A general inquiry made to the NFLL asked whether there was any known recording of the voice of Florence Harding.
by Carl Sferrazza Anthony, Historian of the National First Ladies Library
Florence Harding was recalled by her contemporaries as having an inimitable voice. During the years of my research on her life, I did find one reference to her making a voice recording in private with Evalyn McLean – for fun, apparently on a “talkie” device given to Mrs. McLean by her friend D.W. Griffith.
However, there was also a gramophone recording device apparently placed at least temporarily in the Harding’s home in Washington during his tenure as a U.S. Senator. He made several recordings on issues of the day as well as for his 1920 presidential campaign. In all of my various searches for other material culture related to Florence Harding, however, I never came across the recording or evidence of its existence.
A few years ago, someone sent me a recording made of a woman who seemed to “sound” regionally like Mrs. Harding on a record which included sound recordings of 20th century historical figures; the album was issued during the 1976 Bicentennial.
The woman speaking described a scene which the person sending the recording seemed to believe was of President Harding participating in some type of ceremony on the White House South Lawn in which he ignited a rocket.
The inquirer was certain it was Florence Harding’s voice. The brief recording begins, “My husband placed the rocket on the lawn, lit it and it took off….”
After some extensive research, all indications were that it was not at all Florence Harding.
In fact, it was Esther Goddard, wife of fuel-rocket inventor Robert Goddard. She was recorded while making remarks, recalling her husband’s first successful rocket launching experiment conducted on the lawn of his Massachusetts home in 1926.
Mrs. Gooddard died at age 95 in 1998.