A lot of people have asked why we at the Sherman Inn in Ogdensburg have named our first floor janitor's closet after U.S. President Warren G. Harding, Jr.
Warren G. Harding Jr. has the dubious honor of being remembered as the only president of the United States who brought his mistress to Ogdensburg during a visit in 1918 before he was elected president.
It was his second visit to our city. In 1912, when Harding was serving as Lt. Governor of Ohio, he made his first visit to speak at the old Opera House on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Ohio Governor Howard B. Taft.
Harding was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1914. Four years later, in June, 1918, he returned to Ogdensburg with his girl friend, Carrie Fulton Phillips, on a trip he made through Northern New York, according to a timeline developed by the Library of Congress.
Harding wrote more than 1,000 love letters to Carrie Phillips. She blackmailed him when he ran for president two year after his visit to Ogdensburg, threatening to expose their affair unless the Republican Party paid to send her on an all-expense paid tour of Asia and the Pacific Islands as well as hush money payments. The party paid and Harding was elected!
As President, Harding wasted little time replacing Phillips with a new girlfriend, Nan Britton. She later wrote in a tell-all book that he would arrange meetings in a closet in the White House. The president instructed a Secret Service Agent to tap on the door if he saw Harding’s wife approaching.
While Harding ran for president with the backing of the anti-saloon league as the prohibition candidate, he enjoyed his scotch and sodas in the White House while federal agents made raids on Ogdensburg bootleggers and speakeasies. When you pass Warren’s closet, make sure you rap the door 3 times to let him know his wife is approaching or just to give him a scare.
Next time you visit the Frederic Remington Art Museum, make sure you see the Sally James Farnham exhibit upstairs. You’ll notice a life size bust of Warren G. Harding that Sally sculpted. Make sure you whisper in his ear that you know his secret!