April 7th 1922: Teapot Dome lease signed
On this day in 1922, the US Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall leased Navy petroleum reserves at Teapot Dome to private oil companies at low rates in return for bribes. Other similar deals were made, but the subsequent scandal is generally called the ‘Teapot Dome’ scandal. When the story broke, the Senate launched an investigation and in 1927 the Supreme Court invalidated the leases. The parties involved were prosecuted, with Fall being found guilty of bribery and sentenced to prison, making him the first former cabinet official sentenced to prison. The scandal weakened Harding’s public standing and the stress contributed to his premature death in 1923. The Teapot Dome scandal was regarded as America’s worst political scandal until Watergate in the 1970s.