On Enjoying America’s Resources

The Coolidges at home, The Beeches, June 1930.

The Coolidges at home, on the grounds of The Beeches, June 1930.

“I trust there may come a better appreciation of the necessary development of our life along these directions. They should be made to contribute to health, to broader appreciation of nature and her works, to a truer insight into the whole affair of existence. They should be the means of acquainting all of us with the wonders and delights of this world in which we live, and of this country of which we are the joint inheritors…I want to see all Americans have a reasonable amount of leisure. Then I want to see them educated to use such leisure for their own enjoyment and betterment, and the strengthening of the quality of their citizenship. We can go a long way in that direction by getting them out of doors and really interested in nature…Our country is a land of cultured men and women…It is a land of varied climes and scenery, of mountain and plain, of lake and river. It is the American heritage. We must make it a land of vision, a land of work, of sincere striving for the good, but we must add to all these, in order to round out the full stature of the people, an ample effort to make it a land of wholesome enjoyment and perennial gladness” — President Calvin Coolidge, addressing the National Conference on Outdoor Recreation, May 22, 1924.

“The practical application of economy to the resources of the country calls for conservation. This does not mean that every resource should not be developed to its full degree, but it means that none of them should be wasted. We have a conservation board working on our oil problem. This is of the utmost importance to the future well-being of our people in this age of oil-burning engines and the general application of gasoline to transportation” — Sixth Annual Message, December 4, 1928.

“Strange as it may seem, the American people, bred for many generations to forest life, drawing no small measure of their wealth from the forest, have not yet acquired the sense of timber as a crop. These immense stretches of cut-over land, mostly too rough or too sterile for tilling, have not awakened us to their vast potential worth as growers of wood. Fully one fourth of our land area ought to be kept in forest–not poor, dwindling thickets of scrub, but forests of trees fit for bridges and houses and ships. Handled by the best timber-cropping methods, our present forest lands could be made to grow even more timber each year than we now use. But much of our cut-over land, lying idle or half productive, is now an immeasurable loss. It pays little or no taxes, it keeps few hands busy, it turns few wheels, it builds no roads. Idle forest land has scrapped schools, factories, railroads, and towns; it has dotted the land with abandoned farms; it has created a migratory population. Our forest problem is a land problem of the first magnitude. It is likewise an industrial problem of great importance” — excerpt of Address before the National Conference on Utilization of Forest Products, November 19, 1924.

While the indefatigable Theodore Roosevelt, signed the American Antiquities Act of 1906 that enabled the establishment of national land preservation, his record of eighteen national monuments and three national parks, would, surprisingly, see the closest second not in his immediate successor, nor in the administrations of either Wilson or Harding. It would be the quietly competent man from Vermont who would stand in closest proximity to TR with twenty-four national monuments, parks, battlefields, and preserves. Yet, as these statements of Coolidge underscore, he believed in the use of property as an indispensable part of conservation. His deployment of the executive order, working hand-in-hand with his conservation authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act, illustrates this repeatedly during his five and a half years as President. Coolidge not only trimmed back the unnecessary acreage claimed for Yellowstone by predecessors (E. O. 4637), he trimmed back some of the Federal land claims he himself had approved, deeming them excessive on a second look (E. O. 4650). Not all land is best served sitting untended, unsettled, unused, Coolidge knew. This even meant adding land to be set aside, at times, like he did for Carlsbad Caverns (E. O. 4870). As such, it was not contradictory for Coolidge to oversee the return of certain lands to settlement and development while retaining legal ownership as public land, depending on the law and what circumstances required. He observed the dangers of rewarding private interests just as he recognized the threat of nationalizing everything. Both did not inherently serve the good of the country, as his predecessor’s mistakes had made clear. Nevertheless, Federal conservation did not preclude the use of that land by the states and the people. Government land ultimately belonged to the American citizen, after all. Coolidge held respectfully to the balance between law and liberty. Handing large swaths of territory over to bureaucrats or irresponsible developers to be bargaining chips in the future was a betrayal of good government, including his oath, and a subordination of what was best for the whole people to the whims of a politically powerful few. To shut the door of opportunity on either resource development or public recreational enjoyment while rewarding particular friends with unchallenged access, no bid contracts and public money was morally repugnant, a flagrant waste and a contradiction of the obligation incumbent on government to observe economy — in all its forms.

