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The strange rumors that surrounded the death of Warren G. Harding

Library of Congress
Wikimedia Commons

Ninety two years ago this week, an American president died.

Warren G. Harding became the sixth chief executive to die on office. His death fueled rumors, including the bizarre claim that the First Lady had poisoned the President.

Harding was on 15,000 mile tour of the nation called “The Voyage of Understanding” when he passed.

Harding was in San Francisco and his wife was reading a complimentary newspaper article about him out loud.

Suddenly, “he shuddered and fell on his bed and, as they say, dropped dead,” says Dr. Howard Markel of the University of Michigan Medical School.

Mrs. Harding ordered no autopsy and Harding was embalmed within a few hours of his death. This quick action fueled rumors.

But Markel says Harding was “never really in good health,” and that he showed cardiac symptoms long before his death.

Accusations about his death grew when a book entitled The Strange Death of Warren G. Harding was published in 1930. The book’s popularity suggested that Mrs. Harding poisoned her husband. It recounted some of her husband’s affairs and implied they acted as her motivation.

So is there any possible truth to this theory?

Markel says, “Warren G. Harding died of a good old-fashioned heart attack brought on by years of congestive heart failure. There was really nothing strange about his death at all.”

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