Edwin Denby (politician)

Last updated
Edwin Denby
42nd United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
March 6, 1921 March 10, 1924
President Warren G. Harding
Calvin Coolidge
Preceded by Josephus Daniels
Succeeded by Curtis D. Wilbur
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from Michigan's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1905 March 3, 1911
Preceded by Alfred Lucking
Succeeded by Frank Doremus
Member of the Michigan House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1870-02-18)February 18, 1870
Evansville, Indiana, U.S.
DiedFebruary 8, 1929(1929-02-08) (aged 58)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s)Marion Bartlett Thurber
Education University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (LLB)
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Branch/serviceFlag of the United States Navy (official).svg  United States Navy
Flag of the United States Marine Corps.svg  United States Marine Corps
Years of service1898 (USN)
1917–1919 (USMC)
Rank Gunner's Mate 3rd Class (USN)
Major (USMC)
Battles/wars Spanish-American War
World War I

Edwin Denby (February 18, 1870 – February 8, 1929) was an American lawyer and politician who served as Secretary of the Navy in the administrations of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge from 1921 to 1924. He also played a notable role in the infamous Teapot Dome scandal which took place during the Harding presidency. He was the son of Charles Harvey Denby, grandson of Graham N. Fitch, brother of Charles Denby, Jr., and uncle of dance critic Edwin Orr Denby.

Lawyer legal professional who helps clients and represents them in a court of law

A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

United States Secretary of the Navy statutory office and the head of the U.S. Department of the Navy

The Secretary of the Navy is a statutory officer and the head of the Department of the Navy, a military department within the Department of Defense of the United States of America.


Early life and education

Denby was born in Evansville, Indiana, where he attended the public schools. In 1885, his father, Charles Harvey Denby, was appointed United States minister at Peking, China, by President Grover Cleveland, and Edwin accompanied him. He worked in the maritime customs service from 1887 to 1894. He then returned to the United States and graduated from law school at the University of Michigan in 1896. While attending the University of Michigan, Denby played on the 1895 Michigan Wolverines football team. He was subsequently admitted to the bar and began practicing as a lawyer in Detroit.

Evansville, Indiana City in Indiana, United States

Evansville is a city and the county seat of Vanderburgh County, Indiana, United States. The population was 117,429 at the 2010 census, making it the state's third-most populous city after Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, the largest city in Southern Indiana, and the 232nd-most populous city in the United States. It is the commercial, medical, and cultural hub of Southwestern Indiana and the Illinois-Indiana-Kentucky tri-state area, home to over 911,000 people. The 38th parallel crosses the north side of the city and is marked on Interstate 69.

Charles Harvey Denby American diplomat

Colonel Charles Denby was a U.S. Union officer in the Civil War and diplomat. He was the father of Edwin C. Denby, a U.S. Representative from Michigan, and later Secretary of the Navy, and Charles Denby, Jr., a diplomat.

China Country in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third or fourth largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Political and military career

He was a member of the Michigan House of Representatives in 1903. In 1904, Denby was elected as a Republican from Michigan's 1st congressional district to the 59th, 60th and 61st Congresses, serving from March 4, 1905, to March 3, 1911. Denby served as chairman of the United States House Committee on Naval Affairs.

Michigan House of Representatives

The Michigan House of Representatives is the lower house of the Michigan Legislature. There are 110 members, each of whom is elected from constituencies having approximately 77,000 to 91,000 residents, based on population figures from the 2010 U.S. Census. Its composition, powers, and duties are established in Article IV of the Michigan Constitution.

Michigans 1st congressional district Congressional district in Michigan

Michigan's 1st congressional district is a United States Congressional district containing the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan and 16 counties of Northern Michigan in the Lower Peninsula. The district is currently represented by Republican Jack Bergman.

50th United States Congress

The Fiftieth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, D.C. from March 4, 1887, to March 4, 1889, during the third and fourth years of Grover Cleveland's first presidency. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the Tenth Census of the United States in 1880. The Senate had a Republican majority, and the House had a Democratic majority.

He was defeated in 1910 general election by Democrat Frank E. Doremus and resumed his law practice in Detroit. He served as president of the Detroit Board of Commerce in 1916, and in 1917 enlisted as a private in the United States Marine Corps when the U.S. entered World War I. He was discharged in 1919 with the rank of major.

A private is a soldier of the lowest military rank.