In recognizing the twenty-four sites around America that he did, Coolidge was emphasizing more than the principle that conservation includes wise development. There was no replacement for what one gained from nature. The quiet discipline, he once noted, of the mountains and valleys, the rivers and lakes, hills and plains have a restorative power and profound impression on all of us. God’s world should be enjoyed and experienced. However, it was also significant that many of the places Coolidge would designate as national monuments secured importance for their pivotal place in human history. What was done there by brave and principled people made it worth honoring. What makes Coolidge’s Twenty-Four so impressive is that they encapsulate his characteristic balance — a healthy combination of his love for country and for his God. Together they are a celebration of America’s heroic meaning and the incomparable beauty of nature adorned by our Creator.

 

How many of the Coolidge Twenty-Four have you seen?

Carlsbad Caverns, October 25, 1923

1. Carlsbad Caverns National Monument, New Mexico, established as a National Monument, October 25, 1923; redesignated as a National Park, April 2, 1924, by Executive Order 3984; Expanded by Executive Order 4870, May 3, 1928; renamed, 1930. Courtesy of Doug Meek/Corbis.

2. Chiricahua National Monument, April 18, 1924. Courtesy of Robert Postma/First Light/Corbis.

2. Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona, established April 18, 1924. Courtesy of Robert Postma/First Light/Corbis.

3. Craters of the Moon National Monument, May 2, 1924. Courtesy of Ben Cooper/Science Faction/Corbis.

3. Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, established May 2, 1924. Courtesy of Ben Cooper/Science Faction/Corbis.

4. Castillo de San Marcos, Saint Augustine, Florida, the Spanish fort built between 1670-1695. Coolidge established it as a National Monument on October 15, 1924. Courtesy of James L. Amos/Corbis.

4. Castillo de San Marcos, Saint Augustine, Florida, the Spanish fort built between 1670-1695. Coolidge established it as a National Monument on October 15, 1924. Courtesy of James L. Amos/Corbis.

5. Fort Matanzas, Saint Augustine, Florida. The structure was built between 1740 and 1742, fifty plus years after the Castillo de San Marcos. Coolidge signed the Act establishing both as National Monuments the same day, October 15, 1924. Courtesy of Lee Snider/Photo Images/Corbis.

5. Fort Matanzas, Saint Augustine, Florida. The structure was built between 1740 and 1742, fifty plus years after the Castillo de San Marcos. Coolidge signed the Act establishing both as National Monuments the same day, October 15, 1924. The Coolidges would visit the site in December 1928. Courtesy of Lee Snider/Photo Images/Corbis.

6. Fort Pulaski, Savannah, Georgia. Established as National Monument, October 15, 1924. Courtesy of David Muench/Corbis.

6. Fort Pulaski, Savannah, Georgia. Established as a National Monument, October 15, 1924. Courtesy of David Muench/Corbis.

7. Statue of Liberty, Bedloe's Island, New York, established as National Monument, October 15, 1924. Courtesy of Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis.

7. Statue of Liberty, Bedloe’s Island, New York, established as a National Monument, October 15, 1924. Courtesy of Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis.

8. Castle Pinckney, Charleston, South Carolina, established as a National Monument, October 25, 1924. Courtesy of Henryk Sadura/Tetra Images/Corbis.

8. Castle Pinckney, Charleston, South Carolina, established as a National Monument, October 25, 1924, but removed from that status in 1956. Courtesy of Henryk Sadura/Tetra Images/Corbis.

9. Wupatki Ruins National Monument, an intact ball court at the site dating from 1190 to 1240. Established as a Monument on December 9, 1924. Courtesy of Tom Bean/Corbis.

9. Wupatki Ruins National Monument, Arizona, including this intact ball court at the site dating from 1190 to 1240. Established as a Monument on December 9, 1924. Courtesy of Tom Bean/Corbis.

10. Meriwether Lewis National Monument, established February 6, 1925; Gravesite added to the Natchez Trace Parkway in 1961. Courtesy of Connie Ricca/Corbis.

