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[Originally posted August 26, 2012]

Warren Harding was the first sitting President to visit Canada. He did it in 1923 on what would become the last journey of his life. He died on August 2, 1923 while on a tour of the west coast that included several destinations in Alaska, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, where Harding died at the Palace Hotel.

In the days before commercial air travel, Harding had to travel through British Columbia by train to get from Alaska to Washington state. He visited the city of Vancouver on July 26, 1923, when he became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Canada. (William Howard Taft and Franklin Roosevelt had vacationed in Canada prior to becoming president.) According to news reports from back then, Harding was a very popular visitor who was loved by the locals. BC premier John Oliver and Vancouver’s mayor Charles Tisdall hosted a lunch in his honor at the Hotel Vancouver. An estimated 50,000 Vancouverites crowded into Stanley Park (Vancouver's version of Central Park, only bigger) to hear Harding speak. It was, as a sanitized Joe Biden might say, a big fricken' deal.

Harding played some golf while he was in Vancouver, at the Shaughnessey Golf Club (where today the rich and famous in Vancouver society continue to play). Harding had been unwell on the trip and after playing six holes of golf, he became so tired that, to quell any suspicions, he moved to the 17th hole, then finished the 18th. The photo below shows the Harding foursome: from left to right F.W. Peters, General Superintendent of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, Chief Justice D.A. McDonald of the BC Court of Appeal, Harding and a fourth person identified as the Hon. Dr. King.


After the game Harding called for White House homeopath Sawyer, complaining of nausea and pain in the upper abdomen. Sawyer found the President had a pulse of 120 beats per minute and was breathing 40 times per minute. (Both of these readings were abnormally high for a man of Harding's age.) Intensive cardiac therapy including digitalis was started.

A week later Harding and his entourage were in San Francisco, and that is where Harding died, exactly one week after visiting Vancouver. The city of Vancouver was saddened by Harding's death. Harding had belonged to the Kiwanis Club, and the Kiwanis Club of Vancouver initiated a drive for a grand memorial to him in Stanley Park, at the site where he spoke. The monument was designed by Vancouver sculptor Charles Marega, also a Kiwanian, and unveiled in 1925.

One summer day, I was in Vancouver and I decided that as the geekiest of the potus_geeks, it was my solemn duty to visit the Harding Monument. I am very familiar with Stanley Park. I used to run through the trails and on the seawall there a lot when I used to train for marathons, but in spite of my familiarity with the park, finding this monument was no small feat. I located it on a map of the park and walked around looking for it, but couldn't seem to find it. By fluke, I found the back of the monument, but when I tried to walk around to the front, I was thwarted by a high fence. It turned out that the monument was inside the Malkin Bowl (an outdoor theater enclosed in a fence.) I was able to find a break in the fence and probably trespassed, but I was able to get in and snap a picture of the monument. Nobody caught me, so I snapped my picture and left the same way I came in. That's my daily story of breaking and entering.


More pictures of the monument appear behind the cut.

1. Another picture of the monument.


2-3. The inscription on the sides of the monument, which quotes from Harding's remarks in Vancouver, reads:

"What an object lesson of peace is shown today by our two countries to all the world. No grim-faced fortifications mark our frontiers. No huge battleships patrol our dividing waters. No stealthy spies lurk in our tranquil border hamlets. Only a scrap of paper recording hardly more than a simple understanding safeguards lives and properties on the great lakes, and only humble mile posts the inviolable boundary line for thousands of miles through farm and forests. Our protection is our fraternity. Our armour is ever increasing acquaintance and comradeship through interchange of citizens; and the compact is not of perishable parchment, but of fair and honorable dealing, which, God grant, shall continue for all time."

"Erected by Kiwanis International in memory of a great occasion in the life of two sister nations here on July 26, 1923. Warren Gamaliel Harding, twenty-ninth President of the United States of America, and first President to visit Canada, Charter Member of the Kiwanis Club of Marion, Ohio, spoke words that are worthy of record in lasting granite." (Note the British spelling of the word "armour" and the American spelling of the word "honorable").



4. This lion head appears at the back of the monument. For some reason, this gave me the clue that I had found the monument.



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