Teapot Dome
notorious government scandal

1922 to 1928

Teapot Dome was one of the most notorious government scandals in United States history. It occurred in the Administration of President Warren G. Harding and contributed to his low standing among U.S. Presidents.

Committees of the U.S. Senate and a special commission investigated the scandal from 1922 to 1928. The investigators found that Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall had persuaded Harding to transfer control of three naval oil reserves from the Navy Department to the Department of the Interior in 1921. Fall leased the reserves, at Elk Hills, California, and Teapot Dome, Wyoming, mostly without competitive bidding to the private oil companies of Edward L. Doheny and Harry F. Sinclair in 1922. For helping to arrange the Elk Hills transfer, Fall received a "loan" of $100,000 from Doheny. For the Teapot Dome transfer, Fall received over $300,000 in cash, bonds, and valuable livestock from Sinclair. Fall resigned in 1923 and joined Sinclair's oil business.

In 1927, the government successfully sued to cancel the leases. In 1929, Fall was convicted of accepting a bribe, fined $100,000, and sentenced to a year in prison. He was the first Cabinet member ever to go to jail for crimes committed while in office.

Contributor: Robert D. Parmet, Ph.D., Prof. of History, York College, City Univ. of New York.

Additional resources

Noggle, Burl. Teapot Dome. 1962. Reprint. Greenwood, 1980.

Weisner, Herman B. The Politics of Justice: A. B. Fall and the Teapot Dome Scandal. Creative Designs, 1992.


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