Presidential 'horse' rides west

COOLIDGE'S EXERCISE MACHINE
Movers Rico Quinones, of Greenfield, left, Anthony F. Gleason, Sr., of Northampton, and his son Anthony F. Gleason II, also of Northampton, right, work to pack up former President Calvin Coolidge's 475-pound electric "horse" for shipment to two museums out west that plan to put the machine on display. The men were working in the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum in the Forbes Library in Northampton yesterday.

Fred Contrada
February 20, 2008
The Republican

NORTHAMPTON - Calvin Coolidge's old horse went riding off into the sunset yesterday - in the back of a moving truck.

The mechanical steed that the 30th president rode in his White House dressing room is on loan for the next year from Forbes Library to a couple of cowboy museums out west.

Its first stop will be the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, where it will be part of an exhibit called "Cowboys and Presidents." From there it will hit the trail for the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

According to Forbes archivist Julie H. Bartlett, Coolidge acquired the electrically operated horse in 1925.

Although he was raised on a farm in Vermont, Coolidge developed an allergy to actual horses, Bartlett said. The mechanical horse allowed the chief executive to get some exercise in a quick and efficient way. Controls on the machine let the rider vary the intensity from a trot to a gallop. Bartlett said the horse has not worked in years, however.

The mechanical horse returned to Northampton with Coolidge after his presidency, arriving in a U.S. Army truck. Coolidge donated it to Forbes, which also has many of his documents and keepsakes. Coolidge's cowboy hat, boots and chaps will accompany the horse on its rounds to the museums. The Autry National Center, founded by "singing cowboy" Gene Autry and his wife, Jackie Autry, celebrates the American West through exhibits, programs and collections, according to its Web site. The "Cowboys and Presidents" exhibit will explore how cowboy lore has been used by various presidents to define their administrations. The exhibit covers presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum tells "the story of Texas," according to the organization's Web site. It includes an IMAX Theater and a 35-foot-tall bronze Lone Star sculpture.

According to Bartlett, Coolidge had a love for the American West. He spent the summer of 1927 in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where he received a Sioux headdress in addition to his chaps. The headdress is still on exhibit at Forbes.

© 2008 The Republican Company. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.