Harry Ford Sinclair was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, on 6th July, 1876. Sinclair was initially a pharmacist but in 1901 he became involved in the oil industry. He started the White Oil Company with a partner, Edward White. In 1916 he established the Sinclair Oil and Refining Corporation and the Sinclair Gulf Corporation. He later combined these enterprises into the Sinclair Consolidated Oil Corporation.
In 1921 Albert Fall, the Secretary of the Interior, had leased Sinclair the Teapot Dome oil fields in Wyoming. Attempts were made to keep this deal secret but rumours began to circulate when it became known that Fall was spending large sums of money.
On 14th April, 1922, the Wall Street Journal reported that Fall had leased Teapot Dome to Sinclair. President Warren Harding defended Fall by claiming that "the policy which has been adopted by the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Interior in dealing with these matters was submitted to me prior to the adoption thereof, and the policy decided upon and the subsequent acts have at all times had my entire approval."
Robert La Follette and John B. Kendrick called for a Senate investigation into Albert Fall and the Naval Reserves. Hearings on the Teapot Dome oil lease began on October 15, 1923 before the Senate Committee on Public Lands and Surveys. Senator Thomas J. Walsh, a Democrat from Montana, led the committee's investigation. Over the next few months, dozens of witnesses testified before the committee. On January 24, 1924, Edward Doheny admitted that he had lent Fall $100,000.
Seven days later the Senate passed a resolution stating that the leases to the Mammoth Oil Company and the Pan American Petroleum Company "were executed under circumstances indicating fraud and corruption". Albert Fall and Edwin Denby were now both forced to resign from office.
On 17th October, 1927, Sinclair appeared on trial charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. The trial ended prematurely two weeks later when the government presented evidence that Sinclair had hired a detective agency to shadow the jury. The judge declared a mistrial. Sinclair was tried for criminal contempt of court. Found guilty and he was sentenced to six months in prison.
Harry Ford Sinclair died in Pasadena, California, on 10th November 1956.