Calvin Coolidge: 30th President

Official Presidential Photo

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Coolidge: the Early Years

Calvin Coolidge is the only president, so far, to share his birthday with our country's independence. He was born on July 4,1872 in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. He worked on the family farm, where he was responsible for the cattle, crops, and various other chores. His father was well respected and held several local offices such as tax collector and constable. His mother and sister both died when he was still quite young.

He went off to Amherst College where he graduated with honors, then became a lawyer in Northampton, Massachusetts. While there, he met his wife, Grace Goodhue, whom became a teacher of the deaf. Over the next twenty years, he served in 19 different offices, serving from councilman in 1900, and chairman of the Northampton Republican Committee in 1904. Three years later, he joined the state legislature and eventually became the Republican Governor of Massachusetts.

He became popular across the country for his work as governor. During his term as governor, the police officers of Boston went on strike, in which he acted quickly and brought in the state guard to break it up. Coolidge was very firm and maintained order throughout the strike.

The recognition he got during that time, helped get him elected as Vice-President under President Warren G. Harding. As Vice-President, he kept a low profile. He seldom spoke during cabinet meetings and began to earn his nickname, "Silent Cal." It is said while President, a woman approached him and stated that she bet her friend that she could get him to say more than two words. His response, "You lose."

List of United States Presidents

1. George Washington

2. John Adams

3. Thomas Jefferson

4. James Madison

5. James Monroe

6. John Quincy Adams

7. Andrew Jackson

8. Martin Van Buren

9. William Henry Harrison

10. John Tyler

11. James K. Polk

12. Zachary Taylor

13. Millard Fillmore

14. Franklin Pierce

15. James Buchanan

16. Abraham Lincoln

17. Andrew Johnson

18. Ulysses S. Grant

19. Rutherford B. Hayes

20. James Garfield

21. Chester A. Arthur

22. Grover Cleveland

23. Benjamin Harrison

24. Grover Cleveland

25. William McKinley

26. Theodore Roosevelt

27. William Howard Taft

28. Woodrow Wilson

29. Warren G. Harding

30. Calvin Coolidge

31. Herbert Hoover

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt

33. Harry S. Truman

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

35. John F. Kennedy

36. Lyndon B. Johnson

37. Richard M. Nixon

38. Gerald R. Ford

39. James Carter

40. Ronald Reagan

41. George H. W. Bush

42. William J. Clinton

43. George W. Bush

44. Barack Obama

"Silent Cal's" Presidency

On August 3, 1923, Coolidge, being the next in line for president, was notified at 2:30 a.m. while he was visiting his father's farm that his predecessor Warren G. Harding had died. Coolidge took the Oath of Office in front of his father who was a notary public and a few other witnesses using the family Bible and a kerosene lamp. It was then that he became the 30th President of the United States. As soon as he was sworn into office, true to his nonchalant character, he immediately got out of his black suit he dressed in for the occasion and went back to bed.

He followed the prohibition laws that were in effect during that time, and often only served ice water at functions. His wife who was very social kept the parties very lively. First lady Grace Goodhue Coolidge helped him gain his popularity, as she was his opposite in many ways. She was very charismatic and she was often photographed and even joked that she was the "national hugger." Grace was also successful in her own line of work as an instructor for the deaf. As first lady, she brought national attention to the hearing-impaired and became close friends with Helen Keller, an author and activist who was born both deaf and blind.

Coolidge was able to take care of the scandals that occurred during Harding's administration and even reduced the national debt. This gave him a reputation of being honest and hardworking. Because the 20's were a time of wealth and prosperity, it became known as the "Coolidge Prosperity," which only increased his popularity. His successes allowed him to be easily elected in 1924. Unfortunately, this was a very hard personal time for Coolidge, because his 16-year-old son died of blood poisoning during his campaign. Coolidge said that, "When he (his son) went, the power and the glory of the presidency went with him."

Despite his quiet demeanor, Coolidge held press conferences, spoke on the radio, and was very visible to the public. People of the time even said he was "the most photographed person on Earth." He was willing to pose for cameras in farmer overalls, cowboy hats, and Indian headdresses.

He believed in small government, and only chose to intervene when he felt that issues could not be handled at the state level. This was a great contrast to both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson before him. The stark contrast caused many to believe he did very little while in office.

Coolidge did focus on the economic side of politics. He preferred lower taxes, a balanced budget, and less regulations on businesses. Despite his wisdom in economics, he was blamed for much of the stock market crash in 1929 that eventually led to the Great Depression. Many felt that he should have been able to stop it from having happened.

Coolidge also encouraged the United States to seek out foreign markets, but refrained from building alliances with other nations. He was against Wilson's League of Nations. He also strongly supported the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928 that objected war when it came to settling international differences.

Though still popular at the end of his first full-term, he chose not to run again, despite the urging of the Republican parties and retired from his career in politics. He believed that a president should only serve two-terms, even though this had not yet been written in the Constitution. He did see the beginning disasters of the Great Depression before his death in January 1933. As a result, many changed their opinion of him after he had left office, blaming some of his policy decisions for the collapse.

He had made tax cuts that people felt worsened the distribution of wealth and caused overproduction of goods. He also vetoed a bill (McNary-Haugen bill) that some felt could have helped the agricultural sector. By vetoing this bill, they felt he was limiting aid to farmers. Coolidge also stopped a plan that would have allowed for cheap Federal electric power to be produced on the Tennessee River. Although his policies may have not been well-respected, he was, for his character and integrity.

With Helen Keller

January 11, 1926
January 11, 1926 | Source

Fun Facts

  • He was the first president to address the American people with a public radio address, which he did so on Feb. 22, 1924.
  • He was known as 'Silent Cal' because he was a very quiet man. A woman once said that she bet she could get him to say more than two words. His reply, "You lose."
  • When Warren Harding died, he was sworn into office in the middle of the night by his father, he then went back to bed immediately after.
  • Although three presidents died on Independence Day, he is the only one who was born on the Fourth of July.
  • His wife Grace Coolidge was his exact opposite, very charismatic and sociable. She was also a spokesperson for the deaf, and became very good friends with Helen Keller.

Excerpt from History Channel

Basic Facts

Question
Answer
Born
July 4, 1872 - Vermont
President Number
30th
Party
Republican
Military Service
none
Wars Served
none
Age at Beginning of Presidency
51 years old
Term of Office
August 3, 1923 - March 3, 1929
How Long President
6 years
Vice-President
None (1923–1925) Charles G. Dawes (1925–1929)
Age and Year of Death
January 5, 1933 (aged 60)
Cause of Death
coronary thrombosis

Signing Appropriation Bills

President Coolidge signing appropriation bills for the Veterans Bureau on the south lawn during the garden party for wounded veterans
President Coolidge signing appropriation bills for the Veterans Bureau on the south lawn during the garden party for wounded veterans | Source

Sources

  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Calvin Coolidge. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/calvincoolidge
  • Miller Center. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2016, from http://millercenter.org/president/biography/coolidge-life-in-brief
  • Sullivan, G. (2001). Mr. President: A book of U.S. presidents. New York: Scholastic.

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