On Pranks & Purpose

The Coolidges encountering bears at Yellowstone, accompanied by the tall Colonel “Ed” Starling. Photo credit: Wyoming Tales and Trails

Colonel Starling, President Coolidge’s Secret Service agent, once remembered:

“He [Coolidge] was not particularly proud of being President; he hated arrogance and conceit in all its forms. It was as if he were a small boy whose daydream of being king had suddenly been made real by the stroke of a magic wand. He would almost tiptoe around, touching things and half smiling to himself. In his high shoes and his great galluses he was an odd sight in the White House corridors.

“Sometimes he [the President] would try to sneak out the East or the West entrance, just to fool me. Everyone on the staff cooperated with me and tipped me off, so I was always able to catch him. One day I turned the tables on him and hid in the police box on the East side. He came out of the engine room, up the East steps, and passed right by me. I fell into position behind him. When he reached the gate he turned around with a look of glee on his face, thinking he had at last eluded me.

‘Good morning, Mr. President,’ I said.

He turned and headed for F Street without saying a word.

Guess you wonder why I like to window shop,’ he said one day. ‘It takes me away from my work and rests my mind.’

“His appetite for pranks was insatiable. In the afternoon we sometimes left for our walk from the Executive Offices. If the mood suited him he would press the buzzer which notified everyone that he was on his way to the White House. Then, while ushers, policemen, doormen, and elevator operators were rushing about getting things ready and snapping to attention, we would stroll out West Executive Avenue and leave them…

“He never smiled when he was telling a joke or making a witty remark…

“The serious side of his job he performed so ably that the staff in the Executive Offices soon relaxed. Rudolph Forster was able to lead a normal life again. He had been busy all through the Harding years, for Harding had trouble with details and paper work, and Rudolph had to work overtime.

‘The little fellow wades into it like Wilson,’ he said. ‘He knows what he is doing and what he wants to do. He doesn’t do anyone else’s work either. He’ll be all right at this job. He does a lot of thinking, and he looks a long way ahead…’ ”

Happy April First!

On How to Effectively Distribute Wealth in Cities for Producers

Copley Plaza, Boston, 1920. Photo credit: lostnewengland.com.

“I think that if we look into the economic questions we will see that if we want to get a distribution of our wealth, the easiest and the best and the only method by which that can be achieved is to increase the production of wealth. I don’t have any great difficulty in distributing what I have. I have considerable difficulty in producing anything. But the fact is that where there is a production, there is no power that can prevent the proper and adequate distribution, and the sooner we realize that and make our laws and govern ourselves accordingly, the better off we shall all be from an economic standpoint.

“I said that we were in need of capital, and we are, because we are in need of enhancing production, and the only way we can accomplish that result is by enlarging the plants, and that takes capital, or by more economical methods of production, or by putting more capital into our business as I said before, and unless business is carried on at a profit it will not be carried on at all.

Boston & Albany’s Railroad Yard, Copley Plaza, 1932. Photo credit: Boston Public Library.

We have been trying to take the profit away from the conduct of our business, and that has been especially the great problem that has been faced by our transportation interests. We have assumed that they could go on, that they could pay wages, and perhaps pay some dividends, and that they would be all right if they did not have any surplus…It is necessary that we should build up these enterprises and strengthen them, and put them on a basis where they not only earn their operating expenses and pay dividends, but where they have a sufficient surplus that will give them credit and respectability and responsibility with the investing public. And unless we can do that our transportation is going to fail and you know what it means when transportation fails, because every other line of endeavor under our complicated system is absolutely dependent upon transportation in order to carry it on…

“In this study of economic questions the public is sooner or later going to realize that when money is invested, when the transportation business is built up, when a factory is started that employs many people and turns out a large amount of production, or when any other enterprise is started, that the results which flow from it are much more of a benefit to the public in general than they are to those that invest their capital in it…

“It is a great service that is rendered by the collection and the investment of capital and the carrying on of business. When this is recognized, when these great railroads are recognized, as they surely will be by the public of our states and nation, we shall come back into a period of prosperity, of abounding prosperity, that ought to be the heritage of every American.” 

— Governor Calvin Coolidge, addressing the New England Street Railway Club, Copley Plaza, Boston, March 25, 1920

Welcome, Spring 2021!

The Coolidges, including chow Tim, enjoy the blossoms at home in Northampton, 1930. Photo credit: Leslie Jones Collection.

“There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.” — Calvin Coolidge, 1924