• Coolidge Museum Endorses Statement on Civility in Politics

    Press Release – For immediate release

    Contact: Lisa Downing, Library Director, director@forbeslibrary.org or 413-587-1016

    The Calvin Coolidge Standing Committee of the Forbes Library Board of Trustees voted at its Sept. 11, 2023 meeting to support the joint statement of thirteen presidential foundations and centers “regarding the future of our nation and an urgent call to action for all Americans.” The library’s Board of Trustees also endorsed the statement at its Sept. 21 meeting.

    The joint statement, released on Sept. 7, reminds citizens, “As a diverse nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, democracy holds us together. We are a country rooted in the rule of law, where the protection of the rights of all people is paramount. At the same time, we live among our fellow citizens, underscoring the importance of compassion, tolerance, pluralism, and respect for others.”  

    It goes on to say that “Civility and respect in political discourse, whether in an election year or otherwise, are essential,” warning that the world is watching “our own house in disarray.”

    “Each of us has a role to play and responsibilities to uphold,” the statement continues. “Our elected officials must lead by example and govern effectively in ways that deliver for the American people.” The statement admonishes citizens to “engage in civil dialogue; respect democratic institutions and rights; uphold safe, secure, and accessible elections; and contribute to local, state, or national improvement.”

    In adding the Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum’s voice to the statement, Standing Committee President J.R. Greene said, “Coolidge was a true conservative, believing that the system of government established by the founding fathers was the best in the world. He stated that, ‘Democracy is obedience to the rule of the people.’ He also spoke of the ‘righteousness of democracy,’ and that ‘its foundation lays hold upon eternity.’ 

    Greene added, “Coolidge also observed, ‘the difference between despotism and democracy is not a difference in the requirement of obedience, it is a difference in rulers.’  He stated, ‘We are very proud of our democracy. We are very proud of our form of government. We believe that there is no other nation on earth that gives to the individual the privileges and rights that he has in America.’”

    “In light of this philosophy,” Greene concluded, “our board voted unanimously to endorse the Presidential Libraries declaration.”

    The joint statement was released by the George W. Bush Presidential Center and was co-signed by presidential centers and foundations from Presidents Hoover through Obama, with the exception of the Eisenhower Foundation. 

    Established in 1920, the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum collects, preserves and makes available for research materials documenting the public and private life of Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933).  Manuscripts, artifacts and exhibits cover his political career from Northampton to Boston to the White House and his post-presidential years as a Northampton resident. The Collection also includes materials related to Grace Goodhue Coolidge (1879-1957) and sons John (1906-2000) and Calvin Jr. (1908-1924).

  • The climb to the White House: 100 years ago today, Northampton’s Calvin Coolidge rose to the presidency

    The Daily Hampshire Gazette published this excellent local historical & biographical article by Bob Flaherty on August 3, 2023. (includes 9 photos)

  • All things Calvin: Coolidge library and museum contains trove of info about the Northampton man who became president

    The Daily Hampshire Gazette published this article on August 3, 2023, the 100th anniversary of Calvin Coolidge’s swearing in as the 30th President of the United States. (includes 11 photos)

  • Then Again: How a President’s vacation briefly transformed Plymouth

    This Vt Digger article by Mark Bushnell, “Then Again:  How a President’s Vacation Briefly Transformed Plymouth,” describes the Summer White House in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, summer 1924.  Photographs in the article from the Forbes Library collections.

  • Then Again: Calvin Coolidge’s presidential library is actually inside a library

    VTDigger published this great introduction to the CCPLM: Then Again: Calvin Coolidge’s Presidential Library is actually inside a library

    By Mark Bushnell
    May 22, 2022

  • Coolidge Library & Museum Launches Presidential Book Club Series

    First new initiative of newly reformed and expanded Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum Standing Committee

    (NORTHAMPTON, MA January 14, 2019) – A new book club dedicated to American presidents is being launched by the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum.

    The first meeting of the Presidential Book Club is scheduled for Monday, February 25th at 7:30 PM in the museum, which is located on the second floor of Forbes Library.

    The first book to be discussed is “An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America,” by Henry Wiencek. Copies are available at Forbes Library. After the initial meeting, the club plans to meet every other month.

