History on the BBC’s Downton Abbey crosses the Atlantic and comes to Wyoming. Recently, on season 4 episode 7 of the popular miniseries, the Dowager Countess explains why Lord Grantham travels to the United States; it turns out he is helping Cora’s brother who is facing an investigation for his part in the Teapot Dome scandal!
What was the Teapot Dome scandal? The Dowager Countess explained it very simply, bribery and corruption; however, here are a few more details. From 1922-23 U.S. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall was bribed into leasing United States strategic oil reserves in Wyoming and California at reduced prices to private oil companies without competitive bidding; leading to Senate investigations, criminal convictions, and is considered one of the greatest political scandals in American history. In response to Isobel Crawley’s question, when she asked if it really is called the Teapot Dome scandal; the Teapot Dome Oil Field was located in Natrona County, Wyoming and named after a nearby rock formation.
Downton Abbey’s fictional accounts of past events make history exciting and intriguing, but the details of the real events can be just as interesting, if not more scandalous than you originally thought! Would you like to know more about the Teapot Dome scandal? In its commitment to preserve history of Wyoming and the west the American Heritage Center has collections documenting the scandal. Some of the collections regarding Teapot Dome include documents from legislatures (John B. Kendrick and Frank W. Mondell), the presiding judge at the Teapot Dome Lawsuit (T. Blake Kennedy), and accounts by an employee of one of the oil magnates (Ralph O. Dietler).
-Amanda Stow, Reference Archivist