1921-1940: The Formative Years
Warren G. Harding Votes
Virtually every president of the United States has been an associate or honorary member of the National Press Club since its founding in 1908. But only one president was professionally qualified to be an active member. He was Warren G. Harding, former publisher of The Marion Star newspaper in Ohio. While in the White House, he attended Club events and played poker with reporters on at least one occasion. In this photograph, Harding casts his ballot in the Club’s election of 1921.
This seven-foot Alaskan totem, dubbed “Princess Alice” after Alice Roosevelt Longworth (Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter), stands outside the office of the National Press Club president. A group of reporters accompanying President Warren Harding on a visit to Alaska in 1923 discovered the black spruce figure outside the Miner’s Home Saloon in Fairbanks. Being NPC members, they decided that the totem would be a worthy addition to the Club’s décor and arranged its transit back to Washington, D.C. “Princess Alice” is shown with Mark Hamrick, 2011 NPC president.
Photo: Sam Hurd
Calvin Coolidge Reviews Plans
By the mid-1920s, the National Press Club had outgrown its quarters at the Riggs Building, and planning began for the construction of a permanent home. The block-long site at 14th and F streets included the old Ebbitt Hotel and the Hooe Iron Building. On Sept. 15, 1925, at the White House, President Calvin Coolidge reviewed plans for the new National Press Building.
Calvin Coolidge Lays Cornerstone
By the mid-1920s, the National Press Club had outgrown its quarters at the Riggs Building, and plans were drawn up for the construction of a permanent home. The block-long site at 14th and F streets included the old Ebbitt Hotel and the Hooe Iron Building. These structures were razed, and on April 8, 1926, President Calvin Coolidge (holding a trowel in the photo) participated in the National Press Building’s cornerstone laying ceremony. Actual construction started several months later after financing had been arranged.
During Prohibition, this closure notice from the U.S. Marshals office was posted at the entrance to the National Press Club bar.
In 1933, Prohibition was repealed, and a new room was introduced at the National Press Club: the taproom. In this photograph taken on opening day, Club members at the bar celebrate the return to legal alcohol sales.
On Nov. 22, 1932, less than three weeks after Democrats swept to electoral victory in the midst of the Great Depression, President-elect Franklin Roosevelt stood at the lectern of the National Press Club to discuss the economy. That appearance inaugurated what since has become a tradition of luncheon speeches by famous newsmakers. Thousands of them have since followed FDR to the podium at the National Press Club.