10. Meriwether Lewis National Monument, Tennessee, established February 6, 1925; Gravesite added to the Natchez Trace Parkway in 1961. Courtesy of Connie Ricca/Corbis.

11. Glacier Bay National Monument, established  February 26, 1925. Margerie Glacier sprawls before a cruise ship visiting the site. Courtesy of Danny Lehman/Corbis.

11. Glacier Bay National Monument, Alaska, established February 26, 1925. Margerie Glacier sprawls before a cruise ship visiting the site. Courtesy of Danny Lehman/Corbis.

12. Fort McHenry National Military Park, established March 3, 1925. It was on this day, September 13, in 1814, that Americans successfully held off the British through the night and inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would become our National Anthem. Courtesy of Paul A. Souders/Corbis.

12. Fort McHenry National Military Park, Maryland, established March 3, 1925. It was on September 13, in 1814, that Americans successfully held off the British through the night and inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would become our National Anthem. Courtesy of Paul A. Souders/Corbis.

13. Father Millet Cross National Monument, September 5, 1925; now turned back to the State of New York since 1956. It was once the smallest National Monument in our history. Courtesy of Matthew Conheady.

13. Father Millet Cross National Monument, New York, September 5, 1925; given back to the State of New York in 1956. It was once the smallest National Monument in our history. Courtesy of Matthew Conheady.

13. Lava Beds National Monument, depicting Petroglyph Point, established November 21, 1925. Courtesy of Paul A. Souders/Corbis.

14. Lava Beds National Monument, California, depicting Petroglyph Point, established November 21, 1925. Courtesy of Paul A. Souders/Corbis.

14. Moores Creek National Military Park (now Battlefield), established June 2, 1926.

15. Moores Creek National Military Park (now Battlefield), North Carolina, depicting the famous bridge for which the battle was named, established by President Coolidge, June 2, 1926.

15. Petersburg National Military Park (now Battlefield), Petersburg, Virginia, established July 3, 1926. Courtesy of Dennis Mook/SuperStock/Corbis.

16. Petersburg National Military Park (now Battlefield), Virginia, established July 3, 1926. Courtesy of Dennis Mook/SuperStock/Corbis.

16. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Military Park, established February 14, 1927; Dedicated by President Coolidge in person, October 19, 1928, from the house pictured here, Smithfield Plantation (then known as Mannsfield Hall).

17. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Virginia, established February 14, 1927; Dedicated by President Coolidge in person, October 19, 1928, from the house pictured here, Smithfield Plantation (then known as Mannsfield Hall).

17. Stones River National Military Park (now Battlefield), established as such by Coolidge on March 3, 1927. Those who fought here called it the Slaughter Pen. This glimpse of the terrain helps explain why.

18. Stones River National Military Park (now Battlefield), Tennessee, established as such by Coolidge on March 3, 1927. Those who fought here called it the Slaughter Pen. This glimpse of the terrain helps explain why. Courtesy of Eric R. Asher.

19. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, established February 25, 1928. Courtesy of Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis.

19. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, established February 25, 1928. Courtesy of Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis.

20. Fort Donelson National Battlefield, established March 26, 1928.

20. Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Tennessee, established March 26, 1928. As can be readily seen from here, the fort has a commanding view of the Cumberland River.

21. Tupelo National Battlefield, Mississippi, established February 21, 1929.

21. Tupelo National Battlefield, Mississippi, established February 21, 1929.

22. Brices Crossroads National Battlefield, Mississippi, established February 21, 1929, alongside Tupelo, represented by the second artillery piece at this site. Courtesy of David Muench/Corbis.

22. Brices Crossroads National Battlefield, Mississippi, established February 21, 1929, alongside Tupelo, represented by the second artillery piece at this site. Courtesy of David Muench/Corbis.

23. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, established February 26, 1929. Courtesy of Duncan Usher/Minden Pictures/Corbis.

23. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, established February 26, 1929. Courtesy of Duncan Usher/Minden Pictures/Corbis.

24. Last but not least, Badlands National Monument, South Dakota, approved on the morning of March 4, 1929, right before officially turning over the Presidency to Hoover. Courtesy of Corbis.

