Pre-order the new Coolidge biography today!

Update: Amity Shlaes informs per comment, “that apparently there have been order holdups! Apologies. The book is coming, but not this month. I very much appreciate readers’ patience”

She also very graciously makes the offer that “any reader who likes can email for a signed bookplate from me when their copy arrives! My email address for bookplates is ”  (I guess I should switch my order from kindle to paper copy …)

Finally, the all-new biography of our favorite president is getting closer to a bookstore, mailbox or e-book near you – Amity Shlaes’ “Coolidge” now available for pre-order at amazon (and at Barnes & Noble or your just-around-the-corner bookstore). Release date is June 26.

I must say I like the cover!

Welcome and Thank you

Every once in a great while, I get a little WordPress message telling me that someone “thought to be living in XX” has subscribed to my humble blog – needless to say, this always gladdens my heart, but maybe I really should put into words my thanks for all 11 of you who currently are subscribers.

I’ll try to come up with new stuff on Coolidge and to keep earning your followership. We are about to enter an exciting new year, which will see the 140th anniversary of Coolidge’s birth (ok, that is not a really round number) and the publication of Amity Shlaes’ all-new biography. Hopefully, we’ll also see one presidential candidate or another adopt Coolidgean positions, particularly on the issues of indebtedness, deficits and thrift.

Due to a small operation I’ll be undergoing this week, I’ll be out of commission for a few days – so don’t hold your breath waiting for the next post 🙂

Thank you and keep cool with Coolidge!

A Coolidge summer at the Notch

July 4th will mark the 139th anniversary of Calvin Coolidge’s birthday, and while his bones rest safely in the Vermont ground, his reputation, already on the mend after decades of neglect or outright belittlement, is about to get boosted further, thanks to the efforts of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation.

This Summer, the Foundation will host a series entitled “Speaking of Coolidge” at the beautiful new Calvin Coolidge Museum and Education Center in Plymouth Notch, VT:

On July 6, Amity Shlaes will open the series with a presentation that will draw on her currently ongoing work on a new biography of Calvin Coolidge.

On July 13, poet and author Jay Parini, who has written acclaimed biographies of Robert Frost, William Faulkner, and John Steinbeck, as well as biographical novels on Leo Tolstoy and Herman Melville.

On July 20, Nicholas R. Clifford, Professor Emeritus at Middlebury College, will discuss The Troubled Roar of the Waters: Vermont in Flood and Recovery, 1927 – 1931 written by him in collaboration with his late wife Deborah Clifford.

On July 27, William Henkel will discuss his long years of experiences as a White House staff member in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations.

And on August 10, the series will conclude with Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph Ellis, who will discuss his new biography First Family: John and Abigail Adams.

The Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation is also honored to announce that Stephen G. Breyer, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, will discuss his recently published book, Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View.

Please visit the Foundation website for further information and current details on any of these events!

And Coolidge fans everywhere continue to await the aforementioned new Coolidge biography by Amity Shlaes, noted author of The Greedy Hand and The Forgotten Man, and a scholar and authority on the 1920s.

What’s wrong with Normalcy?

A few days ago (March 4, to be precise) marked the 90th anniversary of the inauguration of Warren G. Harding, predecessor of Calvin Coolidge, and one chief executive who has been much maligned.

Harding and Coolidge (image from the Digital Collection of the Library of Congress)

In an article over at National Review Online, Ryan Cole and Amity Shlaes stress the importance of presidents Harding and Coolidge in restoring the nation to an even keel, removing “regime uncertainty” and making the economic advances of the 1920s possible. For reasons beyond me, this kind of stewardship gets low marks from historians, journalists and armchair analysts. Today, presidents usually are a major source of regime uncertainty, coming into office as they do with the intention of leaving a mark on history in the form of new programs, sweeping changes, and, if they’re lucky, a war or two.

Thrift – the forgotten virtue

Writing a Presidents’ Week column in National Review this week, Amity Shlaes rightly calls Calvin Coolidge the “prophet of thrift,” also pointing out that thrift is the most neglected virtue in modern life. Whatever happened to thrift, anyway?

The generation of Calvin Coolidge, perhaps particularly those of that generation born and raised in New England, were weaned on the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin, to whom thrift meant working productively, consuming wisely, saving proportionally, and giving generously. After all, “thrift” finds its etymological root in the verb “to thrive.” Franklin’s thrift became the cornerstone of a new kind of secular faith in the ordinary person’s capacity to shape his lot and fortune in life, exemplified by later works like Samuel Smiles‘ treatise on Thrift. Smiles starts out his 400-some page opus by observing that “some of the finest qualities in human nature are intimately related to the right use of money – such as generosity, honesty, justice, and self denial – as well as the practical virtues of economy and providence.”