    “We will be tracing the history of the presidency, beginning with George Washington, and watching how American democracy evolved in ways the Founders never anticipated,” said Bill Scher, chair of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum’s programming subcommittee. “We’ll follow how presidents, both celebrated and forgotten, grappled with slavery, economics, executive power and America’s role in the world.”

    “Libraries have a tradition of using books to launch discussions of topics of interest and relevance to the community and this will follow in that tradition,” said Lisa Downing, Forbes Library Director. The Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum is on the second floor of Forbes Library and is the only presidential library to reside in a public library.

    The book club is the first new initiative from the recently reformed and expanded Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum Standing Committee, which serves under the Forbes Library Board of Trustees. The new standing committee is currently recruiting additional members who can help strengthen the Coolidge Library & Museum’s ability to develop programming, raise funds and attract visitors.

    “The Presidential Book Club is one new way to get people who are interested in presidential history, but maybe aren’t yet interested in Calvin Coolidge, to see the Coolidge museum and get a better sense of the amazing resources it holds,” said Russell Carrier, Forbes Library Board of Trustees President.

    While the Book Club will be exploring all of the American presidents, Coolidge will never be too far from the discussion. “You can’t understand Coolidge without understanding what came before and after him,” said Scher. “Coolidge is a pivot point in the story of the Republican Party. The Republican Party’s founding is part of how America ended the abomination of slavery. That’s why we are starting with George Washington and his complicated role with the enslavement of humans.”

    Every book club meeting will be free and open to the public. Participants are encouraged to read as much of the featured book as they can, but anyone is welcome to attend and take part in the book club discussion.

    Area residents interested in the learning more about the new Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum Standing Committee are encouraged to contact Julie Bartlett Nelson at jbartlett@forbeslibrary.org or 413-587-1014

  • Death of a President

    by Rich Szlosek

    During the afternoon and evening of Thursday, January 5, 1933 the nation was stunned to learn of the death in Northampton of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States. The official cause of death for the sixty year old Coolidge was listed as a coronary thrombosis and, while it was not widely known, he had been in failing health for some time. During the presidential campaign of 1932 he had promised Herbert Hoover he would make two major speeches supporting him. The first was in New York and Coolidge, suffering from a severe shortness of breath, was barely able to complete the talk. Observers at the speech noted that Coolidge had clearly lost weight and had aged in recent months. The second talk was promptly cancelled.

    On the morning of Thursday, January 5 Coolidge had gone to his office but returned to his home, known as the Beeches, by ten. He and Mrs. Coolidge had a brief conversation and she went downtown to do some shopping. When she returned just before one pm, she found her husband dead on the dressing room floor. Word of his demise spread quickly and by the next day dozens of reporters descended upon Northampton. Tributes flowed in from all over the nation to the local telegraph office and the town’s florists had difficulty in keeping up with the requests for floral bouquets.

    Mrs. Coolidge quickly made several decisions. She decided to keep the funeral ceremony short and simple with no eulogy and rejected all suggestions for official observances in Washington and Boston. She determined the funeral would happen in Northampton at the Edwards Congregational Church with burial in the family plot in Plymouth Notch, Vermont and that the funeral would be on Saturday, January 7, less than two full days away.

    It is astounding to see how rapidly the complicated details were worked out. On Saturday morning, a train left Washington headed for Northampton. On board were President and Mrs. Hoover, Vice-president Curtis, Chief Justice Hughes, Secretary of War Stimson, other Cabinet and Supreme Court members and various Congressional leaders. All the New England governors would be present at the service. The incoming president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, sent his son James and his wife, Eleanor, as his personal representatives. That meant there were three first ladies sitting in Edwards Church – Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt. (FDR had a Northampton connection of his own as his maternal grandmother, Catherine Lyman Delano, had been born in town.)

    At approximately 8 am on Saturday the casket containing Coolidge’s body was taken from the Beeches and driven to Edwards. An honor guard of Northampton police carried the body into the church where it lay in state with a two-man honor guard. Despite all the planning that had gone on, the officials had greatly underestimated the number of people that would want to pay their final respects to “Cal”. At 8:30 the church doors were opened for the public to file past the casket but the crowd on Main Street was so large and the emotion so intense that the authorities had difficulty controlling it. The situation nearly got out of hand when, according to the pre-planned schedule, the doors were closed at 9:30 and hundreds were denied their final glimpse of Coolidge.

