One hundred years ago this month, President Warren Harding announced that he planned to go to Alaska in the summer to get a first-hand feel for how the nation should develop — and protect — the territory’s bounty of natural resources.
Harding labeled his ambitious trip of eight weeks the “Voyage of Understanding.” The idea was simple: He wanted to exchange ideas with the American people. He wanted the people to tell him if the policies his Administration had put in place were helping them to find a way forward from the inflation, high unemployment, traumatic issues in the farming industry and recession stemming from the end of World War I. Just as important, he also wanted to explain to them what the Administration was trying to do to for the people. That mutual understanding, he said, would help the nation heal and move forward.
The trip involved thousands of miles by railroad, and hundreds of miles by ship across the ocean to and from Alaska. The trip was supposed to include sailing through the Panama Canal and a stop in Puerto Rico before arriving back in Washington, D.C. As many of you know, the trip was cut short. President Harding died of heart issues in San Francisco on Aug.
The Harding Sites this year will explore the Voyage of Understanding in programs and exhibits throughout the year. Our plans call for a kickoff program on February 23; a temporary exhibit in the Harding Presidential library to allow visitors to see more of the historical objects tied to the trip; a new video (by the president’s grand-nephew, Dr. Richard Harding) about the health and death of the president; and a special, virtual program about the president’s death on Aug. 2. We’ll address this year the countless conspiracy theories surrounding the president’s trip and death, tell you where the unbiased stories originated and offer you only well-researched facts.
Since we can mark the 100th anniversary of this milestone trip just once, we’ve designed some cool commemorative items, featuring the above logo. For starters, we’ve designed a coffee mug, commemorative pin and magnet to mark this unusual year.
Pack Your Bags! It’s Time for President Harding to Hit the Road
Harding Sites researcher/ presenter Jon Andersen will kick off the coverage of President Harding’s trip to the western states, Canada and Alaska. “Packing Our Bags for the Western Trip,” is scheduled for 7 p.m. February 23 at the Harding Presidential Museum & Library. The program is the site’s Fireside Chat, which means we provide refreshments and a cheezy fireplace to go along with good conversation. The program is free to the public and is an in-person event.
Andersen, known for deep research and relatable presentations, will explain the reasons for the trip, the itinerary, and what the preparations entailed. Andersen, aided by information gleaned by Friends member and former National Archives employee Jerry Wallace, also will examine a troubling bout of the flu 100 years ago this month which may have set the stage for Harding’s symptoms of heart disease and ultimate death.