Warren G. Harding & Stanley Park
One of the more unusual pieces of outdoor sculpture
in Vancouver is the huge, old-fashioned and impressive memorial
to U.S. president Warren Harding in Stanley Park. The story of how
and why that work was commissioned is interesting.
Harding had visited Vancouver July 26, 1923, the
first sitting U.S. president to visit Canada. We were thrilled that
of all the cities in Canada he could have visited he chose Vancouver.
Harding wowed the locals. B.C. premier John Oliver and Vancouvers
mayor Charles Tisdall hosted a lunch in his honor at the Hotel Vancouver.
An estimated 50,000 of us crowded into Stanley Park to hear him
speak, thrilled that such an important figure was visiting.
He even played some golf while he was here. After
playing six holes of golf, one Internet site says, Harding
became so tired that, to quell any suspicions, he moved to the 17th
hole, then finished the 18th. That photo shows the Harding foursome.
He later called for White House homeopath Sawyer, complaining of
nausea and pain in the upper abdomen. Sawyer found the President
had a pulse of 120 beats per minute and was breathing 40 times per
minute. (Both of these readings are abnormally high.) Intensive
cardiac therapy including digitalis was started.
A week later Harding and his entourage were in San
Francisco, and he died there, exactly one week after visiting Vancouver.
The city was shocked and saddened. The Kiwanis ClubHarding
was a Kiwanianinitiated a drive for a grand memorial to him
in Stanley Park, at the site where he spoke. The monument was designed
by Vancouver sculptor Charles Marega (also a Kiwanian), and unveiled
In lists of American presidents ranked by effectiveness,
Hardings name usually comes last. He was, for one thing, a
dreadful public speaker. A political foe called his speeches an
army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of
Story continues below »
President Warren G. Harding
But he was undeniably popular with most of the American
public . . . partly because, to quote one admirer, He looked
like a president. He won his election by an unprecedented
landslide of 60 percent of the popular vote. (He was, incidentally,
the first president to be driven to his inauguration in an automobile.)
On news of his death the nation was plunged into mourning.
As the president's ceremonial procession traveled from San Francisco
to Washington, D.C., the New York Times said, The public's
response is the most remarkable expression of affection, respect
and reverence in U.S. history. The Stanley Park monument is
evidence of that same sentiment resonating in Vancouver.
Because his administration was noted for its corruption
(from which he, himself, was apparently free), lots of theories
about Harding's sudden death popped up: he committed suicide, he
was poisoned by his wife for his philandering, he was poisoned by
fellow Republicans to rid them of an embarrassment, etc., etc. But
Harding's doctor was quite clear: the president had long suffered
from high blood pressure and a heart attack was the cause of death.
Harding was succeeded by his vice president Calvin
Hardings last words? As he lay on his death
bed, his wife Florence was reading aloud flattering newspaper articles
about him. Thats good, Harding said in response
to one, go on. Read some more. And as she read he closed
his eyes and died.
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