Ohio’s Presidents and Their Memorials, Monuments and Museums
By Matt Bayman
Ohio is known as “the Mother of U.S. Presidents,” having been the birthplace of seven of the 45 men who have held the office. Only Virginia, with eight U.S. presidents born in the state, outnumbers Ohio. However, if you consider the life of the ninth president of the United States, William Henry Harrison, who was born in Virginia but lived most of his life in Ohio, then the playing field seems even.
Harrison’s Tomb, which is located west of Cincinnati in North Bend overlooking the Ohio River, is one of the many interesting presidential sites that residents of the Miami Valley can easily travel to. Even more, there are pockets of presidential attractions to visit. For instance, not far from Harrison’s Tomb is the William Howard Taft National Historic Site, which itself is not far from where Ulysses S. Grant was born and where he grew up and went to school.
Northeast Ohio, specifically in the Cleveland area, contains monuments, museums and memorials dedicated to William McKinley and James Garfield, as well as The National First Ladies’ Library in Canton. Circling back home from here, local travelers can stop by the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museum in Fremont, which is one of the highlights of any presidential tour of Ohio.
Ohio History Connection also has an “Ohio Presidential Trail,” which is a self-guided driving tour that contains all of the sites and many others. It can be found online.
The following list of Ohio’s presidents, and some of the historic sites dedicated to them, can help travelers prepare for a number of interesting day trips this year, while also getting to know the interesting ups and downs that have been associated with Ohio’s presidents and the marks they have left on history.
William Henry Harrison – 9th President of the United States – March 4 to April 4, 1841
For better or worse, William Henry Harrison has many unique distinctions that set him apart from other U.S. presidents.
For starters, he served the shortest term of any U.S. president, having died in office just 32 days after his inauguration, most likely from a bacterial infection caused by tainted drinking water in Washington D.C., rather than phenomena as once thought. This also made him the first sitting president to die in office, something that Ohio has seen more of than any other state.
At the same time, until Ronald Reagan was elected in 1981 at the age of 69, Harrison had the distinction of being the oldest person to become president. He was 68-years-old at the time. (Joe Biden now holds this distinction, having been elected at the age of 78).
Born in Charles City County, Virginia in 1773, Harrison was the last U.S. president born as a British subject in the Thirteen Colonies. His father, Benjamin Harrison V, was a Founding Father and signer of the Declaration of Independence, while his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, went on to become the 23rd President of the United States. The two are the only grandfather-grandson duo to become president.
Benjamin was one of William’s 25 grandchildren, which makes him the record-holder for having the largest number of grandchildren at the time of his inauguration.
Also, although not in first place, he had the third-most children of any president, with 10. Only Thomas Jefferson (14+ children) and John Tyler (16+ children) have him beat. However, all of Harrison’s children were from one woman, his wife, Anna Symmes.
Rounding things out, Harrison was the first sitting president to have his picture taken; he gave the longest inaugural speech ever (nearly 2 hours in the bitter cold); he was the first president from the Whig Party; and he had one of the greatest landslide victories in U.S. history, receiving nearly 80% of the electoral votes over his opponent, and the incumbent, Martin Van Buren.
While Harrison never had a chance to prove his presidency, he will be remembered for his dedication to the Northwest Territories, where he spent much of his adult life and military career, and for ushering in the age of advertising and campaign slogans as a means to win the presidency. Before him, this concept didn’t exist.
This includes Harrison’s very popular campaign song, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” which paid homage to his victory over the Shawnee Indians at the Battle of Tippecanoe in modern-day Indiana (making him a national hero) and very likely helped him win the election.
The popularity of the song, and Harrison himself, is how the towns of Tipp City and Tippecanoe, both in Ohio, got their names, as did Harrison County, Ohio.
Tipp City was originally named Tippecanoe. Both communities were founded in 1840 during the election year and named in honor of Harrison and the song. (NOTE: There are versions of the song on YouTube, including HERE.)
Finally, two more local ties for Harrison include the fact that he was friends with Col. John Johnston, an Indian Agent living in Piqua, and that he was present at the Treaty of Greenville, which opened up western Ohio to settlement, which led to all of us living here today.
