Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933) became the thirtieth president of the United States after President Warren G. Harding died suddenly. He had been visiting home in Vermont when he learned of Harding’s death, and, because it was the middle of the night, he was sworn in by his father, who was a notary public – the only president to be sworn in by his own father. Coolidge’s term took Americans through the roaring ‘20s and ended a year before the Great Depression.
The Early Years
Coolidge was born John Calvin Coolidge on July 4, 1872, in Vermont. His father ran the post office and a general store. His mother died when he was just 12 years old. In 1895, the future president graduated with honors from Amherst College in Massachusetts, then continued his studies in law and passed the bar exam in 1898. He opened a law office and spent the next 20 years working on real estate, wills, and bankruptcy cases.
Coolidge’s political career started in 1898 when he was elected to the Northampton, Massachusetts city council. He continued his way up the ladder, serving in the state’s House of Representatives, then as mayor, state senator, and lieutenant governor. He gained recognition and caught the attention of politicians while he served as governor when the Boston police force went on strike and riots broke out. After restoring order, Coolidge refused to allow the striking officers to go back to work, saying in a telegram to the labor leader that “there is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, anytime.” In 1920, the Republican National Convention chose him to run as vice president on Harding’s ticket.
In the White House
Coolidge became president on August 3, 1923, when Harding died suddenly, just two years into his term. The new president immediately went to work on damage control from the previous administration’s scandals, dismissing Harding’s attorney general and investigating the Teapot Dome oil-lease issue, which sent the secretary of the interior to prison. His quick actions restored faith in government to the American people and soon he earned the nickname “Silent Cal” for his no-nonsense approach and geniality.
In 1924, Coolidge officially ran for president and easily won. The Republican president was a firm believer in private enterprise and less government. He cut taxes while limiting government spending. He said, “The chief business of the American people is business.”
The Roaring Twenties was a time where women were starting to be more progressive after getting the right to vote in 1920 and citizens were enjoying life and spending money. The economy seemed to be thriving and the president was seen as a father figure, someone who had guided the people out of trouble and into a successful new era.
When election time came around again in 1928 Coolidge declined running for re-election, stating too much strain and he had just lost his father and youngest son. He returned to Northampton and busied himself writing his memoirs and contributing pieces to magazines. In less than a year after he left the Oval Office, the stock market crashed, and America entered the Great Depression. He admitted to friends that he was partially to blame and that he’d spent his presidency “avoiding the big problems.” Five years after retiring, Coolidge died of a heart attack on January 5, 1933, at the age of 60.