10 Things You Might Not Know About Calvin Coolidge

National Archives/Newsmakers, Getty Images
National Archives/Newsmakers, Getty Images

The 30th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) left office just as America was about to shift from an era of great joviality (the Roaring Twenties) to one of unprecedented economic despair thanks to the Great Depression. A stern figure, Coolidge was all business, practicing minimalism in both his social activity and in his political career. Here's what you should know about one of our nation’s more intriguing Commanders-in-Chief.

1. Calvin Coolidge is the only president born on the Fourth of July.

John Calvin Coolidge was born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, on July 4, 1872—giving him the distinction of being the only president born on the fourth of July. (Three of the first five U.S. presidents died on the Fourth of July, however: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in 1826, and James Monroe in 1831.)

2. Coolidge was elected to political office the same year he opened his own law firm.

Coolidge was an engaged student. He graduated with honors from Amherst College in 1895, then earned his law degree. After passing the bar, he opened a firm in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1898, and was elected to the town's city council. That modest office led to an escalating interest in politics that led to his election as governor of the state in 1918.

3. A police strike made Coolidge a household name.

In 1919, Coolidge faced his biggest challenge yet as a politician when a police strike led to panic and violence in the streets of Boston. After sending in the state guard to quell the tension, Coolidge admonished the officers for leaving their posts. That hard-line stance impressed the public at large, and by 1920, he was an easy pick for a vice-presidential nomination on the Republican ticket next to presidential nominee Warren G. Harding. When Harding died just two years into his term, Coolidge found himself in the Oval Office.

4. Coolidge's own father swore him in.

In a moment that had never transpired before and has never been repeated since, Coolidge was sworn into the presidential office by his own father, also named John Calvin Coolidge. The pair found themselves together while the younger Coolidge was visiting his father in Vermont. News arrived of Harding’s sudden death, which prompted Coolidge Senior, a notary public, to swear in his son in the middle of the night.

5. Coolidge was popular for doing nothing.

In contrast to presidents who lent a heavy hand in American affairs, Coolidge captured the public’s favor by essentially doing nothing. He allowed businesses to prosper by minimizing government interference and satisfied voters who believed bureaucracy had become too overwhelming. But his conservative approach may have been a little too reserved. He's quoted as saying that he spent much of his presidency “avoiding the big problems.” Critics later argued his reluctance to stem the stock market speculation boom in the 1920s may have contributed to the market crash in 1929.

6. Coolidge wasn't very talkative.

Complementing his understated political style was Coolidge’s economy of words. Though he was communicative with the public, holding about eight press conferences a month and making regular radio addresses, direct dialogues were more succinct. He often answered “yes” or “no” to questions posed by the press or associates and prided himself on remaining largely quiet in social settings. According to legend, a dinner companion offered to bet she could extract at least three words from him during the evening. Coolidge turned to her and said, “You lose.”

7. His wife, Grace Coolidge, brought attention to the hearing-impaired.

Grace, whom Coolidge had married in 1905, was a onetime instructor for the hearing-impaired, a disability that had not received much in the way of national attention. But Grace was interested in raising awareness, educating the public at large and inviting Helen Keller to the White House. Grace was able to raise $2 million for the Clarke School for the Deaf, assisted by her husband, who often told friends to contribute to the school.

8. Coolidge rode a mechanical horse for exercise.

After his horseback riding activities were reportedly curtailed by concerned Secret Service agents, Coolidge installed a mechanical horse saddle in the White House. The machine ran on electricity and was able to mimic the bouncy agitation of trotting or galloping, and Coolidge rode the contraption up to three times a day, believing it was beneficial to his health. Referred to as “Thunderbolt,” by the press, the device was widely mocked by observers who felt riding a replica horse was not conduct befitting a president. Coolidge eventually tired of it, opting for other ill-advised exercise contraptions like a belly-reducing vibrating machine.

9. Coolidge was the first sitting president to visit Cuba.

Coolidge was the first—and, until Barack Obama went there in 2016, the only—president to to travel to Cuba while still in office.

When he arrived in Havana for a conference, Coolidge seemed pleased at the warm reception expressed by citizens there—so much so that he temporarily broke free of his laconic stature and took a bow. Maybe it was the grandiose entrance: Coolidge pulled up to Havana in the U.S.S. Texas, a World War I battleship.

10. Coolidge pardoned a raccoon.

Coolidge was very fond of animals, collecting everything from cats to birds to lion cubs that he wryly named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau. For Thanksgiving in 1926, an admirer sent him a live raccoon with the suggestion he cook it and consume it as part of the family dinner. Wary of sampling raccoon meat, Coolidge “pardoned” the animal and it soon became a close friend of his wife's and given the name Rebecca Raccoon. But the pet’s undomesticated status became a source of contention among the Secret Service: She was prone to ripping up furniture and speeding through the White House. Rebecca was eventually donated to a zoo in 1928, Coolidge's final full year in office.

5 Facts About Charles Ponzi and the Original Ponzi Scheme

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Some of the most infamous scams in history have been Ponzi schemes, but before Bernie Madoff (or Bitcoin), there was Charles Ponzi himself. The con he built was so successful that his last name became synonymous with fraud. In January 2020, a century after he set up his fraudulent Securities Exchange Company, the phrase Ponzi scheme is still used to describe any scheme in which funds from new investors are used to pay back old investors. Here are some facts about Ponzi and his scheme that you should know.

1. Charles Ponzi arrived in the U.S. with $2.50 in his pocket.

Charles Ponzi was born in Lugo, Italy, in 1882. As a young adult, he worked as a postal worker and studied at the University of Roma La Sapienza. Neither path panned out for him, however. In 1903, when faced with dwindling funds, Ponzi boarded a ship for America in search of a better life. But Ponzi wasn't a master hustler at this point in his life; he arrived in Boston with $2.50 after gambling away the rest of his life savings on the ship.

