Calvin Coolidge

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John Calvin Coolidge
John Calvin Coolidge
Term of office August 2, 1923 – March 3, 1929
Preceded by Warren G. Harding
Succeeded by Herbert Hoover
Date of birth July 4, 1872
Place of birth Plymouth, Vermont
Spouse Grace Coolidge
Political party Republican

John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (July 4, 1872January 5, 1933) was the twenty-ninth Vice President (1921-1923) and the thirtieth President of the United States (1923-1929), succeeding to that office upon the death of Warren G. Harding.



He was born in Plymouth, Windsor County, Vermont on July 4, 1872 to John Calvin Coolidge, Sr. and Victoria Moor. Coolidge was the only president to be born on the 4th of July (Independence Day). He dropped John from his name upon graduating from college. He attended Amherst College, in Massachusetts, where he became a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, and graduated in 1895. He practiced law in Northampton, Massachusetts, and was a member of the city council in 1899, city solicitor from 1900-1902, clerk of courts in 1904, and representative from 1907-1908. In 1905, Coolidge married Grace Anna Goodhue. They were complete opposites personality-wise. She was talkative and fun-loving and Coolidge was quiet and serious. Not long after their marriage Coolidge handed her a bag with 52 pairs of holey socks. Grace's reply was "Did you marry me to darn your socks?" Without cracking a smile and with his usual seriousness, Calvin answered, "No, but I find it mighty handy."[1]

Coolidge was elected mayor of Northampton in 1910 and 1911, was a member of the State senate 1912-1915, serving as president of that body in 1914 and 1915. He was lieutenant governor of the state from 1916-1918, and Governor from 1919-1920. In 1919, Coolidge gained national attention when he ordered the Massachusetts National Guard to forcefully end the Boston Police Department strike. He later wrote to labor leader Samuel Gompers, "there is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, anytime." [2][3]


Coolidge made a half-hearted effort to secure the Republican presidential nomination in 1920, losing to Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio. Party leaders wanted to nominate Wisconsin Senator Irvine Lenroot for vice president. However, convention delegates stampeded and nominated Coolidge. The Harding-Coolidge ticket won handily against Ohio Governor James M. Cox and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt in a landslide, 60.36 to 34.19 percent (404 to 127 in the electoral college).

President Coolidge, his wife Grace &  Kansas senator Charles Curtis on their way to the Capitol building on inauguration day, March 4, 1925.
President Coolidge, his wife Grace & Kansas senator Charles Curtis on their way to the Capitol building on inauguration day, March 4, 1925.

Harding was inaugurated on March 4, 1921, and served until August 2, 1923. Upon Harding's death, Coolidge became President on August 2, 1923. Coolidge was visiting at the family home, still without electricity or telephone, when he got word of Harding's death. His father, a notary public, administered the oath of office in the family's parlor by the light of a kerosene lamp; Coolidge was resworn by a federal official upon his return to Washington, D.C.

  • Note: Warren G. Harding died in California, August 2nd (PST),

Calvin Coolidge was in Vermont, the morning of August 3rd (EST).

Before his election in 1924, Coolidge's younger son, Calvin, Jr., contracted a blister from playing tennis on the White House courts. The blister became infected, and Calvin, Jr. died. After that, Coolidge, a man of few words, who had already earned the nickname "Silent Cal," became more withdrawn. People who knew the President said he never fully recovered from his son's death. He said that "when he died, the glory of the Presidency went with him."

On June 2, 1924, President Coolidge had signed a bill granting Native Americans full U.S. citizenship.  Coolidge is shown above on October 22, 1924 holding a ceremonial hat given to him by the Smoki Indian tribe of Prescott, Arizona.
On June 2, 1924, President Coolidge had signed a bill granting Native Americans full U.S. citizenship. Coolidge is shown above on October 22, 1924 holding a ceremonial hat given to him by the Smoki Indian tribe of Prescott, Arizona.

It is said that a White House dinner guest once made a bet with her friends that she could get the president to say at least three words during the course of the meal. Upon telling Coolidge of her wager, he replied simply with the words "You lose."[4] However another one of Coolidge's dinner guests had this to say "I cannot help feeling that persons who complained about his silence as a dinner partner never really tried to get beyond trivialities to which he did not think it worth while to respond."

Even though Coolidge was said to be somewhat tight-lipped, he delivered more speeches than any other president up to that time. Making use of the new medium of radio, he delivered an address about once a month. He also managed to hold 520 press conferences, averaging 7.8 per month, somewhat higher than Franklin D. Roosevelt who averaged about 6.9. [5] Coolidge's press conferences, however, reflected his reticent personality with a vengeance. Louis Lyons, a Washington newsman in the 1920s and later an official of Harvard's Nieman Foundation for Journalism, recalled that Coolidge required all questions to be submitted in advance, written on slips of paper. When reporters were admitted to his office, he would go through the slips, discarding any he had no desire to address. Occasionally, he would flip through the entire stack and announce, "I have no questions today." The reporters were not allowed to quote him directly, or even to attribute his remarks to "a White House spokesman." It was nothing like today's open, sometimes disputatious press conferences. [6]

He was easily elected President of the United States in his own right in 1924. Coolidge made use of the new medium of radio and made radio history several times while president: his inauguration was the first presidential inauguration broadcast on radio; on February 12, 1924 he became the first President of the United States to deliver a political speech on radio and on February 22 he also became the first to deliver such a speech from the White House.