24. Last but not least, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, approved on the morning of March 4, 1929, right before officially turning over the Presidency to Hoover. Courtesy of Corbis.

On Waging War

General Pershing and Governor Coolidge, Boston

General “Black Jack” Pershing and Governor Coolidge, Boston

“Coming into your presence in ordinary times, gentlemen of the committee, I should be inclined to direct your attention to the long and patriotic services of our party, to the great benefits its policies have conferred upon this Nation, to the illustrious names of our leaders, to our present activities, and to our future party policy. But these are not ordinary times. Our country is at war. There is no way to save our party if our country be lost…

“We seek no party advantage from the distress of our country. Among Republicans there will be no political profiteering…

“We have fought before for the rights of all men irrespective of color. We are proud to fight now with colored men…

“The only hope of a short war is to prepare for a long one. In this work the States play a most important part…

“But America must furnish more than armies and navies for the future. If armies and navies were to be supreme, Germany would be right. There are other and greater forces in the world than march to the roll of the drum. As we are turning the scale with our sword now, so hereafter we must turn the scale with the moral power of America. It must be our disinterested plans that are to restore Europe to a place through justice when we have secured victory through the sword. And into a new world we are to take not only the people of oppressed Europe but the people of America. Out of our sacrifices and suffering, out of our blood and tears, America shall have a new awakening, a rededication to the cause of Washington and Lincoln, a firmer conviction for the right” — excerpts from Governor Calvin Coolidge’s speech before the Somerville Republican City Committee, August 7, 1918.

On the Redskins

43687v CC with Ruth Muskrat Cherokee 1923Miss Ruth Muskrat, a Cherokee Indian, presents Mr. Coolidge with a copy of The Red Man in the United States, a survey of the present day American Indian 12-13-1923Committee of 100 on Indian Affaires 12-13-1923

Note the book being presented to President Coolidge in these photos by Miss Ruth Muskrat and her Cherokee delegation on December 13, 1923. The book was a study of conditions on the reservations and around the country for him to address. The book they were proud to give him was entitled, The Red Man in the United States, a Survey of the Present-Day American Indian. The problem is not that we, as a people, are failing to be sensitive enough but that we are overly sensitive about the inconsequential and non-essential things. We wring our hands about potentially giving offense with words while we overlook and disassociate any responsibility that a century and a half of the reservation system has done in destroying lives, killing the spirit as well as the body and leaving generations of people stripped of dignity and beholden to government. Under Coolidge, they secured a long awaited and full citizenship. Moreover, he ensured the Meriam Report investigated independently of Washington’s bureaucracy what needed to be done. Commissioned in 1926, completed in 1928 and funded entirely through the Rockefeller Foundation, without any taxpayer money, the Meriam Report shook the status quo, overturning the old land allotment system and exposing the inherent failures of a Federal paternalism over education, health, social life, economics, and political consent. Partnered citizens not continued segregation as subordinates became the standard under Cal. While the Report would see early implementation by able administrators, the gains made would be undermined after Coolidge left public life.

A group of those who contributed to the meticulous study of conditions at 95 locations in 23 states done by the Institute for Government Research (Brookings Institute).

A group of those who contributed to the meticulous study of conditions at 95 locations in 23 states done by the Institute for Government Research (Brookings Institute).

“I always did like animal acts”

"Red" Grange, the "Galloping Ghost" on the field, 1925.

Grange, the “Galloping Ghost,” on the field, 1925.

In Washington between games on a nationwide tour, the great University of Illinois running back, Harold “Red” Grange, then playing with George Halas’ Chicago Bears, stopped in to meet the President at the White House.

Coolidge, as was his way, met the introduction with dry New England humor. It was one of those moments Colonel Starling and Will Rogers would later evoke when they said Coolidge expended more wit than most people realized at the time. Either one “got the joke” or did not. The President would not waste time and thereby destroy the humor in circumstances with an elaborate set up for his punchlines.