Most people shared the view that thrift is both a private virtue that helps to develop the best in human character, and a public virtue. Indeed, as Smiles writes, “it is the savings of individuals which compose the wealth – in other words, the well-being – of every nation. On the other hand, it is the wastefulness of individuals which occasions the impoverishment of states. So that every thrifty person may be regarded as a public benefactor, and every thriftless person as public enemy.”

On the eve of America’s entrance into World War I, the leaders of the nation’s major civic organizations began to think about how they could support preparedness efforts for the battle ahead. The YMCA launched National Thrift Week, to be observed every year starting on January 17th, Benjamin Franklin’s birthday, to teach children – and adults – habits of saving money and using it wisely. Though it was endorsed at its founding in 1916 by Herbert Lord, later the second director of the U.S. Bureau of the Budget, the popularity of Thrift Week grew significantly in the years to come. Here’s a New York Times article on Thrift Week 1922.

Continue reading

Happy New Year!

As this blog starts into 2011, following a record-setting December and Dec. 31st (most blog visitors in a month, respectively a day), I feel more than ever that Calvin Coolidge is a subject worth exploring and developing further. With Glenn Beck coming out as a Coolidge fan last summer, and with the publication date of Amity Shlaes’ new biography approaching, not to mention the publication of “Why Coolidge Matters” by the National Notary Association, it appears that interest in the 30th president hasn’t crested yet.

I trust in time more people will come to share the assessment by Coolidge’s authoritative and sympathetic biographer Claude M. Fuess (“Calvin Coolidge: The Man from Vermont”, p. vii):

Some statesmen diminish in size and importance under microscopic study. Coolidge, on the other hand, has seemed to me to grow more interesting. I finish this biography with the conviction that he was not only a useful public servant but a great and good man.

This same conviction guides me as I continue to write this hopefully intermittently interesting blog in the coming year.

Coolidge Symposium, October 7, 2010

If you’re interested in what latest research and scholarship on Calvin Coolidge have to offer, and if you want to join in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation, mark your calendars October 7th, 2010:

Under the heading “Straight Talk”, a symposium and gala dinner will be held at the JFK Presidential Library & Museum in Boston. Please refer to the links or the uploaded information, or please refer back to this post as new information about scheduled speakers will be added (Amity Shlaes, Joe Thorndike, Jack Bogle, Michael Dukakis, David Pietrusza, John Van Til and Carl S. Anthony are among the authors and scholars invited to speak).

straight talk_front

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A rare NEW Coolidge publication…and website!

Well, lo and behold, the National Notary Association is finally publishing the long-announced essay volume “Why Coolidge Matters: How Civility in Politics Can Bring a Nation Together”, filled with new material from noted Coolidge scholars, among them Amity Shlaes, who is also currently working on a new definitive biography of the 30th president. Why the National Notary Association, you may ask? Apparently, the nation’s notaries are honoring the fact that the candle-lit swearing-in of President Coolidge after the death of his predecessor Harding was performed by his father, a notary public (the ceremony was later reperformed with a different official at the White House, to make sure there was no question as to the constitutional legality). Actually, that is only one reason: the notaries also see a compelling connection between them and Coolidge in his conscientious and selfless conduct. But of course!

Obviously, I’m happy, nay, ecstatic about this publication and its accompanying website offering interesting material (some excellent high-res pictures for instance…I’m downloading a 34 MB (!) picture as I type this). I wonder why the people I contacted at the NNA at least a year ago to get some information about the pending project were unable to help or even get back to me, but all’s well that ends well, I suppose. I can only hope they will be a little more responsive in spreading the good news about this book, which you can order at the NNA website or, of course, from

To me, some of the material on the website appears more than a little questionable, as when the scant section on historical significance characterizes Coolidge as being perceived as bookended between two boisterous and raucous presidents, Harding and Hoover, both of whom were reviled for allowing rampant greed and corruption (my paraphrase). While this is all quite correct concerning Harding, I question whether anyone except the unnamed author would both characterize Hoover as “boisterous and raucous” AND tar him with an undeserved and illusory reputation for corruption. But I fully expect the essays in the book to be on more solid historical ground.

So, excuse me while I hurry to order my copy! I hope this will mark the acceleration of what I think is a trend to reassess the accomplishments and significance of Calvin Coolidge even for our day. And here’s a tip of the hat to the Silent Cal blog, who had it first.

You can see the man was (mostly) serious.