President Calvin Coolidge was born on the Fourth of July, 1872 in Plymouth, Vermont. Certainly an auspicious birthdate for a future President.

After graduating with honors from Amherst College Coolidge began his own trip up the American cursus honorum by practicing law with a private firm in Northampton, Massachusetts. He was elected governor of that state in November of 1918, and Vice-President of the United States under President Warren G. Harding in 1920, assuming the Presidency upon Harding's death in 1923.

Coolidge is often credited with a "hands off" approach to a booming economy that led to what we now call "The Roaring 20s" and which ended with the crash of the stock market on Black Tuesday in 1929. In fact, many pundits of the day often remarked that Coolidge's greatest talent as President was his ability to do ... nothing. He was also an incredibly thrifty man, and the aphorism "Waste not, want not" is often (and incorrectly) attributed to him.

In fact, he was remarkably conservative in nearly all aspects of his life, even speaking aloud only rarely, though he was a most accessible President, willing to pose for pictures in ridiculous getup.

To illustrate the man's brevity in speech, a friend of his once made a bet stating that she could get Coolidge to say more than two words at one time.

Coolidge's response when she told him of the bet?

You lose.

"Silent Cal" Coolidge wasn't quite as silent as he's often made out to be.

It's true that he tended to use his words with efficiency and didn't allow himself to be quoted often, but this not only was his own personal way, it was part of the image of him that the country needed (and has been all to eager to perpetuate). After the scandals and excesses during Warren G. Harding's running of the administration, America needed a conservative, trustworthy, sober leader to bring back integrity, dignity, and respect to the office of the presidency—making good on the (somewhat ironic) "Return to Normalcy" promise used when Harding and he ran in 1920. Vice President Coolidge was able to do that.

As for the "silent" and suggestions that he rarely spoke much, he was known to be quite talkative when not speaking in public. And when he was in public, he did his share of speaking. In press conferences—he held three a week—he spoke well and easily on the subjects at hand. In fact, he gave more radio addresses than Franklin D. Roosevelt. He also gave more interviews to the press than any prior president. Though he personally disliked wasting time with idle chatter, it was not uncalculated in a political sense: he once told newly elected Herbert Hoover that "if you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it."

Another thing that added to the image of the laconic Coolidge was his excellent dry wit. This, of course, made for entertaining quotes (so many that it's possible a few are apocryphal) which in turn make it appear that he tended to answer things with quips or one liners. His reputation, itself, helped fuel the image and he made no attempt to refute it.

(Sources: Richard Shenkman's Legends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American History, 1988, www.britannica.com, a January 1996 article from The Yankee found at www.noho.com/calvinc.html, www.uniontrib.com/news/travel/20010312-0921-trv-travel-c.html)

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