Tempest in a Teapot? Historic Presidential Scandals

Tempest in a Teapot? Historic Presidential Scandals
Florence Harding: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Three to five class periods


President Harding has been accused of being--or at least not preventing--corruption in government.  He is, however, unfortunately not alone.  Presidential scandals, such as the so-called "Teapot Dome" scandal of the Harding administration, are not new.


Students will play the role of a congress member and investigate the Teapot Dome Scandal and other presidential scandals to obtain a basic understanding of the history, people, places, events, and issues involved in them.   

Materials Required:

Research materials (books, articles, magazines, World Wide Web) Internet access (website suggestions listed in resources) Computer(s) (to allow student to research topic further) Word Processor / PowerPoint presentation (or paper and writing utensil) Printer (for resources and final papers)


1.  Begin by asking students to think of a current or historical government scandal(s).  Have a class discussion about scandals and how they can affect the government and nation.

2.  Introduce the study of such scandals by offereing the students the roles of members of Congress engaged in hearings about a number of historic scandals for the purpose of making laws that will prevent such scandals in the future. 

3.  Divide students into four groups, each one of which will research one of the following:

  • Ulysses S. Grant: Credit Mobilier and the Whiskey Ring
  • Warren G. Harding: the Teapot Dome Scandal
  • Richard Nixon: Watergate
  • Ronald Reagan: the Iran-Contra Affair

4.  Have the students compose a report or presentation (PowerPoint).  Students must be able to provide convincing evidence that the malfeasance took place, some idea as to suspects, and an understanding of the background issues involved. 

5.  After a discussion of the causes of these scandals, members of the Congress (class) must come up with legislation designed to prevent such scandals in the future.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended by extending the number of scandals involved.

Sources & Resources:

Print Resources:

  • Gould, L.L. (1996).  American first ladies: Their lives and their legacy. New York,  New York: Garland Publishing.



This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University