Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
William Estabrook Chancellor
Chancellor was born in Dayton, Ohio. After graduating from Amherst College, he went into teaching, and also wrote prolifically, publishing around 40 books and hundreds of articles. He married into the family of Harriet Beecher Stowe. He was a Democrat.
When Chancellor was a professor at The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, he began to research the background of Warren G. Harding. He wrote two pamphlets about this subject prior to the 1920 presidential election, unleashing a major scandal. Chancellor was dismissed from his post four days before the election. Copies of Chancellor's pamphlets were confiscated by federal agents and destroyed; currently only five are thought to be in existence, three of which are owned by rare book collectors, the other two owned by museums.
Chancellor's theory on Harding's lineage was based upon affidavits provided by aged Crawford County, Ohio residents that Harding was of mixed race. Chancellor claimed that Harding had a great-grandmother, Elizabeth Madison, who was black. It was these affidavits from elderly residents in Galion, Ohio, that served as the basis for Chancellor's book.
Harding was born in 1845 near Corsica, Ohio (now Blooming Grove). Harding's father, Dr. George Tryon Harding, was a homeopathic physician; Harding's mother Pheobe Dickerson Harding was a midwife who later qualified for an Ohio medical license. Dr. Harding relocated his family to Caledonia in eastern Marion County when the younger Harding was a young boy. Unless Chancellor's sources had intimate knowledge of Harding's genealogy, the rumor is probably untrue.
Relying upon the affidavits, Chancellor moved forward with his book, which lacked primary source records to validate his claim. Chancellor could not produce an Ohio birth record for Harding (who was born in 1865) because Ohio did not mandate the recording of births until 1867. Furthermore, Chancellor could find no court records, deeds, or other legal documents that could prove that Harding was of mixed race. Chancellor also couldn't verify his position through U.S Census records because records made prior to 1850 did not provide a complete enumeration by name and race, only recording the name of the head of household and the age and sex of persons.
After Harding was elected, Chancellor published his biography of Harding; however, federal agents acted immediatly to supress the distribution of the book. Henceforth, Chancellor was monitored by federal agents. Unable to research or find a teaching position, Chancellor moved to Canada.
According to John Dean, author of Warren G. Harding, Chancellor's theory's were partly based upon a rumor spread by Amos Kling, the father of Harding's wife, Florence. Dean, who lived in Marion as a teenager claims that the rumor was spread as retribution for positions taken by Harding in the newspaper that he published, The Marion Star. Dean wrote that Chancellor was "racist." Following Chancellor's death, author Francis Russell also attempted to further research the theory that Harding was of mixed race; his research and book, The Shadow of Blooming Grove, (McGraw Hill, 1968) was unable to substantiate Chancellor's conclusions beyond circumstantial evidence.
Further discussion of Chancellor's claims appears in the book The Strange Deaths of President Harding by Robert H. Ferrell, published in 1998 (not to be confused with the book by Gaston Means's The Strange Death of President Harding (note the plural).
- The Indictment (2000) John A. Murphy
- The Shadow of Blooming Grove (McGraw Hill, 1968) Francis Russell
- Warren G. HardingThe American Presidents Series, Arthur M. Schlesinger General Editor, (Times Books, 2004) John W. Dean
- The Strange Deaths of President Harding (University of Missouri Press, 1998) Robert Ferrell
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