Seeing the Sights
There are a number of statues and monuments dedicated to Harrison. They are mostly located in Indiana and Ohio. In Indiana he is included in the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in downtown Indianapolis. There’s also a granite statue of him near where the Battle of Tippecanoe took place, and, along with Chief Little Turtle, he is featured in the Ten O’Clock Line Monument in Owen County, Indiana.
In Ohio, he is remembered in three places, all of which are located near each other in southwest Ohio. They are:
William Henry Harrison Tomb (pictured above left)
2 Cliff Rd, North Bend
Open year-round from dawn to dusk, this tall tomb and monument overlooks the Ohio River near its confluence with the Great Miami River, just west of Cincinnati. A short hiking trail leads through a dense section of woods to the monument, while a parking area contains a variety of historical information on Harrison and the area. It is free to visit.
Although not related, Shawnee Overlook is located just up the road from the tomb and is a very interesting ancient Native American site. It was used long before the Shawnee arrived and contains hiking trails, a museum, interpretative signs, Indian mounds and other historic landmarks.
Harrison-Symmes Memorial Foundation Museum
112 S. Miami Ave., Cleves
Open by appointment only, this museum is dedicated to preserving the history of two U.S. presidents—William Henry Harrison and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, who was born in North Bend. The “Symmes” part of the name is in reference to John Cleves Symmes, who was the father-in-law of William Henry Harrison and the great-grandfather of Benjamin Harrison. The William Henry Harrison Tomb is located just a few miles away. To schedule a visit, go to www.hsmfmuseum.org.
Louis T. Rebisso's William Henry Harrison Statue
This statue is located in downtown Cincinnati at Piatt Park. It is the only equestrian sculpture in Cincinnati.
Ulysses S. Grant – 18th President of the United States – March 4, 1869 to March 4, 1877
It is probably safe to say that Ulysses S. Grant, the victorious Union general in the Civil War and a near shoe-in for the presidency in 1869, is the most famous president from Ohio, as well as the most admirable. However, it wasn’t always seen this way.
There is currently a Ulysses S. Grant renaissance taking place among historians. While his presidency was once ranked among the worst in U.S. history (he was fourth from the bottom in 1994 and 1996), he is now seen in a much more positive light (he is now somewhere in the middle, 21 or 22, depending on which poll is referenced).
Compared to William Henry Harrison’s poor treatment of Native Americans and African Americans, Ulysses S. Grant seemed to mostly do the right thing for the right reasons. He appointed African American, Native American and Jewish Americans to prominent federal offices and worked to protect Native Americans overall. He prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan and drove them underground. He stabilized the post-war national economy and created the Department of Justice and Civil Service Commission. He created Yellowstone, the world’s first national park. He further strengthened the bond between the United States and Great Britain. The list goes on.
The problem for Grant, as with several other presidents from Ohio, was that he surrounded himself with corrupt cabinet members who were involved in a number of different scandals. He also lacked experience as a politician.
As summarized by historian Evan Andrews on history.com, “His time in charge of the Union Army notwithstanding, Grant was a political novice when he was inaugurated as the 18th president in 1869. He’d never held any elected position, and had shown little interest in running for office before the Republican Party nominated him as its candidate. Critics would later blame his lack of experience for the economic turmoil and scandals that dogged his administration, a claim that Grant himself acknowledged… ‘It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without any previous political training,’ Grant wrote in his final message to Congress. ‘Under such circumstances, it is but reasonable to suppose that errors of judgment must have occurred.’”
Another oft-cited reason for Grant’s low rating as president was the financial Panic of 1873, which caused a depression that lasted until 1879.
However, again, historians are starting to see Grant’s reaction to this event as a positive one.
According to historian Nick Sacco in his paper, “President Ulysses S. Grant and The Panic of 1873,” Grant’s economic policies during the Panic led to the nation’s taxes and interest rates being significantly reduced and to one-fifth of the nation’s debt being eliminated. This, in turn, paved the way for economic growth and increased business activity in America’s Gilded Age in the 1880s. A rapid expansion of industrialization also led to a real wage growth of 60 percent between 1860 and 1890.