    All the pews on the lower level of the church had been carefully assigned to dignitaries and the press. Accordingly, the public was restricted to seats in the balcony. At 9:45 the doors were again opened and there was a small stampede for the few available pews. The Washington train arrived just before 10 o’clock but it took the motorcade longer than expected to negotiate the throng on Main Street and it arrived slightly later than scheduled. As the dignitaries were being escorted to their assigned places, the organist played three pieces, the largo from Handel’s Xerxes, Chopin’s funeral march and the largo from Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Hoover laid a wreath of flowers on the casket and, just as the notables were finally settled, Mrs. Coolidge, her son, John, and his wife entered the church through a side door from State Street. The minister, Albert Penner, and a quartet of singers began the simple service of prayers and hymns and it reportedly took only twenty minutes to complete it.

    The Coolidges then left by the side door and returned to the Beeches. The president, Mrs. Hoover and the vice-president followed them there and made a short courtesy call on Mrs. Coolidge to express their condolences. They then joined the Washington entourage at the depot and, shortly after twelve, the train pulled out of the station. The Coolidges returned to the church at noon and joined the cortege that would transport Coolidge’s remains to Vermont.

    It was a cold, rainy day as the procession, escorted by the Massachusetts State Police, made its way up Route 5 through South Deerfield, Greenfield and Brattleboro. In both Massachusetts and Vermont citizens stood bare-headed in silent tribute to the late president as the cortege passed by. At the state line the Vermont State Police assumed the escort duties. Due to the weather and crowds, the procession did not arrive at Plymouth Notch until after four o’clock. A large crowd had gathered at the grave site. As darkness was rapidly settling in, six United States marshals carried the casket to the grave. The Reverend Penner offered some traditional prayers. Taps were sounded and it was all over. Some observers said that for a few brief moments the sun broke through and illuminated the whole scene. All those in the official procession returned to their vehicles and, accompanied by the same formal escorts, made their way back to Northampton. It had been an historic day for the city and its most famous resident had now been forever laid to rest next to his family and ancestors. One cannot help but think Coolidge would have been pleased with the quiet, dignified manner in which his funeral had been conducted. It had been a sad few days in the country for, as the New York Times stated, “In a very real sense the nation has lost the leader in whom it most completely trusted”.

  • 125 and Counting

    by Rich Szlosek

    With all the festivities that take place between Halloween and New Year’s Day, you likely have not noticed yet another ongoing celebration that is underway in the Northampton area.  Forbes Library, which first opened to the public in 1894 is commemorating its 125th anniversary in 2019 with a year long series of events.  The observance kicked off last September with the community sing on the library lawn and will conclude next fall. Each month a different aspect of the library’s various services will be featured through a series of talks and displays open to all.

    The feature for January will be the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Memorial Museum – the only presidential museum in a public library in the entire nation. Just having such a unique entity would be reason enough to highlight the collection but January is also a key month in Coolidge’s history. January 2 will mark the 100th anniversary of his being inaugurated governor of Massachusetts and January 5 will be the 86th commemoration of his untimely death in 1933. There will also be a discussion later in the year of Coolidge’s role in the Boston Police Strike, the event that made him a national figure in 1919.

    Coolidge’s history with Forbes went back to the very first year the library was in existence. After graduating from Amherst College in 1895, he came to Northampton to work as a clerk in the law offices of Hammond and Fields. One of the first things he did was to get a library card, a copy of which still exists at Forbes.  Forbes’ attraction for Coolidge was the extensive collection of law books that had been left to the library by its founder, Judge Charles Forbes. Young Calvin practiced law by day and read the law at night at the library and some have referred to Forbes as Coolidge’s law school. He successfully passed the bar and opened his own law office in what was then the brand new Masonic building which is often called the Fitzwilly’s building today. As Coolidge grew more successful, he continued to remain a patron of Forbes and, after he was elected vice-president, he began to donate items to the library for their historical interest. Once he left the presidency, his entire White House book collection was shipped to Forbes and it is still on display in the museum. The present museum was officially dedicated in a ceremony in 1956 in which Mrs. Coolidge and their son, John took part.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I volunteer at the Coolidge museum and I am constantly mystified by the fact that so many local folks are unaware of its existence.  Coolidge was the most famous person to ever live here and deserves to receive much more attention from the city in which he chose to reside during his entire adult life. Yes, it is true he was both born and buried in Vermont but Northampton and Massachusetts are where he grew his reputation. When he left the presidency, he returned to town and his rented home on Massasoit Street before he finally bought a house known as “the Beeches”. He met his wife, Grace Goodhue, here in 1903 and they were wed two years later. Their two sons were born in Northampton. Ironically, Grace had also been born in Vermont and came to Northampton to teach at the Clarke School for the Deaf. Like her husband, she never left town and remained a resident until her death in 1957.

