Useful Notes: Calvin Coolidge

"After all, the chief business of the American people is business."

"Calvin 'Silent but Sexy' Coolidge."
Cracked, "The 4 Most Impressively Weird Sex Lives of U.S. Presidents"

"Coolidge made The Roaring Twenties roar."
Jonathan Coulton, "The Presidents."

John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (July 4, 1872 — January 5, 1933) was the 30th President of the United States, serving from 1923-1929. He was Vice President when Warren Harding died in 1923. Coolidge won a full term for himself the next year, and remained in office until 1929, when he was followed by Herbert Hoover. He was the 11th President from the Republican Party.

He got his start in Massachusetts state politics, rising to the head of the state Senate and eventually serving a term as Governor before being chosen as Harding's running mate. Sworn in by his father, a Justice of the Peace, late at night on the Coolidge family bible after hearing of Harding's death, Coolidge may have represented the real return to normalcy his predecessor had called for. One of his slogans was "Keep Cool With Coolidge." He was popular in his day, but due to his lack of charisma he's not remembered much now. Most people remember Prohibition and the rest of The Roaring Twenties instead.

When people do remember him it is most often for his legendarily taciturn temperament, which earned him the nickname "Silent Cal". Like most old-fashioned New Englanders, he never used twenty words when one would do the trick, and never used ten words when a simple nod would suffice. President Coolidge's wife, Grace, once recounted the story of a young woman who, seated next to Silent Cal at a dinner party, confided to him that she had made a bet that she could get at least three words out of Coolidge. Coolidge had simply looked at her and replied, "You lose." However, Coolidge wasn't quite as silent as his reputation suggests - he was the first President to have his inauguration broadcast on radio, and he met with the press and reporters hundreds of times while he was in office.

This tendency towards minimalism which Coolidge demonstrated in speech was also reflected in his philosophy of governance, to do as little as necessary. Coolidge was of the belief that 90% of impending problems would solve themselves before they ever became serious (a philosophy that reportedly made him Ronald Reagan's favorite president). Ultimately, this hands-off philosophy has led to him being considered more relevant as a source of amusing anecdotes than as a president.

Coolidge was known for his honesty and responsibility, which helped bring faith back to the federal government following the Harding presidency's scandals. While often criticized for taking a hands-off approach to being in charge of the country, Coolidge mostly just kept silent in public - behind the scenes, he was a hard worker. Taxes were pretty low during his time and the government was pretty lax with business - while this did help cause the huge economic boom of the 1920's, many economists believe the rapid growth on easy credit and overproduction were at least partially responsible for the Great Depression that started just months after Coolidge's time in office. Still, times were pretty good for most of Coolidge's presidency, with a growing middle class and *gasp* budget surpluses. The only President since who had surpluses was Bill Clinton, who also benefited from a prospering economy.

Also notable for his strong opposition to nearly all forms of federal aid paid for by taxpayers. His refusal to do anything about the economic instability of Great Plains farmers by sending federal aid ended up backfiring, since federal aid could have prevented the Dust Bowl from becoming the almighty disaster it would become. Coolidge also didn't do much after a horrific flood along the Mississippi River in 1927, the worst river flood in American history and a tragedy very similar to 2005's Hurricane Katrina, killed hundreds and displaced thousands. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, though, went there to raise relief efforts. Hoover, who was already putting his sights on winning the Republican nomination next year, also made a deal with prominent African American leaders (the ones worst affected by the flood were poor blacks) - they tell blacks to vote for Hoover next year, and he'll champion black causes while in the White House. Hoover never did (to be fair, the Depression took up most of his attention) and the black vote began to leave the Party of Lincoln for Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democrats.

Like Harding before him, Coolidge was not in favor of America joining the League of Nations. His Secretary of State, Frank Kellogg, and France's foreign minister, Aristide Briand, negotiated what is known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact; several countries signed it promising not to use warfare to settle disputes with other countries. It essentially outlawed war, and, as we all know, it failed, but it did help influence some of the post-WWII peacemaking process.

Coolidge was also somewhat ahead of his time when it came to combating racism - he spoke in favor of full civil rights for African Americans, he criticized those who thought America was merely a "white man's" country, called for legislation against lynching, which he called a "hideous crime", and signed the law which finally granted full U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans. Unfortunately, he also signed a highly restrictive and rather racist Immigration Act of 1924, which severely limited the number of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia, though he did so under protest and took his sweet time doing it — The act had overwhelming support in both houses of congress, and Coolidge thought that vetoing it would be a useless gesture.

His 1924 reelection saw the lowest voter turnout of the 20th century - 48.9%. To put that in perspective, the election of 1916 saw 61.6% voter turnout. Yikes.

His son, Calvin Coolidge Jr., died of septicemia after a blister on his foot became infected. He had been playing tennis in the White House gardens while wearing new shoes without socks. This may or may not have had something to do with his inaction during the presidency, as Coolidge, like two presidents before him, was never quite the same after his son's death.

