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Presidential Pets - President Warren Harding and his dog Laddie Boy

Updated on May 11, 2013

A President and His Dog

President Warren Harding and his dog, Laddie Boy.
President Warren Harding and his dog, Laddie Boy. | Source

Warren G. Harding and his dog, Laddie Boy

Warren Harding was the 29th President of the United States. He served as Commander in Chief from 1921 to 1923. He was unable to finish his term in office, after having a possible fatal heart attack in 1923. During his presidency, members of his administration and high government officials were allegedly involved in criminal activity. Although Harding was not implicated in any wrongdoing, the scandal overshadowed much of his presidency, as did the extra marital affairs he was known to have.

While President Harding was in office, his dog received regular media coverage. His dog named Laddie Boy, was the first celebrity dog. From 1921 to 1923, the President and his wife included their pooch in nearly every aspect of their daily activities. Laddie Boy was an Airedale Terrier.

If Harding golfed with associates, Laddie Boy was there. When the President hit a bad shot, Laddie Boy would retrieve the ball and return it to Harding. Warren G. Harding and his dog, Laddie Boy.


Laddie Boy and the First Lady

Mrs. Harding was an advocate for the humane rights of animals.
Mrs. Harding was an advocate for the humane rights of animals. | Source

The President and His Dog

Warren Harding was the 29th President of the United States. He served as Commander in Chief from 1921 to 1923. He was unable to finish his term in office, after having a possible fatal heart attack in 1923. During his presidency, members of his administration and high government officials were allegedly involved in criminal activity. Although Harding was not implicated in any wrongdoing, the scandal overshadowed much of his presidency, as did the extra marital affairs he was known to have.

While President Harding was in office, his dog received regular media coverage. His dog named Laddie Boy, was the first celebrity dog. From 1921 to 1923, the President and his wife included their pooch in nearly every aspect of their daily activities.

Laddie Boy was an Airedale Terrier. If Harding golfed with associates, Laddie Boy was there. During cabinet meetings, Laddie Boy had his own chair. Mrs. Harding would often bring Laddie Boy to fundraising events. So prominent was their dog, that he appeared in the newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Star, on a daily basis. Laddie Boy was the first celebrity presidential dog from the tremendous amount of attention he received from the press.

Laddie Boy joined the first family, the day after Harding was inaugurated, when he was six or seven months old. Laddie Boy was a gift from a friend from Ohio, Marshall Sheepey. Harding eagerly awaited the arrival of his new canine friend and left his cabinet meeting to meet his new dog. He was born July 26, 1920 in Toledo, Ohio. When Laddie Boy arrived, the first thing he did was join the cabinet meeting. From that point on, Laddie Boy was in attendance at most cabinet meetings, and had his own hand carved chair that he sat on while the meetings were going on.



Laddie Boy Attended Harding's Cabinet Meetings

Laddie Boy had his own custom made chair at cabinet meetings.
Laddie Boy had his own custom made chair at cabinet meetings. | Source

Honoring Other War Hero Dogs

Laddie Boy had the personality befitting a First Dog. He was an intelligent, well bred, healthy dog who extolled confidence and was a terrier who provided a strong presence in the public eye and enjoyed the attention from the media and people he met.


Harding had a relaxed personality and an informal work style and enjoyed his dog’s company in many of his daily activities. He did not want his dog to spend much time in the White House kennels. Laddie Boy enjoyed roaming the living areas of the White House. He receiving loving attention from the President and first lady, who had no children together.


The press found Harding to be kind to animals and during his presidency, they both advocated for the humane treatment of all animals. Florence Harding, the First Lady, was a big supporter for the care of neglected and abused animals. Laddie Boy became the poster dog for the national protection of animal rights . Harding was quoted in the newspaper, the Marion Star, he owned before becoming President, “men may learn richly through the love and fidelity of a brave and devoted dog.” Harding connected well with the average American through his dog, Laddie Boy.


In October 1921, the Hardings planted an elm tree on the White House grounds to memorialize all the animals who perished during World War I. The New York Times wrote articles about Laddie Boy and a bulldog mix named Stubby. Stubby was a canine who served in WWI with distinction in France as a sentry who comforted the wounded and even captured a German spy. He was awarded an engraved medal bestowed on him by General Pershing. The medal was donated by the American Humane Education Society.

It is thought that since Harding started his career as a newspaper man, he openly provided access to Laddie Boy,and gave him more exposure than most presidents gave to their dog.



A Personality Befitting a First Dog

Harding’s obsession with Laddie Boy motivated him to have 1,000 miniature bronze images of his dog. He would send the little statues to his political allies in Washington D.C. and in his hometown of Ohio. Should you ever come across one of these statuettes, know they are collectible presidential memorabilia and worth somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000.