Historian Frank Scaturro deemed Grant’s economic policy as one that “was singularly successful in the aftermath of the most serious fiscal problems the nation had ever faced.”
After serving two terms, Grant did not obtain the nomination for a third one, and he may have wanted it that way. After fighting the Civil War and serving two terms as President of the United States, he was ready for some rest, relaxation and travel.
According to the Wikipedia article, “World Tour of Ulysses S. Grant,” the former president looked forward to traveling with great enthusiasm. “With his wife Julia they embarked on a long-anticipated tour, which would develop into an around the world tour, lasting more than two and a half years,” the article states. During the tour, Grant and Julia met with Queen Victoria, Pope Leo XII, Otto von Bismarck and other dignitaries from around the world.
Upon death, Grant was seen, and continues to be seen as “a symbol of the American national identity and memory.”
Seeing the Sights
Monuments and memorials to Grant are located throughout the United States.
Grant National Memorial—or Grant’s Tomb—is located in New York City and is the largest mausoleum in North America. The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial is located at the foot of Capital Hill in Washington D.C. The Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site is located near St. Louis, with several other points of interested located nearby.
In Ohio, there are three interesting historical sites related to Grant, and they’re all located nearby in equally interesting and quaint little towns.
U.S. Grant Birthplace
1551 St. Rt. 232, Point Pleasant
At this Ohio History Connection historic site, visitors can tour the birthplace of Grant and see how the Grant family established themselves in southern Ohio in the early 19th century. Exhibits in the home also tell the story of the house and how it traveled across the country by train later in the 19th century. The site is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, May through December and by appointment in the off season. There is small admission fee.
U.S. Grant Boyhood Home & Schoolhouse
Home: 219 E. Grant Ave., Georgetown
School: 508 S. Water St., Georgetown
Located a beautiful country drive from Point Pleasant is the colorful town of Georgetown, which is where Grant spent his childhood and where he attended school. Visitors can explore young Grant’s life by visiting the school and his boyhood home, which is restored to its 1839 appearance and features exhibits and mementoes from his life. Open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, June through October. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and children.
There is a statue of Grant located on Grant Avenue in downtown Georgetown. It overlooks this charming, rural community.
Rutherford B. Hayes – 19th President of the United States – March 4, 1877 to March 4, 1881
Rutherford B. Hayes is a little-remembered U.S. president, but, believe it or not, he’s one of the most beloved figures of all time in Paraguay. This is because in 1878 Hayes agreed to negotiate a long-standing border dispute between Paraguay and Argentina. His decision was in favor of Paraguay, which added 60 percent more land to the country and helped guarantee its survival as a nation.
The industrial city of Villa Hayes, located in the Department of Presidente Hayes (which is like a state or province in Paraguay), are both named in his honor. There’s also a holiday held each November 12th called President Hayes Day.
Just like Ulysses S. Grant, historians in the United States are starting to give Hayes a little more credit than they once did. Hayes stated from the beginning that he only planned to serve one term as president. And he planned to achieve everything he set out to do during those four years.
A Civil War hero who was wounded five times in battle, as well as a former governor of Ohio and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Hayes was seen as an honest and fair man who could restore peoples’ faith in the government. This was needed after the perceived corruption experienced under Grant’s watch and is something many historians believe he actually did achieve.
However, his honest and fair persona was immediately challenged after he won a very close presidential race. In fact, Hayes lost the popular vote to his Democrat challenger, Samuel J. Tilden, by 250,000 votes. However, electoral results in South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana were disputed. It was left up to Congress to decide the winner and they chose Hayes, largely because he agreed to remove federal troops from southern states, where they had been since the end of the Civil War, and to have at least one Southerner in his cabinet. After tallying the electoral votes, Hayes won by one point. Northern Democrats felt that Hayes had stolen the election and gave him the nickname “Rutherfraud” and “His Fraudulency.”
