Teapot Dome Scandal

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Postcard from the time of the scandal: "Teapot Rock - Famous Teapot Dome - Oil District - In Wyoming"

The Teapot Dome scandal was the largest political bribery scandal in the United States of the early 1920s and was a symbol of corruption for a long time after that. In order to secure the lucrative private development of state-owned oil fields, two oil companies bribed Interior Minister Albert B. Fall ( Republican Party ) in 1921/22 . In 1929, Fall became the first American minister to serve prison sentence for a crime committed during his tenure.

Scandal and exposure

Central figure in the Teapot Dome scandal: Interior Minister Albert B. Fall
Also involved: Minister of the Navy Edwin Denby

Under Presidents Theodore Roosevelt , William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson , the controversial idea was developed that the United States Navy should have its own oil reserves in the form of state-owned oil fields in the event of war. Taft had acquired fields in California (Elk Hills near Taft and Buena Vista Hills) and Wyoming for this purpose . The field located in Wyoming's Natrona County was named Teapot Dome because of a peculiar looking rock formation towering up there .

  • 1920 On June 4, 1920, Congress passed a law that the Secretary of the Navy should dispose of it.
  • 1921 In March 1921, President Warren G. Harding appointed Albert Fall as Secretary of the Interior. This persuaded Navy Minister Edwin Denby to transfer control of the fields to the Ministry of the Interior, which Harding approved with an executive order . A little later, rumors began to circulate that the standard of living in Falls had recently improved by leaps and bounds.
  • 1922 On April 22, 1922, the Wall Street Journal reported that Fall had leased the Teapot Dome field to Harry F. Sinclair, the owner of Mammoth Oil / Sinclair Oil , without a public tender. This peculiar behavior - Case later declared the secrecy with national security - was not illegal per se, but in connection with the way of life in Falls, many already sensed what the overall circumstances would amount to. President Harding initially trusted Fall and Denby, but Senators Robert La Follette (Republicans) and John B. Kendrick ( Democrats ) forced a committee of inquiry.
  • 1923 Minister of the Interior Fall resigned from office on March 4th. President Harding did not live to see the committee of inquiry, as he died unexpectedly on August 2, 1923, with Denby being reappointed to Coolidge's new cabinet. The hearings, chaired by Senator Thomas J. Walsh (Democrats), began on October 15, 1923, before the Senate Committee on Public Lands and Surveys . It crystallized bit by bit that Pan American Petroleum had secured the exploitation of the Californian oil fields and, as already reported in the newspaper, Sinclair Oil had secured the Teapot Dome field in Wyoming.
  • 1924 In January 1924, the dazzling figure Edward L. Doheny (1856-1935, via Upton Sinclair one of the main inspirations of the film There Will Be Blood and the Raymond Chandler novel The High Window ) by Pan American Petroleum confessed that he was Albert Fall in 1921 / 22 had made cheap loans of over 100,000 dollars, but that was only the tip of the iceberg, and Minister Edward Denby had to resign shortly afterwards. Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty resigned on March 28, 1924 under pressure from President Coolidge ; he was accused of slack investigations into the Teapot Dome scandal and involvement in the parallel, smaller Daugherty Burns scandal .
  • 1927 On October 17, 1927, Harry F. Sinclair was summoned but refused to testify. When it became known that he had spied on juries by William J. Burns , the ex-director of the Bureau of Investigation (another offshoot of the rambling Daugherty Burns scandal), he was sentenced to six and a half months in jail for disobeying the court Fined $ 100,000. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1927 that the licenses to the oil fields had been obtained illegally and declared the contracts null and void.
  • 1929 Albert Fall was sentenced to one year in prison in 1929 and fined $ 100,000.
  • 1930 Although Edward Doheny had openly admitted that he had regularly given money to both parties "because of their influence", he was acquitted in 1930. Navy Minister Edwin Denby was also acquitted, but was no longer given political office.

Immediate political consequences

The Democrats' hope of making political capital out of the affair was not fulfilled. While Warren Harding celebrated the election victory in 1920 with the largest percentage advantage in US history (after the abolition of census suffrage), Coolidge achieved the second largest in the 1924 presidential election with 54% to 28.8% against John W. Davis . This was largely due to the fact that he had a good personal reputation and had removed Daugherty and Denby from office, but also because the critical public learned from the revelations of the entanglement of all parties with big industry; so was z. B. Woodrow Wilson's son-in-law and Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo has been bribed and failed to get a Democratic presidential nomination. Not only was Navy Minister Denby's career over, although he was not convicted; Theodore Roosevelt's son Theodore Jr. , Deputy Minister of the Navy, was also acquitted, but could no longer take up the desired governor of New York .


Laton McCartney: The Teapot Dome Scandal: how big oil bought the Harding White House and tried to steal the Country . Random House, New York City 2009, ISBN 978-0-8129-7337-2

Individual evidence

  1. http://spartacus-educational.com/USAteapot.htm
  2. http://www.militarymuseum.org/Doheny.html

Web links