The Grandson of Warren G. Harding's Mistress Wants to Prove His Presidential Lineage—By Exhuming Harding's Body

Warren G. Harding looking dapper in June 1920.
Warren G. Harding looking dapper in June 1920.
National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

In 1923, just two years into his presidential term, Warren G. Harding died of a heart attack, leaving behind a wife, a mistress, and a secret daughter born by said mistress. Now Harding's grandson, James Blaesing, is petitioning an Ohio court to exhume Harding’s body in order to prove his relation to the 29th president beyond all doubt.

As The Associated Press reports, Blaesing’s connection to the former president isn’t currently in question. In 2011, Harding’s grandnephew Peter Harding and grandniece Abigail Harding initiated DNA testing with Blaesing to substantiate the long-held claims that Harding—who was thought to have been infertile—had fathered a daughter with his lover, Nan Britton. Ancestry.com’s DNA testing unit, AncestryDNA, confirmed that Peter and Abigail are indeed Blaesing’s second cousins in 2015, which supposedly settled the matter. For this reason, Harding’s other relatives are opposing Blaesing’s request to exhume their shared ancestor.

“Sadly, widespread, public recognition and acceptance by the descendants, historians, and biographers (and Mr. Blaesing himself) that Mr. Blaesing is President Harding’s grandson is not enough for him,” members of the family explained in a court document.

Although Blaesing’s lineage is already considered fact, he feels that his branch of the family is still relegated to the periphery of Harding’s legacy. To celebrate this year’s 100th anniversary of Harding’s election, the town of Marion, Ohio—where Harding lived before his presidency—is planning to unveil a new museum in his honor. It will reportedly make mention of Blaesing’s mother, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing, but he hasn’t been asked to contribute information or artifacts to the exhibit.

“I did the test and we brought it to the public in 2015. It’s now 2020 and no one has asked me one thing,” Blaesing told The Associated Press. “I’m not a part of anything. Nothing. My brothers, myself, no one. We’re invisible. They’re treating us just like they treated my grandmother.”

In 1927, Britton wrote a memoir about her relationship with Harding titled The President’s Daughter, which she published in large part because Harding had left her with no financial support when he died. Not only did the account scandalize the entire country, but Britton and her family suffered years of ill will and intimidation because of it. As Blaesing told The New York Times, people even burglarized their home looking for evidence to poke holes in the story.

Before Blaesing’s plans can go any further, Ohio History Connection—the organization responsible for Harding’s tomb and former home—would need experts to confirm that it’s even possible to exhume and rebury the body without ruining its white marble tomb. In other words, it could still be a while before Harding rises again.

[h/t The Associated Press]

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

Apple
Apple

During this weekend's three-day sale on the Mental Floss Shop, you'll find deep discounts on products like AirPods, Martha Stewart’s bestselling pressure cooker, and more. Check out the best deals below.

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Apple

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Sony

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Sony

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Martha Stewart

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Jashen

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Evachill

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Gourmia

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Townew

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Noerden

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Prices subject to change.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.

Absentee Ballot vs. Mail-In Ballot: What’s the Difference?

Liliboas/iStock via Getty Images
Liliboas/iStock via Getty Images

Since you mail in an absentee ballot, it seems like mail-in ballot is just a convenient alternative for people who always forget the word absentee. And though the terms are often used interchangeably, there is technically a difference.

Up until the Civil War, American voters were generally required to vote at their local polling stations in person. But when states realized this would prevent hundreds of thousands of soldiers from voting in the 1864 presidential election, they started passing laws to let them send in their ballots instead. As The Washington Post explains, state legislatures have since broadened these laws to include other citizens who can’t make it to the polls on Election Day: people who are traveling, people who have disabilities, people attending college away from home, etc. Because these voters are all physically absent from the polls for one reason or another, their ballots are known as absentee ballots.

Some states require you to meet certain criteria in order to qualify for an absentee ballot, while others don’t ask you to give a reason at all (which is known as “no-excuse absentee voting”). Since this year’s general election is happening during a pandemic, many states have temporarily adopted a no-excuse policy to encourage everyone to vote from home. But even if you don’t need to provide an excuse, you do usually need to request an absentee ballot.

According to Dictionary.com, mail-in ballot is a more general term that can refer to any ballot you send in. It’s often used when talking about all-mail voting, when states send a ballot to every registered voter—no request necessary. Oregon and a few other states actually conduct all elections like this, and several other states have decided to do it for the upcoming presidential election. But even though you don’t have to send in an application requesting a mail-in ballot in these situations, you do still have to be registered to vote.

Because voting processes are mostly left up to the states, there’s quite a bit of variation when it comes to what officials call ballots that you don’t cast in person. You could see the term mail-in ballot—or vote-by-mail ballot, or advanced ballot, or something similar—on an application for an absentee ballot, and you could hear absentee ballot used in a conversation about all-mail voting.

No matter what you call it, you should definitely mail one in for this election—here’s how to do that in your state.