“He only asked for the band”

CC working at desk 001

Vrest Orton in his short book recounting the August 1923 Homestead inaugural, that will see commemoration this weekend up in Plymouth, recounts this delightful story of the time a new Congressman came to call on President Coolidge. His visit coming to a close, the Representative rose to leave. Before he left, however, he had one small request for Coolidge. “Mr. President, I wonder if you could give me something I could take home to show the folks just to prove I was talking to the President of the United States. I don’t care what it is… just so long as it is something of yours. If I could have a band off one of your cigars, that would be fine.”

“President Coolidge reached into his desk, took a box of cigars and drew out one. Holding it between his forefinger and thumb, he deftly removed and handed to the Congressman one cigar band. The Congressman thanked him and left.

“Later the story got around. One day Mr. Stearns, one of the few men on really intimate terms with Calvin Coolidge, asked the President about this.

‘Is it true,’ Mr. Stearns demanded in a bantering tone, ‘that you actually removed the band and handed that to the man?’

‘Yes, it is,’ Mr. Coolidge replied.

‘Well, I don’t understand why you didn’t give him the whole cigar.’

“The President, with a grin replied, ‘He only asked for the band'”

Orton explains how this authentically illustrates Coolidge’s Vermont brand of wit. “Calvin Coolidge knew very well the Congressman really wanted the cigar. But since he didn’t say so, it tickled the President to give him literally what he did ask for…Mr. Coolidge liked this kind of mild joke. Many of his jokes followed the pattern of turning the tables on someone by doing what the other person least suspected.” (Orton, Calvin Coolidge’s Unique Vermont Inauguration, pp.9-10).

As Cal would say on another occasion, “It is good for people to laugh.”

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