Calvin Coolidge

Thirtieth President of the United States, born in Plymouth. He is the only US President born on Independence Day.

He attended Black River Academy in Ludlow and did a post-graduate term at St. Johnsbury Academy. After graduating from Amherst College, he practiced law in Northampton, Massachusetts. He held a series of local and state offices until becoming governor of Massachusetts in 1919, gaining national attention there for using the state militia to suppress a police strike. The fact is, the strike was over by the time the militia was activated, and he had acted upon the request of Boston’s mayor. Elected Vice President to Warren G. Harding in 1920, he succeeded to the presidency upon Harding’s death in 1923.

Coolidge was visiting the family homestead in Plymouth when word came that Harding had died, and he agreed to a ceremony at which his father, acting in his capacity as a Notary Public, would officiate. Later, when asked how he knew he could perform the ceremony, the elder Coolidge replied, “Nobody told me I couldn’t.” He was elected to serve a full term as President the following year.

Popular and deliberately hands-off in prosperous times, Coolidge was noted more for what he did not do and say than for what he did: he is often quoted as having said “the business of America is business,” though he he never actually said that. What he actually said was “the chief business of the American people is business,” which, though similar, means something entirely different when left in the context in which it was offered. He declined renomination in 1928.

In his private life he was equally noted for his taciturn, thrifty ways. After leaving the White House, he retired to Northampton and wrote various articles promoting his conservative views as well as his autobiography.

As what one could call a typical laconic Vermonter, he was known as “Silent Cal”, with a preference for saying as little as possible and reputed to put more than two words together only on the rarest of occasions. As the story goes, writer Dorothy Parker, seated next to Coolidge at a dinner party, told him she had bet she could get him to say more than two words.

“You lose”, was the reply.

As “silent” as Cal might have been, his voice was heard by more Americans than any President before him. On December 6, 1923, his State of The Union Address was the first presidential address broadcast on radio (listeners were struck by the fact that “you could even hear him turning the pages”). Four days later, a tribute to Warren G. Harding was the first presidential address via radio from the White House.