There is a psychological/biological condition named after him - the "Coolidge effect." It refers to situations where someone (almost always male) has renewed sexual interest and energy because new... uh, stimulus has entered his life. The story goes that Coolidge and his wife were given separate tours of a government farm. When Mrs. Coolidge got to the roosters, she saw that the male was mating a lot and asked if this was common. The guy in charge of that section replied "Dozens of times." She told him to "Please tell that to the President." When Calvin Coolidge was told about the male rooster, he asked "Same hen every time?" The attendant answered with "Oh no, Mr. President. A different one each time." Coolidge replied by saying "Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge."

He had several White House pets, at least 25. These included several dogs, a bobcat, an antelope, lions, raccoons, a goose, and a hippo. Yeah...

He is the only American President whose birthday is July 4th. Coolidge was the President who dedicated the Statue of Liberty when it was made a National Monument in 1924. He's also the President who chose which of his four predecessors would appear on Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

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Tropes that describe Coolidge

  • Alliterative Name
  • Badass Creed: His campaign urged American voters to have this as one: "Keep cool with Coolidge."
  • Crowning Moment of Funny: Socialist author and renowned wit Dorothy Parker supposedly teased Coolidge about his silent demeanour at a party, telling him "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who says that it's impossible to get more than two words out of you". Coolidge's response? "You lose". (This quote may be apocryphal.)
  • Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: For Vermonters, Calvin Coolidge's "Brave Little State of Vermont" speech is this. It is now inscribed upon the wall of the Vermont State House.
    September, 1928: "Vermont is a state that I love. I could not look upon the peaks of Ascutney, Whittier and Mansfield without being moved in a way that no other scene could move me. It was here that I first saw the light of day; here that I received my bride. Here my dead lie buried, pillowed among the everlasting hills... If ever the spirit of liberty should vanish from the rest of the Union, and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people in this brave little State of Vermont."
    • For Mr. Coolidge Sr., probably administering the Oath of Office to his own son (Coolidge was later sworn in by William Howard TaftChief Justice at the time—as it wasn't clear if a mere Justice of the Peace had the authority).
    • Before his son died, Coolidge brought a rabbit to see him, knowing he loved them.
  • Deadpan Snarker: "You lose".
  • Mugging the Monster: In 1923, a down-on-his-luck young man in need of the money to get home snuck into (what he at the time did not know was) Coolidge's hotel room and started to make off with a wallet, watch, and an ornate charm. Coolidge then woke up and politely asked the man to leave the charm, as it had sentimental value to him. The robber examined the charm, read the inscription, realized who he was robbing and nearly crapped his pants. Cal however loaned him the money he needed and snuck him back out to avoid the Secret Service.
  • Not Good with People: He was a shy man who didn't like talking very much, but he absolutely LOVED animals. He owned 26 pets throughout his six years in the White House.
  • Red Baron: Silent Cal.
  • The Quiet One: There is a whole host of stories and jokes about how taciturn he was; the most famous is the one listed among the quotes. Among others were the following:
    • While Vice-President, on being asked his opinion of the many fancy formal state dinners he was forced to attend.
      "Gotta eat somewhere."
    • His entire speech in thanks for having received a ceremonial rake made of "oak" wood. It should be noted that the public official who gave him this rake gave a long-winded speech in praise of the sturdiness and strength of oak, and the great symbolism of giving an oaken rake.
    • He was very well educated, which led to the quip that he "could be silent in five languages."
    • His wife was a teacher at a school for the deaf. At their engagement party, one of Grace's friends pointed to Calvin, the silent man standing in the corner, and asked Grace if he was one of her students.
    • Once his wife Grace was sick and couldn't join him for church, so he went alone. Later: it led to this funny exchange.
    Grace: "What did the reverend speak about?"
    Calvin: "Sin."
    Grace: "But what did he say about sin?"
    • Here is how Coolidge chose to announce on Aug. 2, 1927 (the fourth anniversary of his taking office on the death of Harding) that he would not run for re-election the next year. Thirty-odd reporters were summoned to meet Coolidge in a room. Coolidge asked "Is everyone here now?". He was informed that they were. Aides had the reporters form a line and pass by the President's desk, where he handed each one a slip of paper on which were the words "I do not choose to run for President in nineteen twenty-eight". After all the reporters had received the slips of paper, Coolidge was asked if he had any further comment. He said "No". Then he left.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: His active wife Grace in contrast to Calvin's stoic personality.
  • Shrinking Violet: The real reason for his taciturnity.
    ''President Calvin Coolidge confessed that he was so shy it was an ordeal to fulfill his duties to people. He recalled that as a small boy he could be in a panic when he heard strangers in the kitchen of his home and knew that he must go into the kitchen and meet them. “I am all proper with pals,” Coolidge said, “however each time I meet a stranger I’ve got to undergo the previous kitchen door again home, and it is not easy.”
  • Springtime for Hitler: Harding never actually wanted Coolidge as his running mate; his preferred vice-presidential candidate was Irving Lenroot. Opponents of Harding, pissed off at the tactics his campaign team had used to secure him the party's nomination for president, banded together to lump him with a running mate he didn't want. And like the previous two times they did this, the person they chose ended up becoming the president in his own right.
  • The Voiceless: Not really, but he was pretty much the personification of the Laconic Wiki.

Calvin Coolidge in fiction