New essays on Coolidge at the CCMF website

I hope everyone has already checked out the refurbished and spiffy website of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation… there is always something new to discover there! And for those who rightly feel that the contents of this blog have been a little shallow lately (or ever), they are much encouraged to read and ponder two new footnote-laden essays by Bob Kirby and Jerry Wallace on two areas that are contentious – the alleged culpability of the Coolidge administration in causing, not preventing, or laying the groundwork for (you take your pick) the Great Depression (Kirby), and the question of how the Coolidge administration reacted to the activities of the Ku Klux Klan (Wallace). Not to spoil the fun for you, but I’d say our man comes out looking pretty good after all the evidence has been presented – as if there was ever any doubt about that!

And (in the hope that Jerry won’t mind), I’ll add an anecdote from the footnotes that was new to me – Jerry Wallace, who calls this one of his favorite stories and I must agree,  includes it to illustrate Calvin Coolidge’s good relations with the Jewish community. The story is told by Representative Sol Bloom, a good friend of the president’s:

“With my wife and daughter, I once had the pleasure of taking David Belasco to the White House to meet the President. The great producer, then past seventy, was as shy and nervous as a schoolboy, and when I presented him he almost whispered as he said, “Mr. President, I am deeply honored…” “No, Mr. Belasco,” interrupted Calvin Coolidge. “I am deeply honored. There have been many Presidents of the United States, but there is only one David Belasco.”

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 www.calvin-coolidge.org 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.

Calvin Coolidge as blogger?

Well, it’s not quite as far-fetched as it seems. In those distant decades long before the internet was invented, other media fulfilled those same purposes, chief among them daily newspapers. A daily column in a newspaper may be likened to a blog, in that it had to be fresh, topical, and interesting. Coolidge wrote a daily syndicated newspaper column (“Calvin Coolidge Says”) for exactly one year, from June 1930 to June 1931. The former president had been courted by a number of news organizations to write columns or articles of varying formats. He finally settled on the New York-based McClure Newspaper Syndicate, maybe because that firm’s chief, Richard H. Waldo, was more persistent than most. It was a lucrative deal for both parties, but especially for the former president who contractually received 60 percent net of the gross sales, against which a weekly advance of  $ 3,000 was deposited in his account. Author Edward Connery Lathem, who compiled a complete collection of the columns that was published by the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation in 1972, calculates that Coolidge’s total income for one year of writing amounted to $ 203,146.91 – quite a substantial sum for the time  (or any time).

I’ll republish and comment on some of Coolidge’s columns in this blog over the next few months, which is to say, exactly 80 years after they were originally written and published, selecting those I feel contain timeless and pertinent observations.

While Coolidge adapted to the task quickly and at first even looked forward to his daily task, he soon tired of it. To the surprise of many, he did not renew the contract after one year, even as newspapers were clamoring for more Coolidge. The reasons he gave were that he felt he’d covered every subject, that the daily deadline was too confining, that he was uneasy about the income in times of depression, and that, with the 1932 elections looming, he did not want to argue partisan politics. Ultimately, as related by U.S. Senator George H. Moses in his eulogy of Coolidge, given March 15, 1933, “the preparation of his daily articles became to him an obsessionate dread, and (…) the constant thought of it wore upon him more grievously than the most arduous of his labors in the Presidency” – a feeling not unknown to the blogger of today who wants to keep his blog pipeline filled with fresh material, ideally on a daily basis.

Cover of the 1972 volume of Coolidge's collected columns (how's that for alliteration?)

Why Coolidge Matters

I blogged a while ago about a new book titled “Why Coolidge Matters”, but holding the book in my grubby little hands now prompts me to enthuse once more about this first new book-length tribute to Calvin Coolidge in years. The essays by a broad range of scholars are of high quality and offer new and interesting insights. Rare historic photographs from the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation and the Library of Congress illustrate the text, and the book is handsomely bound and printed on high-quality paper. The National Notary Association has really done itself proud by this publication that serves to underscore the relevancy of Coolidge for our times.

Please check out the accompanying website, http://www.whycoolidgematters.com

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).

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Support or join the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation

These are momentous times for the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation. The foundation is hard at work to ensure that President Coolidge finally gets a worthy Education Center in Plymouth Notch, VT. The dedication of the handsome and state-of-the-art new Museum and Education Center will be on Aug. 7th, 2010 and the foundation will celebrate its 50th anniversary a few weeks later on Oct. 7th at the JFK Library.

Why am I blogging this? The foundation has received a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities which requires that $990,000 will have to be raised by 2013 in order to get the $330,000 grant. Every donation or membership fee raised by then will count toward that amount.

For as little as $35 a year you can enjoy the benefits of membership and, perhaps more importantly, you can help assure that the philosophy of Calvin Coolidge, pertinent as it still is in our day, will be kept before the public.

Visit www.calvin-coolidge.org today!