Despite this label, Hayes was able to achieve many goals. He oversaw the end of Reconstruc- tion; he brought the country safely out of the Panic of 1873; he began the efforts that led to civil service reform and worked to secure voting rights for African- American men; he had economic plans for gold-backed currency; and he attempted to reconcile the divisions left over from the Civil War, which many historians agree he was able to do. Also, in 1879, he signed the Act to Relieve Certain Legal Disabilities of Women, which allowed female attorneys to argue cases in federal court.
Robert D. Johnston, Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, writes that the only thing Hayes may have really done wrong was not run for a second term, where he could have continued to achieve his desired goals, including those that would have especially benefited the African-American population.
“With the economy rebounding and…a Republican Congress, he might well have enforced the election laws and protected black voters in the South. He was, after all, the last president in the 19th century who was genuinely interested in preserving voting rights for blacks,” Johnston wrote.
Seeing the Sights
After Hayes’ death, his son established a presidential library in his name, which began the tradition of building them. Today, the Hayes Presidential Library and Museum at Spiegel Grove in Fremont is probably one of the most interesting and worthwhile Ohio presidential attractions to visit. Visitors can tour the museum, which features 90,000 books, manuscripts and images that reflect Hayes’ special interests, including genealogy, local history and the Gilded Age period in which he lived. The historic site also contains his 31-room mansion (Spiegel Grove), his tomb and spacious grounds with trails, special events and more. A full day can be had here and can be added to with a visit to downtown Fremont, which has plenty to see and do.
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museum Spiegel Grove, Fremont
There are fees to tour the museum and home but the library and grounds are free. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Home tours are offered between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. during these times. Plan your visit at rbhayes.org.
Rutherford B. Hayes Birthplace Marker 17 E. William St., Delaware
Now a BP Gas Station, a small plaque and monument stands nearby along U.S. 36/William St. in Delaware. Also, an historical marker is located at the corner of North Franklin and West William streets—the site of Hayes’ boyhood home.
James A. Garfield – 20th President of the United States – March 4, 1881 to Sept. 19 1881
James A. Garfield never wanted to be president and thought of himself as more of a sailor. In fact, when he attended the 1880 Republican National Convention, he thought he was going there to stump for his friend, Treasury Secretary John Sherman, for president. However, after the convention came to an impasse over a candidate choice, Garfield’s name was thrown in the hat as a “compromise candidate.” He won and became the only sitting House member to ever be elected president.
He later told friends that, “this honor comes to me unsought. I have never had the presidential fever, not even for a day.”
From here, it was pretty much all down hill for Garfield.
For starters, during his election campaign, a journalist who supported the Democrat Party planted a fake letter that was claimed to be written by Garfield and that called for the support of Chinese laborers in the United States. This was a hot topic at the time and hundreds of thousands of copies of the letter were passed out. There was at least one riot in response to the letter’s contents. It was later determined to be fraudulent and the journalist who planted it was tried for but acquitted of any wrong-doing.
Upon entering office, Garfield tried to get to work. He purged corruption in the Post Office, appointed a U.S. Supreme Court justice, advocated agricultural technology and Civil Rights for African-Americans and proposed civil service reforms.
However, as history goes, Garfield was assassinated at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washing- ton D.C. on July 2, 1881, less than four months into his presidency. The assassin, Charles Guiteau, was a narcissistic, delusional man who falsely believed that Garfield owed him a European ambassadorship because he had supported his presidency.
Garfield didn’t die outright, and we now know that if doctors had practiced proper hand-washing, he might have lived. This was right around the time when people were first learning about the importance of using soap to kill germs, but it was not yet common knowledge or practiced widely. Garfield hung on for his life for 79 agonizing days before succumbing to the infection. Guiteau was hanged for the crime in 1882.
Seeing the Sights
Born in Orange, Ohio, near Cleveland, there are three major tourist attractions dedicated to Garfield in the region, with the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor and the Garfield Memorial in Cleveland being highlights. Here are some Garfield attractions in northeast Ohio:
James A. Garfield National Historic Site 8095 Mentor Ave., Mentor
Visit the front porch where Garfield spoke to thousands of well-wishers during his presidential campaign, tour his home and libraries and visit the house museum at this comprehensive historic site, which is also located in a very beautiful Victorian neighborhood. There is a $10 entrance fee to the park and it’s open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.
