Denby, Edwin, 1870-1929

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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.

From the description of Letter, November 22, 1923. (Naval War College). WorldCat record id: 18168841

U.S. Congressman, 1905-1911; and U.S. Secretary of the Navy, 1921-1924.

From the description of Edwin Denby papers, 1845-1846 and 1880-1929. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34421773

Detroit lawyer, secretary of the navy during the Harding administration, U.S. congressman (1905-1911).

From the description of Correspondence and papers of Edwin Denby, 1907-1925. (Detroit Public Library). WorldCat record id: 55804614

Edwin Denby was born on February 18, 1870 in Evansville, Indiana to Charles and Martha (Fitch) Denby. In 1885 he moved to China with his father, who had been appointed minister for the United States. Denby lived there for ten years, where he was employed in the Chinese imperial maritime customs service from1887 to 1894. Upon return to America, Denby enrolled in the Law School at the University of Michigan, receiving his L.L.B. in 1896.

Denby volunteered for service in the United States Navy during the Spanish-American War, serving as a gunner's mate aboard the Yosemite . He then returned to Detroit to practice law. Denby was elected as a Republican Representative to the Michigan legislature in 1903, and in 1905 was elected to represent Michigan's 1st District in the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1905 to 1911. After he lost the election in 1910 to Democrat Frank E. Doremus, Denby returned to his law practice in Detroit. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, he enlisted as a private in the United States Marine Corps. Denby retired in 1919 with the rank of Major (United States). He was then selected by President Warren G. Harding to be Secretary of the Navy, in which capacity he served from 1921 to 1924.

Denby is perhaps best known for his involvement in the Teapot Dome oil reserve scandal, which led to his resignation as Secretary of the Navy. In 1921, by executive order of the President, control of naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyo., and at Elk Hills, Calif., was transferred from the Navy Dept. to the Dept. of the Interior. In 1922, Albert B. Fall, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, leased, without competitive bidding, the Teapot Dome fields to Harry F. Sinclair, an oil operator, and the field at Elk Hills, Calif., to Edward L. Doheny. These transactions became (1922--23) the subject of a Senate investigation conducted by Sen. Thomas J. Walsh. Through the course of the investigation, it was found that Donehy had loaned or given large amounts of money to Fall, presumably in payment for the lucrative oil reserve leases. Fall was eventually indicted for conspiracy and for accepting bribes, and convicted of the latter charge (he was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $100,000).

Denby was not seriously charged, and was determined to have taken no significant part in the negotiations. A quote from The New York Tribune illustrates the public perception of Denby's involvement in the affair: "Stupidity is the high crime and misdemeanor which the Senate accuses Mr. Denby, and the only one." (Feb. 12, 1924). A senate vote on February 11, 1924 requested President Coolidge (Harding had died by this time) to dismiss Denby from his cabinet. Coolidge declined to dismiss Denby, who still insisted that the leases of the oil reserves were both legal and expedient. Nevertheless, Denby resigned his post on February 18, 1924, and in March returned once again to Detroit to practice law. He died there a few weeks before his 59th birthday.

Detroit's 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.