Accompanied by Illinois Senator William B. McKinley and Representative William P. Holaday, the auburn-haired “Red” was presented to the redheaded Chief Executive. “Mr. President, Red Grange, who plays with the Bears.” Capitalizing on that direct introduction, Cal replied with a handshake, “Glad to meet you, young man. I always did like animal acts.” Asking from where in Illinois the “Galloping Ghost” lived, he wished him well on the rest of his tour. Mr. Grange, interviewed many years later, still recalled that day. “I didn’t think it was funny at the time,” but the football legend came to appreciate the humor in Coolidge’s remarks. Despite having a pivotal role in the national appeal of football, Grange, not unlike the man he met that early December day, went on to leave his sport at the height of renown, including charter membership in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and experienced what he considered his proudest accomplishments in the business of selling insurance. Like Mrs. Coolidge, he became a lifelong fan…of baseball. He never watched football.

"Red" Grange just after meeting the President, accompanied by Senator McKinley and Representative Holaday, December 8, 1925.

“Red” Grange (in the middle, with scarf) just after meeting the President, accompanied by Senator McKinley and Representative Holaday, December 8, 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Acton Institute Introduces Calvin Coolidge

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The folks at Acton Institute remind us why Calvin Coolidge is worth renewed study. His selfless and impassioned efforts as a civic educator have survived the most persistent critics. He saw the inherent weakness of socialism and the failure of “Big Government” years before the New Deal and Great Society. Long after those naive experiments have proven empty and destructive, Coolidge’s philosophy demonstrates the resilience of the Founder’s vision for a modern Republic of limited government, maximum individual responsibility and moral leadership. Though he is gone, he still speaks.

Thirty-First Founder’s Day at Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, October 13, 1927

President and Mrs. Coolidge visit Pittsburgh to mark the occasion honor the late Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Institute. Their brief visit to Pittsburgh is recounted by one eyewitness here.

President and Mrs. Coolidge visit Pittsburgh to take part in events honoring the late Andrew Carnegie,  the creative steel entrepreneur, at the Carnegie Institute. Always eager to give abundantly for the betterment of people, Carnegie founded the Institute in 1902 to encourage scientific discovery and innovation in a variety of fields. Carnegie’s ideal of practical service found welcome agreement with Mr. Coolidge, who praised him on more than one public occasion. The President addressed the crowds not only in recognition of an exceptional American but also of a noble work. The Coolidges’ brief visit to Pittsburgh is recounted by one eyewitness here.

On America’s Active Remedy in the World and Why Statism Will Always Fail

The President and party aboard a whistle stop tour through Minnesota, 1925.

The President and party aboard a whistle stop tour through Minnesota, 1925.

“We meet here to-day as the inheritors of those principles which preserved our Nation and extended its constitutional guarantees to all its citizens. We come not as partisans but as patriots. We come to pledge anew our faith in all that America means and to declare our firm determination to defend her within and without from every foe. Above that we come to pay our tribute of wonder and admiration at the great achievements of our Nation and at the glory which they are shedding around her…”

In contrast, Coolidge could remind his contemporaries of a very different example, an illustration that is not so far removed from repetition in our time, one that had shaken the world of that day over the course of four, short years. It was “the German military despotism” which had sought “the pillage and enslavement of the earth. To accomplish this, the German despotism began at home. By a systematic training the whole German people were perverted. A false idea of their greatness was added to their contempt and hate of other nations, who, they were taught, were bent on their destruction. The military class were exalted and all else degraded. Thus was laid the foundation for the atrocities which have marked their conduct of the war…

“We had seen Germany going from infamy to infamy. We did not know of the violated treaty of Belgium, of the piracy, the murder of women and children, the destruction of the property and lives of our neutral citizens, and finally the plain declaration of the German Imperial Government that it would wantonly and purposely destroy the property and lives of any American citizen who exercised his undoubted legal right to sail certain portions of the sea. This attempt to declare law for America by an edict from Potsdam we resisted by the sword. We see at last not only the hideous wickedness which perpetrated the war, we see that it is a world war, that Germany struck not only at Belgium, she struck at us, she struck at our whole system of civilization. A wicked purpose, which a vain attempt to realize has involved its authors in more and more wickedness. We hear that even among the civil population…crime is rampant.”