2. Charles Ponzi spent time in prison before his famous scheme.

Ponzi was no stranger to crime before concocting the scheme that made his surname infamous. Not long after arriving in Boston, he moved to Canada and got in trouble for forging checks. He spent two years in a Canadian prison for his offenses. Back in the U.S., he served a term in federal prison for illegally transporting five Italians immigrants across the Canadian border. It was only after his so-called Ponzi scheme began to crumble that his criminal history was made public by journalists, thus speeding up his downfall.

3. Charles Ponzi got rich off the postal system.

In 1920, Ponzi discovered the key to the ultimate get-rich-quick scheme: an international postal reply coupon worth $.05. It had been included in a parcel he received from Spain as prepayment for his reply postage. Thanks to an international treaty, the voucher could be exchanged for one U.S. postage stamp worth a nickel, which Ponzi could then sell. Ponzi knew that the value of the Spanish peseta had recently fallen in relation to the dollar, which meant that the coupon was actually worth more than the 30 centavos used to purchase it in Spain. He took this concept to the extreme by recruiting people back home in Italy to buy postal reply coupons in bulk from countries with weak economies, so that he could redeem them in the U.S. for a profit.

4. Charles Ponzi swindled $20 million from investors.

Ponzi technically wasn’t breaking any laws with his postal service transactions, and if he had kept his idea to himself he would have gotten away with it. Instead, he turned his small money-making operation into a wide-reaching scam. If people invested money into his “business” of cashing in foreign postal vouchers, which he dubbed the Securities Exchange Company, they would get their money back plus 50 percent interest in 90 days. The deal was too good for many investors to pass up.

It was also too good to be true: The money wasn’t being used to buy coupons overseas. Ponzi kept most of the investments for himself and used the flood of money coming in from new investors to pay off the old ones. Many investors were so thrilled with their returns that they invested whatever money they had made back into the business, which helped Ponzi keep the sham afloat.

Ponzi was finally rich and famous, but soon enough, cracks in the scheme started to form. The Boston Post launched an investigation into Ponzi and revealed that in order for his business to be functional, he would need to be moving 160 million vouchers across world borders. There were only 27,000 postal reply coupons in circulation at the time. The final blow came when the publicist he had hired to represent him came out against him to the public. His system fell apart and it was revealed that he had stolen $20 million from investors.

Because he had lied to his clients about their investments through the mail, Ponzi was ultimately charged by the federal government for mail fraud. He served three-and-a-half years in prison and then served an additional nine years for state charges.

5. Charles Ponzi didn’t invent the Ponzi scheme.

Though Ponzi schemes were eventually named for him, Charles Ponzi didn’t invent this type of scam. There were many crooks before him who used the same method to exploit investors. Charles Dickens even wrote pre-Ponzi Ponzi schemes into his 1857 novel Little Doritt.

It’s possible that Ponzi got the idea for his own fraud from William F. Miller, who pulled a similar stunt working as a bookkeeper in Brooklyn in 1899. But it was the highs of Ponzi’s success—and the lows of his demise—that made his story so memorable.

14 Candid Photos of Martin Luther King Jr.

Getty Images
Getty Images

January 20, 2020 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday that celebrates the life of the civil rights activist. The holiday—which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, and has been observed annually since 1986—is held on the third Monday in January. (King was born on January 15.) Here's a look back at King in action.

Martin Luther King Jr. on the phone
Express Newspapers/Getty Images
  • American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sits on a couch and speaks on the telephone after encountering a white mob protesting against the Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 26, 1961.


J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images
  • American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King arriving in London on October 1, 1961. He was in England to be the chief speaker at a public meeting about color prejudice and to appear on the BBC television program Face To Face.


Three Lions/Getty Images
  • American president John F. Kennedy at the White House on August 28, 1963 with leaders of the civil rights March on Washington (left to right): Dr. Martin Luther King, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, A. Philip Randolph, President Kennedy, Walter Reuther, and Roy Wilkins. Behind Reuther is Vice President Lyndon Johnson.


William H. Alden/Evening Standard/Getty Images
  • King raising his hands in a restaurant on September 21, 1963.


Evening Standard/Getty Images
  • Canon John Collins greeting King at London Airport on December 5, 1964.


Keystone/Getty Images
  • King receives the Nobel Prize for Peace from Gunnar Jahn, president of the Nobel Prize Committee, in Oslo, on December 10, 1964.


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  • President Lyndon B. Johnson discusses the Voting Rights Act with King in January 1965. The act, part of President Johnson's "Great Society" program, trebled the number of black voters in the south, who had previously been hindered by racially inspired laws.


William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images
  • King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, lead a civil rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery in March 1965. On the left (holding bottle) is American diplomat Ralph Bunche.


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  • King addresses a crowd in front of the Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama, following a voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, in March 1965.


William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images
  • King listening to a transistor radio in the front line of the third march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to campaign for proper registration of black voters, on March 23, 1965. Among the other marchers are: Ralph Abernathy (1926 - 1990, second from left), Ralph Bunche (1903 - 1971, third from right) and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907 - 1972, far right). The first march ended in violence when marchers were attacked by police. The second was aborted after a legal injunction was issued.


Keystone/Getty Images
  • King addresses civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, in April 1965.


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  • King speaks to reporters during a march en route to Jackson, Mississippi, on June 11, 1966.


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  • Watched by Dr. Charles Bousenquet, King signs the Degree Roll at Newcastle University after receiving an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree, Newcastle, England, on November 14, 1967.


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  • King speaks at a January 12, 1968 press conference for Clergy & Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, held at the Belmont Plaza Hotel, New York City. He announced the Poor People's March On Washington at this event.

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