United States Marine Corps Amphibious warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Marine Corps (USMC), also referred to as the United States Marines, is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for conducting expeditionary and amphibious operations with the United States Navy as well as the Army and Air Force. The U.S. Marine Corps is one of the four armed service branches in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

When Warren G. Harding became President in March 1921, he appointed Denby Secretary of the Navy. During the crisis of mail robberies in 1921, Denby issued orders that Marines should be put in mail trucks and rail cars as protectors of the U.S. Mails. [1] In his stirring order "To the Men of the Mail Guard", Denby impressed upon his former service the importance of the high duty entrusted to them: "If two Marines are covered by a robber, neither must put up his hands, but both must immediately go for their guns. One may die, but the other will get the robber, and the mail will get through. When our Corps goes in as guards over the mail, that mail must be delivered, or there must be a Marine dead at the post of duty. There can be no compromise ..." Within days, the robberies stopped, and there was not a single delivery of the mails disrupted while Marines stood the watch.

Warren G. Harding 29th president of the United States

Warren Gamaliel Harding was the 29th president of the United States from 1921 until his death in 1923. A member of the Republican Party, he was one of the most popular U.S. presidents to that point. After his death a number of scandals, such as Teapot Dome, came to light, as did his extramarital affair with Nan Britton; each eroded his popular regard. He is often rated as one of the worst presidents in historical rankings.

Teapot Dome scandal

Shortly afterwards, Denby got Harding's approval to transfer control of the naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming, and Elk Hills, California, from the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Interior, headed by Albert B. Fall. Fall proceeded to lease these oil fields to friends who were heads of oil companies in exchange for over $400,000 in personal loans. Despite attempts to keep the deal secret, the Wall Street Journal leaked news of the leasing, and the Senate decided to launch an inquiry into the matter.

Wyoming U.S. state in the United States

Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The state is the 10th largest by area, the least populous, and the second most sparsely populated state in the country. Wyoming is bordered on the north by Montana, on the east by South Dakota and Nebraska, on the south by Colorado, on the southwest by Utah, and on the west by Idaho and Montana. The state population was estimated at 577,737 in 2018, which is less than 31 of the most populous U.S. cities including Denver in neighboring Colorado. Cheyenne is the state capital and the most populous city, with an estimated population of 63,624 in 2017.

Elk Hills Oil Field

The Elk Hills Oil Field is a large oil field in northwestern Kern County, in the Elk Hills of the San Joaquin Valley, California in the United States, about 20 miles (32 km) west of Bakersfield. Discovered in 1911, and having a cumulative production of close to 1.3 billion barrels (210,000 dam3) of oil at the end of 2006, it is the fifth-largest oil field in California, and the seventh-most productive field in the United States. Its estimated remaining reserves, as of the end of 2006, were around 107 million barrels (17,000 dam3), and it had 2,387 active oil-producing wells. It is by an order of magnitude the largest natural gas-producing oil field in California, having produced over 2 trillion cubic feet (57 km3) of gas since its discovery, and retaining over 700 billion cubic feet (20,000,000 dam3) in reserve, making it even larger than the Rio Vista Gas Field, the largest non-associated natural gas field in the state.

California U.S. state in the United States

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents across a total area of about 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2), California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

The investigation began in October 1923 after Harding's death, and the Senate Committee on Lands and Public Surveys, which carried out the inquiry, concluded in 1924 that the Teapot Dome and Elk Hills leases to the oil companies had been fraudulent and corrupt. Both Denby and Fall were forced to resign from office as a result; however, it is apparent that President Harding did not have an active role in the wrongdoing. [2]


Following his resignation, Denby went back to practicing law in Detroit, where he died several weeks before his 59th birthday. Detroit's Edwin C. Denby High School is named in his honor, as is the Denby Center for Children and Family Services, which the Salvation Army opened in Detroit in 1930 to provide housing and treatment for abused and neglected children.

See also

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  1. "Rail Detectives Victors in War on Crime". Popular Mechanics . 41 (3): 336–339. March 1924.
  2. Murray, Robert K. (1973). The Politics of Normalcy: Governmental Theory and Practice in the Harding–Coolidge Era . W. W. Norton & Company. p. 107. ISBN   0-393-05474-8.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Alfred Lucking
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1905 – March 3, 1911
Succeeded by
Frank E. Doremus
Government offices
Preceded by
Josephus Daniels
United States Secretary of the Navy
March 6, 1921 – March 10, 1924
Succeeded by
Curtis D. Wilbur