Harry Ford Sinclair (1876-1956), oil producer and self-made millionaire is better known for his involvement in the 1920's Teapot Dome controversy, one of the most notorious corruption scandals of the Harding Administration.
After losing his father's drugstore to speculation, Sinclair turned his attention, in 1901, to the oil business in Kansas and Oklahoma -- selling lumber for drilling rigs and buying and selling oil leases. Success was in hand by 1904 when a drilling syndicate netted Sinclair $100,000. He brought in his first oil well on 25 July 1905 and by 1916 Sinclair Oil and Refining Corporation was one of the ten largest in the country.
In 1922, Sinclair and another oilman, Edward Doheny, arranged with the Secretary of the Interior, Albert B. Fall, to lease naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming and Elk Hill, California. The Secretary was known for his pro-development leanings, and was described by a contemporary conservationist as a member of the "exploitation gang" who added it "would have been possible to pick a worse man for Secretary of the Interior, but not altogether easy." In return for the leases, Fall received at least $409,000 in payments from Sinclair and Doheny.
Congress launched an investigation into the controversial lease of public lands to private interests and Fall's association "with large interests of an oleaginous nature." As a result of the investigation, the leases were cancelled, and both Fall and Sinclair were sentenced to jail. Despite the Teapot Dome scandal, Sinclair continued to prosper, retiring in 1949, when the Sinclair Oil Corporation had grown in value to $700 million. (see Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power; American National Biography, 1999, vol. 20 ; New York Times, 11 November 1956)
The extensive Martel service acquired by Sinclair and monogrammed with the intitals of his wife Elizabeth, dates largely to 1906, coinciding with Sinclair's success of bringing in his first oil well in 1905.