The Coolidge Era & the Consumer Economy 1921-1929
Calvin Coolidge Papers

Calvin Coolidge Papers

The Calvin Coolidge Papers at the Library of Congress focus for the most part on the life of Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) during the six years that he was president (1923-1929), although a few correspondence files date back to the time when he was vice president, from March 4, 1921 to August 2, 1923, under Republican President Warren G. Harding. After Harding died unexpectedly on a speaking tour, Coolidge was sworn in as president of the United States at the family's Plymouth Notch, Vermont homestead in the early morning hours of August 3, 1923 by his father, John Calvin Coolidge, a farmer, storekeeper, local office holder, and notary public. In 1924, Calvin Coolidge campaigned for and won a full term of his own as president, which extended from March 4, 1925 to March 3, 1929. This is the period of time covered by most of the material in the Coolidge Papers held at the Library of Congress. Coolidge was succeeded as president by his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover.

Users of this Coolidge-Consumerism collection have access to large portions of Calvin Coolidge's presidential papers at the Library of Congress as they relate to the 1920s economy. It is important to bear in mind, however, that many of President Coolidge's personal papers evidently were destroyed before deposit at the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress Manuscript Division finding aid to the Coolidge Papers notes the existence in the papers of Edward T. Clark, the president's private secretary, of a 1933 letter by Clark revealing that "'Mr. Coolidge's desire was to destroy everything in the so-called personal files and there would have been nothing preserved if I had not taken some things out on my own responsibility.'" Five years later, Mrs. Coolidge went on record as saying that her husband had "destroyed all his 'personal' papers" (v). It is presumably for this reason that "PPF" or Personal Presidential Files, referred to from time to time in the case files that remain, cannot be located.

Another major holding of Coolidge papers, with more personal materials, resides at the Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts, in the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Room.

Although the presidential papers that remain do not, by and large, include letters, or replies to letters, by Coolidge himself, the material, much of it "case" correspondence sent by ordinary citizens and businessmen to the White House, offers insight into what people were thinking and feeling about economic issues -- and about Coolidge himself -- during the decade. In so doing, the letters also provide indirect glimpses of Coolidge as policy-maker.

The presidential papers were organized during Coolidge's time in office into "case files," which bear the names of correspondents, government departments and agencies, and issues or concepts that were judged, presumably by the volume or importance of the correspondence, to deserve files of their own. Researchers should look forward to "paging through" the case files for themselves; only a few key documents in each case file have been singled out for annotation in the bibliographic record, to give readers a sense of what they can anticipate finding in the larger file.

In addition, "reading copies" of 59 Coolidge speeches, preserved in the Library of Congress in the personal papers of presidential secretary Everett Sanders -- a mini-archive that includes a number of never-published addresses -- provide users with an opportunity to sample word-searchable texts for Coolidge's opinions and characteristic "voice." A few revealing Coolidge speeches dating back to the time of the vice-presidency also come from the papers of Edward Tracy Clark, another of President Coolidge's private secretaries.

The Sanders "reading copies" begin with a speech the president gave when he was approximately four months into his second term, the Coolidge Speech: Address . . . at a Meeting of the Business Organization of the Government, June 22, 1925. The last speech in the Sanders set is Coolidge Speech: Address . . . at the Commencement at George Washington University, February 22, 1929, less than two weeks before he left office.

Readers interested in Coolidge's earlier presidential speeches may wish to consult two volumes of published speeches not included in this collection. The Price of Freedom: Speeches and Addresses (1925) contains speeches given by Coolidge from December 21, 1920 (by which time Coolidge had been elected vice president but had not yet assumed office) through June 1923 of the vice-presidency, a month and some days before he became president. Foundations of the Republic: Speeches and Addresses (1926) contains speeches from February 3, 1924, when Coolidge was already president but had not yet won his own term in office, through July 5, 1926, when he was approximately a year and a quarter into his second term.

Coolidge's language in the speeches establishes his connection to the economic initiatives of his treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, and his commerce secretary, Herbert Hoover. (INTRO NOTE Coolidge Presidency) In addition, the addresses illustrate the way in which the language of commerce and the language of religion, and of spiritual development and spiritual well-being more generally, interpenetrated each other during this decade. (INTRODUCTORY NOTE Spirituality)

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