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Calvin Coolidge

From the Collection: The Presidents

30th President

President Coolidge making his speech of acceptance, 1924. Library of Congress.

Terms: 1923-1929
Political Party: Republican
First Lady: Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge
Vice President: None, Charles Gates Dawes

Born: July 4, 1872 in Plymouth Notch, Vermont... His 1923 State of the Union address to Congress was the first ever to be broadcast via radio. He would continue to use the medium effectively, giving at least one radio address per month. As conservative with his words as he was with his politics, "Silent Cal" was the archetypal stern New Englander. Believing firmly that "the business of America is business," Coolidge espoused a policy of keeping the government out of the way of big business and generally appeared to embrace the status quo... Died: January 5, 1933.

The Era
1923: George Gershwin composes Rhapsody in Blue 
1923: Bessie Smith records her first jazz album 
1924: Soviet Union founder Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, dies 
1925: The Scops "monkey" trial takes place in Tennessee 
1927: Charles Lindbergh flies to Paris 
1928: Chiang Kai-shek becomes leader of China 

Domestic Policy
"Silent Cal" did not feel it was his place to pressure Congress into passing legislation. He was generally content to ride the wave of relative post-war prosperity. Coolidge was a plain-speaking New Englander and a welcome relief from the scandal-ridden Harding administration. He cut taxes in order to put more money into the hands of consumers and investors. His secretary of commerce, Herbert Hover, forged a "new era" alliance between government and big business. Some said Coolidge's laissez-faire approach to financial markets encouraged the over-speculation that resulted in the stock market crash of 1929. Coolidge believed the nation needed fewer, not more, programs regardless of their purpose.

Foreign Affairs
Calvin Coolidge was not a forceful leader in matters of foreign affairs and often deferred to his secretary of state. His administration did, however, seek to improve the strained relations that existed between the United States and Mexico. It also tried to establish a dialogue with the emerging nations of Latin America. The Coolidge administration opposed the U.S. entry into the League of Nations. It did support the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, which naively outlawed war between nations.

Presidential Politics
Calvin Coolidge continued the trend of personalizing the presidency largely by taking advantage of the newest communication medium of the day -- radio. Well aware that he lacked the charisma of some other politicians, Coolidge used his regular radio addresses to forge a personal bond with the public. Likewise, Coolidge felt that providing the public with insight into the private life of the president would foster a feeling of trust and familiarity. In 1924, as he made his first outright bid for the presidency, Coolidge, who was not the favorite of party leaders, counted on the relationship he had nurtured with the public to ensure that he retained the White House. His decision not to run again in 1928 was in line with the two-term limit.

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