James A. Garfield Memorial 12316 Euclid Ave., Cleveland (at Lakeview Cemetery)
This monument stands at 180 feet tall and contains five terra cotta panels featuring more than 110 life-size figures that depict Garfield’s life and death. The interior features gold mosaics, colored marble, stained glass windows and other intricate features, plus the flag- draped casket of President Garfield on full display. There is a $5 admission fee.
James A. Garfield Birthplace 4350 SOM Ctr. Rd, Moreland Hills
A replica cabin, historical markers and a statue of Garfield as a young man are located at this park, which is free to visit.
Benjamin Harrison – 23rd President of the United States – March 4, 1889 to March 4, 1893
A graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Benjamin Harrison grew up in North Bend along the Ohio River where his grandfather, the 9th President of the United States, had met his grandmother. However, he spent much of his adult life in Indianapolis.
Although often written off as a mediocre president at best, Harrison left a lasting mark on United States history—especially on foreign policy.
Allan Spetter, Professor Emeritus of History at Wright State University, writing for the UVA Miller Center, states that, “In foreign affairs, Harrison is now credited with having done more to move the nation along the path to world empire than any previous president, serving as a model for the young Theodore Roosevelt to admire and emulate. His commercial reciprocity treaties, support for the annexation of Hawaii, establishment of the first American protectorate in Samoa, and push for a trans-isthmus canal in Central America set the agenda for the next thirty years of American foreign policy.”
Six states joined the Union under Harrison’s presidency: North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. He also advocated for forest conservation, pensions for Civil War veterans and the expansion of the U.S. Navy, as well as civil rights.
However, historians, including Spetter, believe Harrison’s “misguided support” for the McKinley Tariff and Sherman Silver Purchase Act may have contributed greatly to the economic collapse of 1893, which was the greatest depression in U.S. history up to that time and one of the reasons his presidency often receives low scores.
But there are other reasons too. Spetter writes, “He seemed insensitive and unaware of the massive industrial changes that had overtaken America…of the depths of economic hardship affecting the nation's farmers as they fell down the economic ladder to tenancy; and of the industrial crisis that began to topple railroads, banks, and business corporations like dominoes within days of his retirement from office.”
Harrison didn’t seem to enjoy the presidency. Upon leaving office in 1893, he told his family that he felt he had just been freed from prison. Some of his friends from the Republican Party attempted to persuade him to run for the presidency again, but he declined. However, he did travel around the country making appearances and speeches in support of his friend, and fellow Ohioan and future president, William McKinley.
Seeing the Sights
Along with exhibits and information on Benjamin Harrison at the Harrison-Symmes Memorial Foundation Museum in Cleves, Ohio, the main attractions for Harrison are in Indianapolis. They are:
Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site 1230 N. Delaware St., Indianapolis
The home of Harrison is open for tours throughout the week. Ten of the 16 rooms in the home are open to visitors, all of which are decorated in the Victorian-style of Harrison’s time. There are 10,000 pieces of memorabilia and artifacts at the site, most of which belonged to Harrison. An added bonus at this location is the Candlelight Theatre, which presents period-themed plays and performances. The site is open 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is charged. Plan your visit at bhpsite.org.
Benjamin Harrison Statue University Park in downtown Indianapolis
This full-length bronze sculpture was dedicated in 1908 and is located in the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza at University Park. During his presidential campaign, Harrison often gave speeches at the park.
Benjamin Harrison Tomb 700 38th St., Indianapolis (at Crown Hill Cemetery)
Along with visiting the tomb, visitors can take a $5 guided tour of the cemetery, which, along with Harrison, contains the gravesites of other famous Indiana residents.
William McKinley – 25th President of the United States – March 4, 1897 to Sept. 14, 1901 William McKinley is officially considered the best president to hail from Ohio. In national polls, he’s always ranked in the top-20 and is sometimes in the top-15.
