One froggy day at the White House

Michigan J. Frog (c) Warner Bros.

On a May day in 1928, president Coolidge had a rare animal visitor in his office. It came in a goldfish bowl and consisted of a horned toad (Phrynosoma cornutum). Old Rip, the toad’s name was, because it was supposed to have been buried in the cornerstone of the Eastland, Tex., court house, for 31 years. That it was still alive on the occasion of his visit to the White House, president Coolidge could plainly see. As he discussed its merits with Senator Mayfield and some other Texans, he pointed at it, not with his finger, but with the bars of his horn-rimmed spectacles. This gesture, observers realized, was not a conscious precaution against a bite or horned warts. Pointing with the bars of his spectacles, repeatedly, with both bars at once, is a gesture president Coolidge habitually employed to indicate an object under discussion.

Perhaps this toad was the inspiration for Michigan J. Frog, the frog also allegedly recovered not merely alive, but singing and dancing merrily away in a box unearthed from a cornerstone…




source: TIME Magazine, May 14, 1928

2 thoughts on “One froggy day at the White House

  1. A very interesting post! What is the source?
    I’m always looking for unique accounts of Coolidge behavior. I’ve never read of his pointing with his reading glasses. I’ve read of the visit of the horned toad to the White House and understand that such creatures are often to be found in old corner-stones, especially in Texas.

    • Jim, I’ve added the source – TIME Magazine May 14, 1928. No idea how reliable the statement about Coolidge’s pointing with his glasses being a habit is. I know he only used them for reading, and rarely in public (except when reading from a manuscript), so I don’t know if he would have been wearing them on an occasion like the one. I love the classic cartoon “One Froggy Evening” and was trying to shoehorn it in here no matter what 🙂

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