World History 1923

About the history of the world in 1923, inflation in Germany, the Teapot Dome Scandal under Harding, earthquakes in Tokyo.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1923

* Inflation in Germany skyrocketed. By the end of the year, one U.S. dollar brought 4 trillion 200 billion marks. The mark stood at one trillionth of its prewar value. People paid for groceries with wheelbarrowfuls of German currency.

* The most spectacular scandal in pre-Watergate America, the Teapot Dome affair, broke over the head of Pres. Warren Harding. Named after a Wyoming oil reserve which is situated beneath a rock formation vaguely resembling a giant teapot, the scandal involved Interior Secretary Albert Fall, who had convinced the gullible Harding to transfer the oil reserves at Teapot Dome and Elk Hills in California to his department. After securing bribes in excess of $400,000, Fall permitted the Sinclair oil interests and the Pan-American petroleum and Transport Company to exploit the two reserves. Despite Harding's revealing defense of Fall ("If Albert Fall isn't an honest man, I'm not fit to be president of the U.S."), the corrupt interior secretary was convicted of bribery and served one year in jail.

Other scandals were also uncovered in the Harding administration. A bribery-extortion scheme to bleed money from aliens whose personal property had been seized during the war ended in the conviction of Thomas Miller, the alien property custodian, and the suicide of Jess Smith, chief bagman and go-between in the Miller operation. And Veterans' Bureau Director Charles Forbes served two years in prison for his part in a bold scheme to extract kickbacks from the construction of veterans' hospitals, to pocket proceeds from the sale of war surplus goods, and to divert medical drugs and alcohol to pushers and bootleggers.

Mar. 5 Montana and Nevada introduced the first state pensions for the elderly in the U.S.

July Over 100,000 Ku Klux Klansmen converged on Kokomo, Ind., to watch David C. Stephenson, resplendent in purple hood and matching robe, take the oath as Grand Dragon. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, a KKK whipping of a Jew in Tulsa prompted Gov. Jack Walton to impose martial law in that state.

July 20 Ex-revolutionary Pancho Villa, 46, of Mexico, living in retirement on a farm in Durango, was gunned down while driving to a nearby town for supplies. The assassins were said to be government agents hired to prevent Villa's intervention in an upcoming presidential election.

Sept. 1 An earthquake leveled Tokyo. Accompanying landslides, tidal waves, and fires killed 106,000 persons, injured 502,000, and destroyed 694,000 dwellings. Mass hysteria broke out in the city when unfounded rumors spread that Koreans were setting fires, looting, and preparing to attack the people of Tokyo. As a result, many Korean nationals living in the city were brutally assaulted, and some were killed. The quake also destroyed Yokohama.

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