Coolidge was among the foremost to demonstrate a just distinction between law-abiding, patriotic individuals versus those who were personally responsible for warfare against civilization. Coolidge remained so even at the height of anti-German propaganda during the war. This was no tirade against the Hun. Cal was striking at something more fundamental in human nature, a dangerous desire that can find fertile soil in any individual’s heart and mind. Its symptoms do not know a single time or place. It is ultimately a hatred of life, a hostility toward any degree of freedom of thought or private conscience, and an enmity for liberty under law, despite these heavenly gifts being eternal cornerstones that together make civilization civilized. The very existence of the individual, in possession of sacred rights which not even the most powerful human agency can rightly deprive at whim, is repugnant to this hateful disposition. This animus, however, can take root in any person or nation. It was no more unique to Germany than it is exclusive to certain individuals or states, even Islamic ones, today. Having described the problem, Coolidge turns to focus upon the remedy with a wise precaution against the same attitude that misled Germany lest it also lead us astray here at home.

“Looking now at this condition of Germany and her Allies, it is time to inquire what America and her Allies have to offer as a remedy, and what effect the application of such remedy has had upon ourselves. We have drawn the sword, but it is only to ‘Be blood for blood, for treason treachery?’ Are we seeking merely to match infamy with infamy, merely to pillage and destroy those who threatened to pillage and destroy us? No; we have taken more than the sword, lest we perish by the sword; we have summoned the moral power of the Nation. We have recognized that evil is only to be overcome by good. We have marshaled the righteousness of America to overwhelm the wickedness of Germany. A new spirit has come over the nation the like of which was never seen before…

“We entered the war a people of many nationalities. We are united now; every one if first an American. We were beset with jealousies, and envy, and class prejudice. Service in the camp has taught each soldier to respect the other, whatever his source, and a mutual sympathy at home has brought all into a common citizenship. The service flag is a great leveler…Labor has taken on a new dignity and nobility. When the idle see the necessity of work, when we begin to recognize industry as essential, the working man begins to have paid him the honor which is his due…The call for man power has given a new idea of the importance of the individual, so that there has been brought to the humblest the knowledge that he was not only important but his importance was realized. And with this has come the discovery of new powers, not only in the slouch whom military drill has transformed into a man, but to labor that has found a new joy, satisfaction and efficiency in its work. The entire activities of the Nation are tuned up…

“The great work before us is to keep this new spirit in the right path…The sacrifice necessary for national defence must hereafter never be neglected. The virtues of war must be carried into peace. But this must not be done at the expense of the freedom of the individual. It must be the expression of self-government and not the despotism of a German military caste or a Russian Bolshevik state. We are in this war to preserve the institutions that have made us great. The war has revealed to us their true greatness. All argument about the efficiency of despotism and the incompetence of republics was answered at the Marne and will be hereafter answered at the Rhine. We are not going to overcome the Kaiser by becoming like him, nor aid Russia by becoming like her. We see now that Prussian despotism was the natural ally of the Russian Bolshevik and the I. W. W. here. Both exist to pervert and enslave the people; both seek to break down the national spirit of the world for their own wicked ends. Both are doomed to failure. By taking our place in the world, America is to become more American, as by doing his duty the individual develops his own manhood. We see now that when the individual fails, whether it be from a despotism or the dead level of a socialistic state, all has failed.”

This prediction, years before the Second World War, barely after the Russian Revolution and long before the Cold War, forecasts the internal failure of the statist ideal. It was an idea doomed to collapse because it defies the power of the individual and his or her fitness for self-government. It sets itself against civilization and will thus lose, whatever form it takes in the future, be it communism, fascism, or socialism. Evil cannot withstand the might of good. Reagan saw it coming, but before that, so did Coolidge.

“A new vision has come to the Nation, a vision that must never be obscured. It is for us to heed it, to follow it. It is a revelation, but a revelation not of our weakness but of our strength, not of new principles, but of the power that lies in the application of old doctrines. May that vision never fade, may America inspired by a great purpose ever be able to say, ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord'” — Governor Calvin Coolidge to the Essex County Club in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, September 14, 1918.

President Coolidge accepting induction into the Smoki tribe, October 22, 1924.

President Coolidge accepting induction into the Smoki tribe, October 22, 1924.