner of Second and Center streets, speculators could trade “penny stocks”—cheap shares worth a few cents each—offered by fledgling companies eager to attract sufficient investors so that the businesses could buy equipment and lease lands where they could “strike it rich.”
Close to the stock exchange and numerous oil company offices, a red-light district known as the Sandbar flourished in the 1920s. Well-known gambling and prostitution houses operated around the clock, punctuated by an occasional police raid or homicide.
But the largest, most significant oil field in Wyoming in the early 20th century was in northern Natrona County—the Salt Creek field about 40 miles north of Casper. One early speculator, William Fitzhugh, who later donated cash and a collection of fishing and hunting books to the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming, supposedly gained his oil claims in the Salt Creek area by trading gold-mining prospects in the Snowy Range to Stephen W. Downey.
Downey was the Laramie lawyer influential in the Territorial decision to locate the university in that town. He made nothing from the gold prospects, but Fitzhugh gained a fortune from the Salt Creek oil.
Oil wells were already in production at Salt Creek in 1908 when H. L. “Dad” Stock took a chance on drilling in a nearby formation just northwest of the company-owned town of Midwest. The result was the “Stock gusher.” When it rumbled in, it spewed oil high above the derrick, covering the prairie for hundreds of feet around when the oil rained down.
Stock made a fortune from the strike, lost it and made another one in oil in the southwest before turning operations over to his son, Paul Stock. The younger Stock, mayor of Cody in the 1940s, was said to have been the individual shareholder with the largest stake in Texaco after he sold his firm to the giant multinational company. The Stock Foundation remained one of the state’s largest philanthropic foundations for many years.
Changing the land law
Most of these first oilfields in Wyoming were discovered on public lands. Under the federal government laws at the time, an oil “prospector” could locate a “provable” oil claim on federal lands, pay a minimal filing fee and hope for a strike. If he had struck oil on private land, he was required to pay the landowner a royalty, but if he found oil on a federal claim, his production belonged entirely to him, and he paid the government nothing.
Congress changed the law, however, and with passage of the Oil and Gas Leasing Act in 1920, oilmen no longer could “claim” oil on federal lands. They could lease such lands, paying royalties for production to the federal government as though it were any other landowner.
Through the influence of several Wyoming members of Congress, the federal government was required to turn back part of the royalties from oil produced on federal lands to the state where the oil was produced. For many years, Wyoming state government enjoyed mineral royalty payments for oil found on federally owned land in the state. Federal mineral royalties, resulting now from coal and trona as well as oil production, remain an important source for state revenues today.
In the early 1920s, what became known as the Teapot Dome scandal, named for an oil field near Salt Creek, broke on the national scene. It was the most serious government-corruption scandal prior to the Watergate affair of the 1970s. The Teapot Dome field was owned by the U.S. Navy as a reserve fuel supply for its ships.
Albert Fall, a former U.S. senator from New Mexico by then secretary of Interior for the Warren G. Harding administration, was eventually convicted of accepting bribes from oilmen for allowing them to drill illegally in the reserve. Fall was sent to federal prison the oilmen were acquitted of making the bribes, but one of them, Harry Sinclair—the same Harry Sinclair who later bought Parco and named it for himself—served time on other related federal charges.
Throughout the rest of the 1920s, when Wyoming agriculture and many of the banks that financed it faced economic ruin, the oil industry remained a bright spot in the state’s economy. Oil company profits finally began to falter when the rest of the country was plunged into the Great Depression in the wake of the October 1929 stock market crash.
Oil prices had peaked in 1920 at a national average of around three dollars per 42-gallon barrel. A report from northern Wyoming soon after the crash noted that a customer could buy a barrel of crude oil at Salt Creek for only 19 cents!
Faced with declining prices, oil companies agreed on various measures to alleviate “ruinous” competition. One of the more successful measures was a pricing system known as “Tulsa-plus.” Gasoline, regardless of where it was refined, had to be sold with the additional cost that the wholesaler would have had to pay if the gasoline had been produced in Tulsa, Okla. Wyomingites were furious with that system and high gasoline prices generally. The prices were higher in oil refinery towns like Casper than in other places far from oil refineries.
In the early 1930s, gasoline pricing became a campaign issue in Wyoming gubernatorial races. State attorneys general began a series of suits against companies for inflating gasoline prices to Wyoming consumers. The suits were unsuccessful although the adverse publicity apparently served as a brake on further price increases.
As the 1930s continued, the economic depression extended into the oil fields of Wyoming, not lifting until Allied demands for oil brought price rebounds just before World War II.
In the meantime, consumers welcomed having natural gas piped to their homes in many Wyoming towns. Laramie’s first natural gas line opened in February 1933, but Greybull residents had been enjoying such service since 1908. It was the first town in the state to have home furnaces fueled by natural gas piped in from nearby wells.
The first interstate oil pipeline from Wyoming, meanwhile, was built from Lance Creek in eastern Wyoming’s Niobrara County to Denver in 1938.
World War II
By the beginning of World War II, oil refineries of various sizes operated in many Wyoming towns, including Cody, Lusk, Thermopolis, Newcastle, Laramie and Cheyenne. It was in the latter city that the oil refinery played a key role in production of aircraft fuel. Frontier Refinery’s 100-octane fuel plant helped supply American airplanes with needed high-quality gasoline.
Existing refineries and fields, along with other producing fields established during the war, supplied petroleum products for the American ships, planes and tanks that would help the Allies win the war.
After the war, another strong decade of production brought expansion of existing operations. At the same time the company towns of Hamilton Dome, Grass Creek, Lance Creek, Bairoil, Midwest and Sinclair either diminished in population or became independent incorporated towns by the 1950s.
The industry since World War I always had multinational players. Just two firms, in fact—Standard and Ohio Oil—controlled 95 percent of all Wyoming’s production in 1923. After World War II, however, more multinationals bought existing smaller companies or expanded operations into the Wyoming oil scene.
Production continued strong, peaking both nationally and in Wyoming in 1970. Various schemes proposed to boost oil production made little headway during the decade. One was a jointly sponsored proposal by the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) and El Paso Natural Gas to use nuclear weapons to release gas and petroleum “locked” into tight sandstone formations under Sublette County. The so-called Project Wagon Wheel met with considerable local opposition and was eventually shelved.
Most refineries in the state closed in the 1970s and 1980s. These included Husky’s refinery at Cody and Empire State Oil Company’s Thermopolis refinery. In 1991, even the Standard Oil (Amoco) refinery at Casper—once the world’s largest—closed, and the land was later converted into a municipal golf course and office park.
Although the fields in Wyoming, for the most part, are aging, oil production remains important to the state’s economy as it enters the second decade of the 21st century. However, oil is no longer the primary energy mineral produced here.
Coal-bed methane—methane gas trapped in underground coal seams and once considered a waste product until cost-efficient means of recovery and distribution were developed in the 1980s—has caused an economic boom in several areas of Wyoming, including Sublette County in the southwest and the Powder River Basin in the northeast.
Natural gas production boomed in the 1990s and 2000s in Sublette County’s Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline and an even larger development is now proposed for gas fields in northeastern Fremont County near Lost Cabin and Lysite.
But even with the new value in natural gas and coal-bed methane, coal remains king just as it was in Wyoming in the 19th century before the invention of the automobile and diesel locomotive. Since the late 1980s, Wyoming has led the nation in coal production. The state’s ranking in oil, while still in the top dozen, has slipped since the heyday of Wyoming oil in the 19-teens and 1920s and the years of the “second oil boom” after World War II.