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Sunday, 20 July 2014

Calvin Coolidge

John Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933) was the only President of the United States to be born on the 4th of July.

He married Grace Goodhue in October 1905. They met at a school for deaf children where she was teaching at the time.

A week after the wedding, Coolidge, ever the practical New Englander, presented his wife with 52 pairs of his socks that needed mending.

Calvin Coolidge was merciless about his wife's cooking. He delighted in dropping one of her freshly baked biscuits on the floor and stomping his foot loudly at the same time to emphasize its lack of delicacy.

They had two children: John (born September 6, 1906 - died May 31, 2000) and Calvin Jr. (born April 13, 1908 - died July 7, 1924).

Calvin Jr. died at 16 as a result of playing tennis at the White House. He was wearing shoes without socks and died from a toe infection.

An extremely intelligent man and a fine scholar, Coolidge's wedding gift to his wife was his own translation of Dante's Inferno.

In 1920, Coolidge was nominated Vice President under Warren G. Harding. Harding died on August 2, 1923 and Coolidge became the next President, finishing Harding's term before being elected in 1924 to continue as the country's president.

Calvin Coolidge became the first U.S. president to deliver a radio address from the White House on February 24, 1924.

President Calvin Coolidge's inauguration on March 4, 1925, was the first to be nationally broadcast on radio.

With the issue of United States Sesquicentennial coinage in 1926, Calvin Coolidge became the only living American President to feature on U.S. coinage.

Coolidge surprised many people by choosing not to run for re-election during 1928. One day, he walked outside of his vacation home to waiting reporters, handed them a slip of paper that said, "I do not choose to run for President in nineteen-twenty-eight.", took no questions, and went back inside.

Calvin Coolidge was nicknamed "Silent Cal" because he did not talk much.

Calvin Coolidge enjoyed horseback riding for exercise, and to save time acquired an electric horse for the White House. The contraption, which he rode three times a day, had two variable gaits, "trot" and "gallop."

Coolidge and his wife adopted a grey striped stray cat called Tiger. He used to walk around the White House with the cat draped around his neck.

When Tiger got lost, Coolidge went on the radio to appeal for help finding him.

Coolidge also had a black chow chow called Timmy who would allow the president's canary to sleep between his paws.

Rob Roy was a white male collie known as Coolidge's favorite pet. He was acquired by Grace Coolidge in 1922 from Island White Kennels in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. During the period in which the Coolidges owned Rob Roy, they also had a female collie named Prudence Prim.

Rob Roy was immortalized in a Howard Chandler Christy portrait of Grace Coolidge.

The Christy portrait of Rob Roy and Grace Coolidge

In 1928 Rob Roy became ill and was unsuccessfully treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he died. Upon his death Coolidge wistfully remarked, "His especial delight was to ride with me in the boats when I went fishing. So although I know he would bark for joy as the grim boatman ferried him across the dark waters of the Styx, yet his going left me lonely on the hither shore.”

Calvin Coolidge had two pet raccoons named Rebecca and Reuben. Members of the White House staff disliked the raccoons because they would rip expensive fabrics and upholstery.

Coolidge suffered from asthma and because he mistrusted physicians, he treated himself with newly developed medicines and breathed chlorine released into the air of a closed room in vain attempts to ease his condition.

Coolidge liked to have his head rubbed with Vaseline while he ate breakfast in bed.

The president liked to amuse himself by occasionally ringing the White House doorbell and then running off and hiding. Coolidge also enjoyed calling for his bodyguards and hiding while they frantically looked for him.

Official portrait of Calvin Coolidge

The death of Calvin Coolidge’s son in 1924 had a huge impact on the rest of his presidency. It sent Coolidge into a deep depression that he never fully recovered from. He blamed himself for his son’s death, saying his son would not have died had he not been elected president.

After his presidency, Coolidge retired to the modest rented house on residential Massasoit Street in Northampton before moving to a more spacious home, "The Beeches."

Coolidge kept a Hacker runabout boat on the Connecticut River and was often observed on the water by local boating enthusiasts.

Calvin Coolidge died suddenly from coronary thrombosis at "The Beeches," at 12:45 p.m., January 5, 1933. His will was one sentence long.

Coolidge is buried beneath a simple headstone in Plymouth Notch Cemetery, Plymouth Notch, Vermont, where the nearby family home is maintained as one of the original buildings on the Calvin Coolidge Homestead District site.


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