This Place in History: President Calvin Coolidge Historic Site

Vermont Historical Society

PLYMOUTH NOTCH, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History‘ we’re in Plymouth Notch, Vt. with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“I think most people will understand we are talking about Calvin Coolidge. Bill Jenney, the Regional Site Administrator for this historic site is going to meet us in the museum, explain the title [‘More Than Two Words’], and give us a highlight tour of this really cool space,” said Perkins.

“‘More Than Two Words’ is based on a story which we believe is true. Vice President Coolidge often had to go to dinner parties as part of his obligations. He apparently was seated next to a woman who told him that she had a bet with someone that she could get him to say more than two words during the dinner. And his response to her was ‘You lose’. So, she obviously lost the bet,” began Jenney.

“We hope though, however, after people go through this exhibit they realize that Coolidge had a lot to say on many different subjects. He, in fact, gave more speeches than all 29 presidents before him. He wrote them all himself. He averaged two press conferences a week, which is more than any president has ever done. Someone has even calculated he said more than 8,000 words a month on the radio.”

“This is a wonderful exhibit that examines his life and legacy. This wall here is devoted to his being born and brought up here, and the recurring influence of Plymouth Notch throughout his life,” gestured Jenney.

“There’s quite a few goodies in here. We are very fortunate to have not just the early Vermont things in the collection here at the site, but we have most of the Presidential Gifts of State.”

“One of my favorite pieces in the collection is this chair. This was a gift from the people of Hungary, and there’s quite a bit of symbolism involved in the carving here which is really quite exquisite. On the one side is George Washington. The other side is Lajos Kossuth, who was the famous Hungarian patriot who fought the Austrian Empire. I knew one of Calvin’s granddaughters. She once told me she and her sister used to play on this chair pretending they were princesses,” said Jenney.

“One of the other so-called Presidential Gifts of State is this humidor. This was a gift to President Coolidge from the president of Cuba. This, of course, was filled with Cuban cigars. Coolidge never permitted himself to be photographed smoking. We assume that he did enjoy an occasional cigar because we have a number of humidors in the collection.”

“The exhibit also has this ballot box from the City of Northampton, Massachusetts. Massachusetts is a big part of Calvin Coolidge’s story. He grew up here in Vermont, but then went to Amherst College. He then studied the law down in Northampton. He started out as a City Solicitor of Northampton and then went into the legislature. Then, he came back for a couple of stints as Mayor of Northampton. Then, he went back to State Senate, became President of the Senate of Massachusetts, Lieutenant Governor and Governor.”

“There’s so much to see here. We’ve just barely scratched the surface. How can people take this in for themselves?” asked Perkins.

“One could really spend two to three hours here if he wanted to because we have these, what we call, narration monitors, where there are several layers that you can get into. We hired Jim Cook, who was a one-man Coolidge show for over 30 years to act as Coolidge in these narration monitors and in our presidential press conference,” concluded Jenney.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic site markers, click here.

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