Coolidge, Calvin

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Coolidge, Calvin

Calvin Coolidge, 1872–1933, 30th President of the United States (1923–29), b. Plymouth, Vt. John Calvin Coolidge was a graduate of Amherst College and was admitted to the bar in 1897. He practiced (1897–1919) law in Northampton, Mass., entered state politics as a Republican, and rose steadily in the party. He served (1910–11) as mayor of Northampton, was a member of the Massachusetts state senate from 1912 to 1915 (its president after 1914), and was (1916–19) lieutenant governor before serving (1919–21) as governor. Coolidge rose to national prominence when he used the militia to end the Boston police strike in 1919. In 1920 he was nominated as Republican candidate for the vice presidency and was elected with Warren G. Harding. After Harding died, Coolidge took (Aug. 3, 1923) the oath of office as President. Untouched by the scandals of the Harding administration, he was easily elected to a full term in 1924. His personal honesty and New England simplicity appealed to the American people, and his unquestioning faith in the conservative business values of laissez faire reflected the national mood. Coolidge's policies were aggressively pro-business. Through his appointees he transformed the Federal Trade Commission from an agency intended to regulate corporations into one dominated by big business. He twice vetoed (1927, 1928) the McNary-Haugen bill to aid agriculture and pocket-vetoed (1928) a bill for government operation of the Muscle Shoals hydroelectric plant. The presence in his cabinet of Herbert C. Hoover and Andrew W. Mellon added to the business tone of his administration, and Coolidge supported Mellon's program of tax cuts and economy in government. Through his public statements he encouraged the reckless stock market speculation of the late 1920s and left the nation unprepared for the economic collapse that followed. Coolidge chose not to seek renomination in 1928. After leaving office he retired to Northampton to write newspaper and magazine articles and his autobiography (1929, repr. 1989). As first lady, his wife, Grace A. Goodhue Coolidge, was much admired for her poise and charm. A selection of his press conferences was edited by H. H. Quint and R. H. Ferrell (1964).

See biographies by C. M. Fuess (1940), D. R. McCoy (1967, repr. 1988), J. Abels (1969), W. A. White (1938, repr. 1973), R. Sobel (1998), and A. Shlaes (2013).

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