Coolidge addressing a crowd at Arlington National Cemetery in 1924.
Coolidge addressing a crowd at Arlington National Cemetery in 1924.

Coolidge was the last President of the United States who did not attempt to intervene in free markets, letting business cycles run their course. During his Presidency, the United States experienced a wildly successful period of economic growth: the so-called "Roaring Twenties." Coolidge not only lowered taxes, but also reduced the national debt.

Although some later commentators have dismissed Coolidge as a doctrinaire, laissez-faire ideologue, historian Robert Sobel offers some context based on Coolidge's sense of federalism: "As Governor of Massachusetts, Coolidge supported wages and hours legislation, opposed child labor, imposed economic controls during World War I, favored safety measures in factories, and even worker representation on corporate boards. Did he support these measures while president? No, because in the 1920s, such matters were considered the responsibilities of state and local governments." [7]

Coolidge, reporters, and cameramen
Coolidge, reporters, and cameramen

A notable foreign-affairs initiative of the Coolidge administration was the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, named for Coolidge's Secretary of State, Frank Kellogg, and for French foreign minister Aristide Briand. The treaty, ratified in 1929, committed signatories including the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan to "renounce war, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another." [8]

Coolidge did not seek renomination; he announced his decision with typical terseness: "I do not choose to run for President in 1928." After leaving office, he and wife Grace returned to Northampton, Mass., where his political career had begun.

Retirement and Death

In his post-White House years, Coolidge served as chairman of the non-partisan Railroad Commission, as honorary president of the Foundation of the Blind, as director of New York Life Insurance Company, as president of the American Antiquarian Society, and as trustee of Amherst College. [9]

Coolidge published an autobiography in 1929 and wrote a syndicated newspaper column, "Calvin Coolidge Says," from 1930-1931. He died suddenly of coronary thrombosis at his home, "The Beeches," at 12:45 p.m. in Northampton, Massachusetts on January 5, 1933 at the age of 60. Prior to his death, Coolidge felt disappointed about Hoover's re-election defeat, after which his health began to decline very rapidly. Shortly before his death, Coolidge confided to an old friend: "I feel I no longer fit in these times."

Coolidge is buried beneath a simple headstone in Notch Cemetery, Plymouth Notch, Vermont, where the family homestead is maintained as a museum. The State of Vermont dedicated a new historic-site visitors' center nearby to mark Coolidge's 100th birthday on July 4, 1972. [10]

An academic conference on Coolidge was held July 30-31, 1998, at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library to mark the 75th anniversary of his lantern-light homestead inaugural. [11]

Supreme Court appointments

Coolidge appointed the following Justice to the Supreme Court of the United States:

Major presidential acts

Noted Quotes

  • "Collecting more taxes than absolutely necessary is legalized robbery."
  • "I have noticed that nothing I never said ever did me any harm."
  • "Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country."
  • "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."
  • "The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten."
  • "We do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power. We do not need more knowledge, we need more character. We do not need more government, we need more culture. We do not need more law, we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen. If the foundation be firm, the foundation will stand."
  • "You lose." (His wife, Grace Goodhue Coolidge, recounted that a young woman sitting next to Coolidge at a dinner party confided to him she had bet she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly retorted, "You lose.")
  • "I do not choose to run for President in 1928."
  • "The chief business of the American people is business."*
  • "There is no right to strike against the public safety of anybody, anywhere, any time."*


Calvin Coolidge video montage (info)
Collection of video clips of the president. (4.0 MB, ogg/Theora format).
Problems seeing the videos? Media help.

See also

External sources

External links

Wikisource has original works written by or about:
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Preceded by:
Samuel W. McCall
Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts
1916 – 1918
Succeeded by:
Channing H. Cox
Preceded by:
Samuel W. McCall
Governor of Massachusetts
1919 – 1921
Succeeded by:
Channing H. Cox
Preceded by:
Charles W. Fairbanks
Republican Party Vice Presidential candidate
1920 (won)
Succeeded by:
Charles G. Dawes
Preceded by:
Thomas Marshall
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1921August 2, 1923(a)
Succeeded by:
Charles Dawes
Preceded by:
Warren G. Harding
President of the United States
August 2, 1923(b)March 3, 1929
Succeeded by:
Herbert Hoover
Preceded by:
Warren G. Harding
Republican Party Presidential candidate
1924 (won)
Succeeded by:
Herbert Hoover
(a) President Harding died on August 2.
(b) Coolidge took the oath of office on August 3.

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