He is remembered for leading the nation to a quick and decisive victory against the Spanish during the Spanish-American War. His pro- business and industrial initiatives helped lift the country out of a depression and transformed the United States into a global super power, both militarily and economically. During his tenure, the United States acquired overseas territories, including the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guam, and he annexed the Hawaiian Islands. He also started the effort to build the Panama Canal.
The economy flourished under McKinley and the overall wealth for the average person increased during his time in office. This has been attributed to his support of the Gold Standard and the trust that voters had in him. He easily won his second term in office.
Unfortunately, the curse of Ohio Presidents got the best of McKinley and, on Sept. 6, 1901 while in Niagara Falls, NY, he was assassinated by an anarchist who was angry at the government. McKinley was shaking hands with a crowd of locals when the assassin shot him twice. After he was shot, the crowd began to beat on the assassin. McKinley, speaking to his body guards, famously yelled out, “Boys, don’t let them hurt him.”
He lived for eight days before succumbing to his wounds.
While McKinley is seen as an above-average president, possibly his only “mistake” was that he was succeeded by his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, whom many historians believe simply overshadowed McKinley’s achievements. (Roosevelt is often considered one of the great presidents ever).
However, McKinley is not forgotten. His face is on the $500 bill and his monument in Canton is one of the most magnificent of its kind. He also has the distinction of being the first president to ride in an automobile, including in an ambulance after being shot.
Seeing the Sights
The William McKinley Memorial in Canton, Ohio rivals presidential monuments in Washington D.C. It’s size and scope are both impressive. Add on the presidential library and museum at the same location, and plenty of time can be spent at this interesting place.
McKinley National Memorial 800 McKinley Monument Dr. NW, Canton
People use the many steps leading to the top of the McKinley National Memorial to exercise. There’s just so many of them! The massive memorial is really something to see and shouldn’t be missed when passing through Canton. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum 800 McKinley Monument Dr. NW, Canton
More than just about the life of William McKinley (although it’s certainly a focus), this facility features the Hoover-Price Planetarium, a Discover World with pre-historic exhibits and hands-on, interactive exhibits. The McKinley Gallery and The Stark County Story exhibit, which covers local Civil War history, are major highlights. It is open 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesday- Saturday. Admission is $10 for adults; $9 for seniors and $8 for children. Learn more at mckinleymuseum.org.
First Ladies National Historic Site 205 Market Ave., Canton
This National Park site is the “foremost repository of scholarly research and information and a leader in education about the First Ladies of the USA.” The Education and Research Center is free to visit, but tours are $7 for adults; $6 for seniors and $5 for youth. Learn more at firstladies.org.
William Taft – 27th President of the United States – March 4, 1909 to March 4, 1913
There is a growing belief among biographers and historians that President William Howard Taft’s notoriously big appetite “reflected psychological tensions within himself that he never resolved,” writes Peri Arnold, Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. In other words, Taft was a stress-eater, and he apparently was “naturally critical of his own abilities” as a leader. Both of these factors may have led to his presidency being considered mediocre at best.
Taft was known to eat a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon and mounds of pancakes for breakfast. Arnold and other historians believe this daily routine left him sluggish and inactive for most of the morning and impacted his ability to act efficiently as president. In fact, this was a big complaint about Taft—he sat around thinking too much and not acting enough, possibly because he was just too stuffed to think straight.
However, it should be noted that the thing Taft is most remembered for, that is, getting stuck in the White House bath tub, never happened. It’s not true. But, because of his lack of accomplishments as president, this is what he’s often remembered for.
Like other U.S. presidents from Ohio, Taft had quite a distinguished career before becoming president, but he actually didn’t achieve his political dreams until after serving as president.
After leaving office, Taft taught at Yale Law School and in 1921 was named by President Warren G. Harding to the Supreme Court (his life-long goal) and served as Chief Justice of the United States until just before his death. After joining the Court Taft reportedly wrote, “I don’t remember that I ever was President.”
Although remembered more for his weight than his presidency, historians do point out that Taft certainly made an impact on the country. History.com lists his achievements to include: his trust-busting efforts, his empowering of the Interstate Commerce Commission to set railroad rates, his support of constitutional amendments mandating a federal income tax, and the direct election of senators by the people. Taft was also the last president to wear facial hair.
