Monday, January 5, 2015

A Today in History/Images from the Past Hybrid: Silent Cal, Native Headgear, & the Coolidge Menagerie

President Calvin Coolidge died today in 1933.  Coolidge became president following the death of Warren Harding in 1923 and was elected in his own right in 1924.  The 30th president was legendary for a very un-modern-presidency approach toward public life: namely, he preferred to say as little as possible.  A famous tale relates his reaction to a guest who told him that her friends bet she couldn't make him say three words: "You lose."  Many textbook authors have enjoyed juxtaposing their tales of "Silent Cal" with this photo indicating that perhaps the laconic chief executive had a lighter side:

Often overlooked is the reason for this photo (and a series of other, less formal, snapshots in headdress): Coolidge signed into law the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, granting citizenship to all Native Americans born in the United States.  Yes, prior to this date, the country's original inhabitants were not automatically regarded as U.S. citizens.  About 2/3 of Native Americans had gained citizenship through a variety of means, some of which required leaving behind traditional cultural practices (see this Oklahoma State site for more extensive information).  For making Native citizenship universal, in theory if not always in reality (see this Politico article for information on how some states continued to fight universal Native citizenship), the Sioux made Coolidge an honorary tribal member.

On a truly lighter note, Coolidge and his wife, Grace, were avid pet lovers, caring for dogs, cats, birds, and more exotic species throughout their lives.  Here's Silent Cal with his white collies, Rob Roy and Prudence Prim, on vacation in New York:

Here's Grace Coolidge with the couple's raccoon, Rebecca:

Other companions included Enoch the goose, lion cubs named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau, Ebenezer the donkey and a host of domestic cats.  For a complete list, as well as credits for both pet photos above, see the Web site of the Presidential Pet Museum.

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