    If you have never visited the museum, I think you would enjoy the experience. You will learn a lot about this quiet man who rose to the top of the political world and then just gave it all up.  The museum is small and will not take you long to explore and, of course, it is free. It is on the second floor of Forbes Library and is handicapped accessible. But, even if you have no interest in Coolidge, you should make a resolution to visit Forbes this year. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at all the art exhibits, special events and programs that happen in the building and how beneficial the library is to the life of Northampton. Forbes is open from 9-9  on Monday and Wednesday; 9-5 on Friday and Saturday; 1-5 on Tuesday and Thursday and closed on Sunday. I hope to see you there soon and, for now, Happy New Year.

  • VOTE!!!

    Tuesday September 9, 2014 is Primary Day in Massachusetts!Who would Coolidge vote for?

    The answer is a simple one. Calvin Coolidge would tell his constituents to get out and vote, to care about their government, and to exercise their duty as citizens. As you make your decision whether or not to go to the polls and then how to vote, remember the words of Calvin Coolidge, “We have a tendency to be too indifferent before primaries and elections and too critical after. Public officers can and do exercise large influence over our daily life but the main course of events is in our own hands.”

    From a November 4, 1930 newspaper column

  • Vice President Charles Dawes-Part 2

    Coolidge left the selection of his vice presidential candidate to the 1924 convention delegates since that was how he had gotten the nomination in 1920. The Republican convention first nominated Illinois Governor Frank Lowden. He had already said he would not accept the office and promptly declined. So the convention turned to Charles G. Dawes, Harding’s Director of the Bureau of the Budget. See the last post for Dawes’ background.

    Dawes campaigned hard and after the ticket won office in a Republican landslide, he made several mistakes early in his tenure. Even before being sworn in, he baffled Coolidge by saying he would not attend cabinet meetings. Coolidge was the first vice president to attend these meetings at the invitation of Harding and felt  it was important. Coolidge does not mention Dawes in his autobiography, but says this about the vice presidency, “If the Vice-President is a man of discretion and character…he should be in the Cabinet because he might become President and ought to be informed on the policies of the administration…My experience in the Cabinet was of supreme value to me when I became President.” (Coolidge, Autobiography, page 163-164)

    It was the custom at that time that the vice president was inaugurated inside the Senate Chambers where he gave a few remarks. So on March 4, 1925, after taking the oath, Dawes lectured the gathered senators for about one half hour, advocating changes in the seniority system and limits on the use of the filibuster. The senators were not happy and neither was Coolidge, because the press focused on Dawes remarks more than the president’s inaugural address.

    Later, Dawes left Capitol Hill to take a nap when Coolidge’s nominee for attorney general, Charles Warren, was up for confirmation in the Senate. There was an unexpected tie which the vice president could break, if he could get back in time. Unfortunately, he did not return to the chambers in time, a pro vote change to a ‘no’ vote, and the candidate was defeated. It was the first rejection of a cabinet appointee since the presidency of Andrew Johnson, and Coolidge held Dawes responsible.

    Dawes served out his term out of favor with the president, but was appointed ambassador to Britain (1929–32) by Herbert-Hoover His home in Illinois is preserved as the Evanston Historical Center.

    Dawes has the distinction of being the only vice president to write the melody, but not the lyrics, to a No. 1 pop single. He knew it as “Melody in A Major” which he composed in 1911. It is too bad this multi-talented man did not live to get solace from the lyrics penned in 1958, “It’s All in the Game.”