Seeing the Sights
William Howard Taft is one of only two U.S. presidents to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, instead of in his hometown of Cincinnati. However, his presidential site is located in Cincinnati near the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Harriet Beecher Stowe House and the Krohn Conservatory. Taft’s Ale House is a popular restaurant located nearby.
William Howard Taft National Historic Site 2038 Auburn Ave., Cincinnati
The William Howard Taft National Historic Site is the birthplace and childhood home of Taft and consists of two buildings. The first is the original home owned by William Howard Taft’s parents. It has been restored to look as it did during the time William lived. The first floor has five rooms restored with period pieces and furniture. The second floor contains exhibits. The second building is the National Historic Site’s Visitor Center, known as the Taft Education Center. It contains a National Park gift shop, an audio-animatronic exhibit of William’s son, Charles Phelps Taft II, fishing and telling stories about his father and other members of the Taft family, and a short biographical film on Taft. It is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and free to visit.
Warren Harding – 29th President of the United States – March 4, 1921 to Aug. 2, 1923
One hundred years ago, Warren G. Harding was elected President of the United States. It was the last time someone from Ohio would hold the office. Harding is generally regarded as one of, if not the worst U.S. president of all time. However, when he died from a heart attack in office in 1923 at the age of 57, he was wildly popular and was hailed as a great American hero. Some newspapers even proclaimed that he had died for his country. He had also won the presidency by the greatest popular vote margin to that time.
It wasn’t until after his death that the scandals that would plague his legacy came to light, although he likely had no knowledge of any of them and was never implicated in any wrong-doing. His Secretary of Interior Albert Fall, however, was found to have leased public land to oil companies in exchange for gifts, which became known as the Teapot Dome Scandal. His Attorney General Harry Daughtery was accused of selling liquor permits during Prohibition. Director of the Veterans’ Bureau Charles Forbes was prosecuted and convicted of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government of $2 million and sentenced to prison for two years. The list goes on. (Note: Apparently, Harding didn’t mind drinking himself during Prohibition).
These scandals, which often involved friends that Harding had appointed to their positions of power, along with extra- marital affairs, are often cited as the reasons for his low ranking as a president. However, others say there’s more to the story than that.
While some historians argue that Harding played an important role in helping to stabilize the country after World War I (he ran as the “return to normalcy” candidate), others believe his main fault was that he lacked vision and direction and that he saw the presidency as more of a ceremonial position.
Eugene Trani, Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University, writing for the UVA Miller Center, states, “In the end, it was not his corrupt friends that tarnished his legacy and undermined his historical impact. Rather, it was his own lack of vision and his poor sense of priorities that positioned him so low in the ranking of U.S. presidents…He saw himself as neither a caretaker nor as a leader. He just avoided issues whenever possible.”
Harding’s legacy, however, is not a complete loss. He is remembered for bringing the United States into the “age of the motor car” and he supported new technology like radio and aviation. He signed the Federal Highway Act of 1921, which created jobs and helped lift the recession after World War I. He signed the Fordney-McCumer Tariff, which greatly increased tariff rates. He signed the Budget and Accounting Act, which established the country’s first formal budgeting process. He was also the first president to visit Alaska and the first sitting president to visit Canada, as well as the first sitting senator to become president.
Seeing the Sights
Harding was known as the “front porch president,” because he did much of his campaigning from the front porch of his home in Marion, Ohio. At heart, Marion was the world to Harding and is home to two presidential attractions.
Warren G. Harding Home 380 Mt. Vernon Ave., Marion
Although currently closed for restoration, including the construction of a new Presidential Center, when open, visitors will be able to see the restored home, view memorabilia and artifacts from his life and career and attend special events.
Warren G. Harding Memorial Vernon Heights Blvd. at Delaware Ave., Marion
The Harding Memorial/Tomb is designed in the style of a circular Greek temple with Doric-order marble columns and is one of the more striking of its kind. It’s open dusk until dawn daily and is free to visit.