Harding, Florence Kling


16 days before her death, the former First Lady writes a check to her sister-in-law


Type: Check
Description:  (1860-1924) “The Duchess”, wife of President Warren G. Harding, First Lady 1921-23.

She married Henry (“Pete”) De Wolfe Jan. 22, 1880, bore her only child, Marshall, Sept. 22, 1880, divorced him 1886. She met Harding, owner of the Marion Star newspaper, he 5 years younger than she; they married July 8, 1891. Warren called her “the boss” and she called him “Sonny.” They had no children of their own.

With Florence’s leadership, the Star prospered. She encouraged him in his 1899 1st (successful) run for state senate, reelected 1901, and, in 1903, elected lieutenant governor. In Feb.1905, Florence needed emergency surgery and was treated by homoeopathic doctor Charles E. Sawyer, later Warren’s and her personal physician; President Harding would name him a Brigadier General in the Army Medical Corps. During her convalescence, Warren began an affair with her close friend, Carrie Phillips. The Hardings left for Europe August 1911, and in England she became an ardent suffragette, silent on women’s suffrage in the 1912 election. Florence was active in animal rights and joined the Animal Rescue League, Humane Society, and ASPCA. Despite her ill health, she encouraged Warren to run for the Senate in 1914 and with her aid, he was elected. After the US entered WW I, she actively volunteered in the war effort, working at Walter Reed Hospital and handing out tin cups of coffee and sandwiches to soldiers departing from Union Station.

By 1920, he was a contender for the GOP presidential nomination, and Florence took a active role at the convention currying favor with journalists. After he became the nominee, he largely conducted a front porch campaign; she controlled who he met in the house.

On March 4, 1921, Florence Harding became First Lady, immediately taking an active role in national politics, and had a strong influence in selecting Cabinet members. She was the 1st First Lady to have her own Secret Service agent. She launched new fashions like the silk black neckband called “Flossie Clings” after her maiden name. She was the 1st First Lady since Frances Cleveland whose face was so recognizable to the public, often in newsreel footage alongside Warren unveiling statues, at baseball games, and dedicating the Lincoln Memorial; several flowers were named in her honor. The First Couple’s popularity increased by attending movie screenings and meeting actors. An outward proponent of Prohibition, she secretly served alcohol to guests. She worked to protect their image, concealing his drinking, womanizing (inc. his affair with Nan Britton and the birth of a daughter), and Cabinet corruption. Florence relied on astrology to determine Warren’s personal schedule, known to many in his inner circle. She had more press interviews than all First Ladies before her combined, enjoyed talking to journalists she liked, and her press conferences, which began a month after the inauguration, were a regular event, held over 4 o’clock tea.

Her discovery of Warren’s affair with Nan Britton took its toll on her health. By 1923, Florence and Warren were both suffering from dangerous illnesses, but undertook a coast-to-coast rail tour, Warren visibly ailing. He died at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco Aug. 2, 1923. After his death, Florence was planning a tour of Europe but her kidney ailment returned. On Nov. 21, 1924, she died of renal failure.

Partly-printed DS, 2 ¾ x 6 ¼ The Marion County Bank Co. un-numbered bank check dated November 8 1924 made out and signed by Florence Kling Harding paying $100 to Abigail Harding (Warren’s sister) , her endorsement signature on verso. “For” line is not completed but possibly a wedding gift?

Abigail “Daisy” Victoria Harding Lewis (1876-1935) Warren’s sister was Nan Britton’s high school teacher. Daisy married Ralph T. Lewis in 1924. After Harding’s death, Nan visited her former teacher, told her about her affair  with her brother, and revealed the existence of their daughter. She asked Abigail for $50,000 for child support. Daisy began giving Nan small sums of money until her younger brother George stopped it. Britton then wrote a 1927 book about her affair with Harding, “The President’s Daughter”, which was a best-seller.

Condition: Good, few cancellation holes affect bottom of “F” in signature, few trivial smudges, light folds with a start well repaired verso, small hole above “I” in “Abigail”

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