Harding relished the fame his dog received. He used to write letters to the press as Laddie Boy. Although he loved the attention, he did not want to commercialize his dog. Many toy manufacturers wanted to make replicas of Laddie Boy as stuffed animals, and Harding refused.


During his administration, Airedale Terriers became a very popular breed. As a breed, Airedales are very people social dogs and want to please their owners. Laddie Boy would deliver the newspaper to President Harding every morning while he ate his breakfast. In 1921 he led an animal parade for the Humane Education Society in Washington, D.C. Laddie Boy had his own float especially built for him, that he sat on and watched the people as he passed them by.


Laddie Boy was so beloved by everyone that he was often sent presents like toys, sweaters, blankets and even a special cake. was sent for his birthday. This cake was made of dog biscuits covered with white frosting. Every July 26th on his birthday, the White House threw a party for Laddie Boy, and invited the other neighborhood dogs, and friends who had dogs to celebrate the First Dog.’s birthday.


With all of Warren Harding’s political mistakes and unfaithfulness towards his wife, he proved to be a loyal dog lover and humane person. There was a dog named Dick who belonged to an immigrant in Pennsylvania. The state law required a dog owner to be a U.S. citizen and had condemned the dog to death. Harding wrote a letter to the Governor of Pennsylvania when he learned of this and convinced the state to spare the dog.


Laddie Boy was a Favorite of the Press

Newspapers loved writing stories about Laddie Boy.
Newspapers loved writing stories about Laddie Boy. | Source

President Warren Harding and His Dog

The President's Dog Hosts Many White House Events

In April 1922, the Hardings hosted their annual Easter Egg Roll for children, on the White House lawn, with Laddie Boy in attendance, and truly made it a kids party.


In the summer of 1923, Warren Harding took a cross country train tour, but did not take Laddie Boy with him. While on the trip, he developed health problems and suffered from a fatal heart attack on August 2, 1923 in San Francisco. The day after Harding died, the Associated Press wrote an article about Laddie Boy. “ There was one member of the White House household today who could not quite comprehend the air of sadness which hung over the Executive Mansion. It was Laddie Boy,President Harding's Airedale friend and companion. Of late he has been casting an expectant eye and cocking a watchful ear at the motor cars which roll up on the White House drive. For, in his dog sense way, he seems to reason that an automobile took [the Hardings] away, so an automobile must bring them back. White House attachés shook their heads and wondered how they were going to make Laddie Boy understand."


A woman named Edna Bell Seward wrote a song called “Laddie Boy, He’s Gone”, in sympathy for the President’s dog.


Over a thousand newspaper boys around the country donated a penny to honor Harding. The pennies, weighing 103.5 pounds were melted down and a life size sculpture was created in the image of Laddie Boy. Today, the sculpture is part of the Smithsonian Institute collection at the National Museum of American History, although it is currently not on display.


Mrs. Harding suffered from chronic kidney failure and went to live with a friend. when she had to vacate the White House suddenly. Laddie Boy ended up living with Harry Barker, the secret service agent who protected the First Lady. When his White House assignment ended and he was transferred to Boston, she gave Laddie Boy to him. Due to her health problems, she died the next year in 1924. Laddie Boy lived out his years in Newtonville, Massachusetts. Laddie Boy lived until January 22, 1929.


Life Size Statue of Laddie Boy Made from Melted Pennies

Laddie Boy is immortalized in 103.5 pounds of melted copper pennies in a life size statue to honor President Warren Harding's dog.
Laddie Boy is immortalized in 103.5 pounds of melted copper pennies in a life size statue to honor President Warren Harding's dog. | Source

President Warren Harding Was a True Dog Lover

According to the Toledo Gazette, a newspaper in Toledo, Ohio in the summer of 2012, the specially designed gold collar made for Laddie Boy was stolen from the historic Harding Home and Museum in Marion, Ohio. It was an apparent break in, where nothing was stoel except for the gold collar. custom designed from Alaskan golden nuggets, with the name Laddie Boy written in raised letters on it. Many of the rooms were found in disarray, and a ladder was found leaning against the second floor of the historic home where a window was pried open. The person(s) who did it or the collar were never found.

Laddie Boy will go down in history as the dog who received the most press coverage of any presidential dog and certainly helped to make Harding a popular president through his display of love of dogs.


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      How in the world did you ever find out this much about a dog???? I'm amazed there is this much information about Harding's dog. LOL Nice job...I feel safe in saying that this hub is one of a kind here on HP.

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 

      5 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Loved this story about Laddie Boy! I can't believe I had never heard about the newspaper boys donating the pennies for the sculpture of Laddie Boy. Interesting hub.

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