Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 9391230

Harry Ford Sinclair trial transcripts

The Sinclair Trial Transcripts record several of Harry Sinclair's trials relating to the Teapot Dome scandal of 1921-1928. Sinclair was tried before the District of Columbia's Supreme Court for contempt of the U.S. Senate, contempt of court, and for conspiracy to defraud the government.

Dates

  • 1926 - 1928

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.

Extent

1 collection (7 Paige boxes)

This collection of trial transcripts chronicles the court cases in which Harry Ford Sinclair stood as a defendant during the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s. While a single scandal, the larger case charging Sinclair and Secretary of the Interior, Albert B. Fall, and others brought about many individual trials and hearings.

All transcripts in this collection come from Sinclair's cases heard before the Supreme Court of the District of the Columbia. Beginning in December, 1926 and ending in April, 1928, the transcriptions completely cover four trials all related to the Teapot Dome Oil Reserve leasing scandal:
  1. (1) The first trial for conspiracy to defraud the government, in which Harry Sinclair and Albert Fall were both charged. This trial was eventually declared a mistrial.
  2. (2) Sinclair's contempt of senate trial, for not answering questions put to him in the United States Senate investigation of the Teapot Dome scandal.
  3. (3) Sinclair, et al.'s criminal contempt of court trial, for having the jury in the first conspiracy trial (1) followed by a detective agency.
  4. (4) The second conspiracy trial, initially intended to be a trial against both Sinclair and Fall, but because of multiple postponements due to Fall's poor health, Sinclair was tried individually.
The transcripts, made by shorthand reporters Hart, Dice & Carlton, are mostly bound in a chronological order.

Historical/Biographical Information

Harry Ford Sinclair (b. July 6, 1876, Wheeling, W.Va.; d. Nov. 10, 1956, Pasadena, Cal.) established the Sinclair Oil and Refining Corporation and the Sinclair Gulf Corporation (later the Sinclair Consolidated Oil Corporation) in 1916.

In 1921 Albert Fall, Secretary of the Interior under President Warren Harding, secretly leased the Teapot Dome oil fields in Wyoming to the Mammoth Oil Company, another Sinclair operation. Those oil reserves had been set-aside for the Navy but control had been transferred earlier to the Department of the Interior by President Harding's executive order.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story of Fall's illegal deal on April 14, 1922. President Harding publicly defended the deal, but a Senate investigation, led by Senator Thomas J. Walsh (D-MT), began on October 15, 1923 in the Senate Committee on Public Lands and Surveys.

On January 24, 1924, Edward Doheny-to whose Pan-American Petroleum and Transportation Company Fall had also leased oil fields at Elk Hills, California-admitted that he had lent Fall $100,000. A week later the Senate passed a resolution finding fraud and corruption. Fall had already retired from his post as Secretary of the Interior. He would later be charged with conspiracy and accepting bribes, convicted of the latter, sentenced to a year in prison and fined $100,000.

Sinclair was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, and his trial began October 17, 1927. After forty minutes of deliberation the jury acquitted Sinclair, but the judge declared a mistrial when the government presented evidence that Sinclair had hired a detective agency to shadow the jury.

Sinclair was tried and found guilty for criminal contempt of court and sentenced to six months in prison, which he served in Washington, D.C. in 1929. The Teapot Dome and Elk Hills oil reserves were restored to the U.S. government by the Supreme Court without deciding the issue of fraud. See Mammoth Oil Co. v. United States, 275 U.S. 13 (1927) and Pan American Petroleum & Transport. Co. v. United States, 273 U.S. 456 (1927).

Series List

  1. Series I. First Sinclair Conspiracy Trial, United States vs. Harry F. Sinclair and Albert B, Fall, December 27, 1926 - November 5, 1927 December 27, 1926 - November 5, 1927
  2. Series II. Sinclair Contempt of Senate Trial, United States vs. Harry F. Sinclair, January 24, 1927 - May 20, 1927 January 24, 1927 - May 20, 1927
  3. Series III. Criminal Contempt of Court Case, United States vs. Harry F. Sinclair, William J. Burns,, W. Sherman Burns Henry Mason Day, Sheldon Clark, and Charles L. Vietsch Nov. 22, 1927 - Feb. 21, 1928 Nov. 22, 1927 - Feb. 21, 1928
  4. ___ Subseries A. Motion to Expunge Presentment of the Grand Jury (Jan 7 - 30, 1928)
  5. Series IV. Second Conspiracy Trial
  6. ___ Subseries A: Motion for Continuance, United States vs. Harry F. Sinclair and Albert B. Fall, Jan. 1928 Jan. 1928
  7. ___ Subseries B: Motion for Continuance, United States vs. Harry F. Sinclair and Albert B. Fall, March 1928 March 1928
  8. ___ Subseries C: Trial transcripts United States vs. Harry F. Sinclair (April 4, 1928 - ) (April 4, 1928 - )

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of George L. Hart (shorthand reporter) to the Harvard Law School Library, 1927, care of Eldon Revare James.

Processing Information

Processed by Jennifer Carter, Margaret Peachy, and Sally Vermaaten, May 2004.
Link to catalog
Title
Sinclair, Harry Ford. Trial Transcripts, 1926-1928. Finding Aid
Author
Harvard Law School LibraryCambridge, MA 02138
EAD ID
law00159

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

Contact:
1545 Massachusetts Avenue
Langdell Hall
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-4550