It's almost Independence Day, so I thought that writing about another First Dog would be a nice, patriotic way to celebrate the holiday. And when I learned about Laddie Boy, who was probably the most famous and popular First Dog ever, I knew that he was the one I should write about.
But to begin with, I will tell you a little bit about Laddie Boy's dad, who was Warren Gamaliel Harding. He was born in Blooming Grove, Ohio, on November 2, 1865, and he was the oldest of 8 children. Later, the family moved to Caledonia, Ohio, and Warren Harding's father bought the local newspaper. At the age of 10, Warren began learning all about his father's business. When he went to college, he learned even more about journalism, and he also learned a lot about public speaking. In 1882, at the age of 17, he graduated from Ohio Central College with a Bachelor of Science degree.
After college, Mr. Harding moved to Marion, Ohio, and he ran the Marion Daily Star. Later on, he served in the Ohio Senate, as Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, and as a U.S. Senator. In 1920, the Republican Party nominated him to run for president. He was friendly, conservative, and got along well with everybody. He promised a return to "normalcy" after World War I. Lots of people voted for him, so he was elected by a landslide.
The press really liked President Harding because he was a newspaperman himself. He let them ask lots of questions, was honest with them, and even admitted he wasn't perfect. But Congress didn't like him as much, and they didn't give him a "honeymoon," like they usually give to new presidents.
Laddie Boy came to the White House on March 5, 1921, which was the day after President Harding took office. The new First Dog was an Airedale terrier, and he was 7 months old. He had been born on July 26, 1920 at Caswell Kennels in Toledo, Ohio. The president told his staff to let him know when the dog arrived, so they did, even though there was a cabinet meeting going on. President Harding was so happy to get Laddie Boy that he brought him right into the meeting. And ever after that, Laddie Boy went to most cabinet meetings, where he had his very own hand-carved chair to sit on.
|Oh Boy and Laddie Boy|
with caretaker Willie Jackson
|First Dog and First Lady|
|Laddie Boy okays his official portrait|
|A birthday cake made of dog treats!|
Unfortunately, President Harding did not have a very fun time in the White House because there were a bunch of scandals and stuff going on. He sort of tried to use Laddie Boy to distract people from thinking about the scandals, but this did not work all that well. One time the president said, "I am not fit for this office and should never have been here." Many people think of the Harding presidency as a failure, but he did do some good things, such as reducing income tax, federal spending, and unemployment. Also he managed to make more peaceful relations with Germany, Japan, and Central America.
But the stress of his office was not good for President Harding's health, so in June of 1923, he and Mrs. Harding left Washington on a trip all the way across the country. They even went to Alaska, which made Mr. Harding the first president to go there. And wherever he went, he gave talks to explain his policies. But as the trip went along, the president started feeling worse and worse. Finally, in San Francisco, he died in his hotel room. Probably he died from heart failure or maybe from a stroke.
|Waiting for Dad to come home from his trip|
|President Harding's funeral procession|
Meanwhile, 19,000 members of the Newsboys Association donated pennies to be melted down for making a life-sized statue of Laddie Boy for Mrs. Harding. The sculpture was made by Bashka Paeff, but unfortunately, she didn't get it finished before Mrs. Harding died in 1924. The statue of Laddie Boy is in the Smithsonian collection, but it is not on display right now.
|Laddie Boy's statue at the Smithsonian|
and an unidentified man