From the guide to the Edwin Denby papers, 1845-1846, 1880-1927, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Frederick M. Dearborn collection of military and political Americana, Part I: The Revolution and the Administration, 1669-1958. Houghton Library.
referencedIn United Confederate Veterans reunion collection, 1921. Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library
referencedIn Coontz, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1864-1935. Memorandum, March 6, 1924. Naval War College, Henry E. Eccles Library
creatorOf Moore, Charles, 1855-1942. Charles Moore papers, 1889-1940. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Denby Family Papers, 1850-1911 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Arthur H. Vandenberg papers, 1884-1974, 1915-1951 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn John J. Carton Papers, 1883-1921 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Charles Moore papers, 1901-1940 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Roosevelt, Theodore, 1887-1944. Papers of Theodore Roosevelt, 1780-1962 (bulk 1920-1944). Library of Congress
creatorOf Kelsey, Francis W. (Francis Willey), b. 1858. Francis Willey Kelsey papers, 1894-1928. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Denby, Edwin, 1870-1929. Letter, November 22, 1923. Naval War College, Henry E. Eccles Library
referencedIn Howe, Walter Bruce, 1879-1954. Papers, 1853-1946. Naval War College, Henry E. Eccles Library
creatorOf Detroit Board of Commerce. Detroit Board of Commerce papers, 1916-1943. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn George W. Goethals Papers, 1890-1954, (bulk 1907-1927) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Burton, Marion Le Roy, 1874-1925. Marion LeRoy Burton papers, 1901-1925. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Denby family papers, 1850-1911. Library of Congress
referencedIn Francis Willey Kelsey papers, 1891-1953 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Marshall L. Cook and William R. Cook papers, 1880-1945 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Jay G. Hayden scrapbooks, 1916-1965 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Hayden, Jay G., 1884-1971. Jay G. Hayden scrapbooks, 1916-1965. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Cooley, Mortimer E. (Mortimer Elwyn), 1855-1944. Mortimer E. Cooley papers, 1873-1944. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Reber, Samuel, 1864-1933. Samuel Reber papers, 1854-1924. Library of Congress
referencedIn Theodore Roosevelt Papers, 1780-1962, (bulk 1920-1944) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Kelsey, Francis W. (Francis Willey), b. 1858. Francis Willey Kelsey papers, 1894-1928. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn James Orin Murfin papers, 1896-1940 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Cotton, Charles Stanhope, 1843-1909. Papers of Charles Stanhope Cotton, 1860-1921. Library of Congress
creatorOf Burton, Marion Le Roy, 1874-1925. Marion LeRoy Burton papers, 1895-1925. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Marion L. Burton Papers, 1895-1925, 1921-1925 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Trueblood, Thomas C. (Thomas Clarkson), 1856-1951. Correspondence, 1916-1928. University of Michigan
creatorOf Denby, Edwin, 1870-1929. Correspondence and papers of Edwin Denby, 1907-1925. Detroit Public Library, Detroit Main Library
creatorOf Scott, Charles F., b. 1860. Charles F. Scott papers, 1883-1938. Kansas State Historical Society
referencedIn Eye and Ear Theater Archive, 1979-1996 (Bulk ) Fales Library & Special Collections
referencedIn Correspondence and compositions collected by The Carl H. Pforzheimer Library, 1878-1923. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
creatorOf Edwin Denby papers, 1845-1846, 1880-1927 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Dean C. Worcester papers, 1887-1925 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Chase S. Osborn Papers, ca. 1870-1949, 1889-1949 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection, circa 1800-circa 1998, bulk 1863-1974 Historical Collections, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia
creatorOf Denby, Edwin, 1870-1929. Edwin Denby papers, 1845-1846 and 1880-1929. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Bancroft, George, 1800-1891. person
associatedWith Burton, Marion Le Roy, 1874-1925. person
associatedWith Cannon, Joseph Gurney, 1836-1926. person
associatedWith Carter, Henry Rose, 1852-1925 person
associatedWith Carton, John J. (John Jay), 1856-1934 person
associatedWith Clark, Emory W. person
associatedWith Clark, Emory W. person
associatedWith Cook, Marshall L., 1858-1955 person
associatedWith Cooley, Mortimer E. (Mortimer Elwyn), 1855-1944. person
correspondedWith Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933 person
associatedWith Coontz, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1864-1935. person
associatedWith Cotton, Charles Stanhope, 1843-1909. person
associatedWith Couzens, James, 1872-1936. person
associatedWith Daniels, Josephus, 1862-1948. person
associatedWith Dearborn, Frederick M. (Frederick Myers), b. 1876 person
associatedWith Denby, Charles, 1830-1904 person
correspondedWith Denby family family
associatedWith Denby, Nathaniel. person
associatedWith Denby, Nathaniel. person
associatedWith Detroit Board of Commerce. corporateBody
associatedWith Dewey, George, 1837-1917 person
correspondedWith Goethals, George W. (George Washington), 1858-1928 person
associatedWith Green, Fred W. (Fred Warren), 1872-1936. person
associatedWith Griffin, Robert S. (Robert Stanislaus), 1857-1933. person
correspondedWith Harding, Florence Kling, 1860-1924 person
correspondedWith Harding, Warren G. (Warren Gamaliel), 1865-1923 person
associatedWith Hayden, Jay G., 1884-1971. person
associatedWith Hench, Philip S. (Philip Showalter), 1896-1965 person
associatedWith Henderson, Charles B. person
associatedWith Henderson, Charles B. person
associatedWith Hobbs, William Herbert, 1864-1952. person
associatedWith Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964. person
associatedWith Howe, Walter Bruce, 1879-1954. person
associatedWith Hughes, Charles Evans, 1862-1948. person
associatedWith Kean, Jefferson Randolph, 1860-1950 person
associatedWith Kelsey, Francis W. (Francis Willey), b. 1858. person
associatedWith Kennedy, Joe. person
associatedWith Kennedy, Joseph J. person
associatedWith Lazear, Jesse William, 1866-1900 person
associatedWith Mason, John G. person
associatedWith Moore, Charles, 1855-1942. person
associatedWith Murfin, James Orin, 1875-1940 person
associatedWith Murphy, M. J. person
associatedWith Murphy, M. J. person
associatedWith Newberry, Truman Handy, 1864-1945. person
associatedWith Niblack, Albert P. (Albert Parker), 1859-1929. person
associatedWith Osborn, Chase S. (Chase Salmon), b. 1860. person
associatedWith Panama Canal (Panama) corporateBody
correspondedWith Reber, Samuel, 1864-1933. person
associatedWith Reed, Walter, 1851-1902 person
correspondedWith Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Theodore, 1887-1944. person
associatedWith Root, Elihu, 1845-1937. person
associatedWith Rose, Henry Martin, b. 1858. person
associatedWith Scott, Charles F., b. 1860. person
associatedWith Smith, Hal H. (Hal Horace), 1873-1944. person
associatedWith Sosnowksi, John B. person
associatedWith Sosnowksi, John B. person
associatedWith Trueblood, Thomas C. (Thomas Clarkson), 1856-1951. person
associatedWith Tuttle, Arthur J., 1868-1944. person
associatedWith United States. Army corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Navy corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Navy Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan corporateBody
associatedWith Vandenberg, Arthur H. (Arthur Hendrick), 1884-1951. person
associatedWith Wallace, Henry Cantwell, 1866-1924. person
associatedWith Walsh, Thomas James, 1859-1933. person
associatedWith Wilbur, Curtis Dwight, 1867-1954. person
associatedWith Worcester, Dean C. (Dean Conant), 1866-1924 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Mount Clemens (Mich.)
China
Panama.
Panama Canal (Panama)
China
Subject
Airplanes
Street railroads--Michigan--Mount Clemens
Petroleum industry and trade
Airships
Petroleum industry and trade--United States
Ships
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1870-02-18

Death 1929-02-08

Male

Information

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