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?)