Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Coolidge Family and All Their Many Pets

John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. was born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, on July 4, 1872, and he grew up to be the 30th president of the United States.  He is the only president we've ever had who was born on the 4th of July.  He went to Amherst College, and after that he was apprenticed to a law firm in Massachusetts, where he "read law."  This was a way of learning the law and getting a law degree without actually going to law school, which was expensive.  Mr. Coolidge became a lawyer in 1897 and then he started his own practice.

In 1905, Calvin Coolidge met Grace Anna Goodhue, who was a teacher of deaf children, and they got married on October 4 of that same year.  Mrs. Coolidge was a fun, talkative person, and Mr. Coolidge was very quiet, but they kind of equaled each other out, and their marriage was a happy one.  They had a son named John in 1906 and a son named Calvin, Jr. in 1908.

Mr. Coolidge soon got involved in politics, and he served in the Massachusetts legislature.  After that, he was elected Lieutenant Governor and then Governor.  In 1920 he ran for Vice-President on the Republican ticket with Warren G. Harding.  They got elected, and then when President Harding died, Vice-President Coolidge became President Coolidge.

The president with Rob Roy and Tiny Tim

One really good thing that President Coolidge said was "Any man who does not like dogs and want them about, does not deserve to be in the White House."  The Coolidges all believed in this because it is obviously true, and they had a whole bunch of dogs, plus lots of other pets, while President Coolidge was in office.

Their first First Dog was Peter Pan, who was a wire-haired fox terrier.  But Peter Pan was too nervous to get used to all the activity of the White House, so he had to go live someplace quieter.  After that came an airedale named Paul Pry, who was a half-brother of President Harding's dog, Laddie Boy.  Paul got the name "Pry" because he was always sticking his nose into stuff where it didn't belong.  And worse than that, he was very protective of Mrs. Coolidge, so he would not let her maid come into her room to pick up things and clean.  So Paul Pry had to go live somewhere else, too.

Then the president got a red chow-chow puppy named Tiny Tim for his birthday, but the dog and the president never really got to like each other, so Tiny Tim became known as Terrible Tim.  A white collie puppy named Diana of Wildwood traveled to the White House in a plane, and she arrived looking so dirty that Mrs. Coolidge changed her name to Calamity Jane.

The Coolidges with Blackberry

The Coolidges also had a black chow-chow named Blackberry, a brown-and-white collie named Ruby Rough, a black German shepherd named King Kole, a yellow collie named Bessie, an English setter bird dog named Palo Alto, and a bulldog named Boston Beans.

But the two most famous Coolidge dogs were white collies named Rob Roy and Prudence Prim.  These two dogs got baths with blueing to make their coats look whiter.  Mrs. Coolidge especially loved Prudence Prim, who was so well-behaved that she could go to White House garden parties.  The First Lady made a little straw bonnet with ferns and green ribbons on it for Prudence to wear.  Prudence seemed to enjoy wearing bonnets, and she also wore one when she went to the Easter Egg Roll each year.  Sadly, Prudence Prim died while the Coolidge family was vacationing in the Black Hills one summer.  Mrs. Coolidge missed Prudence very much, and so did Rob Roy.

When Rob Roy first came to live at the White House, it was a big change for him, because he was used to being a sheep-herding dog in Wisconsin.  He didn't seem to know how to live in a house, and he was especially scared of the elevator.  Whenever he got in the elevator, he flattened himself down on the floor to try to hang on.  And when it was time to get off the elevator, Boston Beans, the bulldog, wouldn't let him.  So finally Mrs. Coolidge had to send Beans to live with her mother.

The kennel master said that Rob Roy was "a wild one."  He really liked to bark at squirrels out of the White House windows and chase them whenever he was outside.  President Coolidge especially loved Rob Roy.  He let him stay in his room at night, took him to his office every afternoon and to his press conference every Friday.  When the president went fishing, Rob Rob would always ride in the boat and bark in a happy way.

Mrs. Coolidge insisted on having Rob Roy in her official White House portrait.  She wore a red dress that would look good with the white dog.  Mr. Coolidge suggested that maybe she should wear a white dress and dye the dog red instead!

In September of 1928, Rob Roy started having stomach problems.  The Coolidges sent him to Walter Reed Army Hospital for surgery, but the surgery did not work, and he died.  This made everyone very, very sad, especially the president.

Anyway, besides dogs, the Coolidge family also had two cats named Tiger and Blacky.  President Coolidge liked to walk through the White House with Tiger draped around his neck.

Most of the First Family's pets were given to them as gifts.  Some were meant as food, like the raccoon that they got at Thanksgiving one year.  But the raccoon was really tame and nice, so they named her Rebecca and kept her as a pet.  The staff did not much like the raccoon because she tore their clothes and ripped silk stockings.  Eventually, she moved to the zoo, where she got a raccoon friend named Reuben.

The Coolidges were also were given two lion cubs which they named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau, a pygmy hippo, a wallaby, a duikir, a wombat, 13 Pekin ducks, an antelope, a bobcat, and a donkey.  There were 3 canaries named Nip, Tuck, and Snowflake; a thrush named Old Bill; a goose named Enoch, and a mare named Kit.

Calvin Jr., Calvin Sr., Grace, and John Coolidge,
probably with Rob Roy.  This photo was taken
on the same day that Calvin Jr. got a blister while
playing tennis and later died from the infection.

A very tragic thing happened to the First Family in 1924.  Their younger son, Calvin, got a blister on his heel while playing tennis with his brother on June 30.  The blister got infected, and then Calvin got blood poisoning.  There were no antibiotics in those days, so he died only a week later, on July 7.  He was 16 years old.

President Coolidge got elected in 1924, but he refused to run again in 1928, mainly because he was still very sad and depressed about his son's death.  "When he went, the power and glory of the presidency went with him," Mr. Coolidge wrote.  "I don't know why such a price was exacted for occupying the White House."

In 1928, Mr. and Mrs. Coolidge retired to a nice house called "The Beeches" in Northampton, MA.  They lived there happily with their dogs and probably some other animals, too.  Then on January 5, 1933, Mr. Coolidge had a heart attack and died.  He was 60 years old.

After her husband's death, Mrs. Coolidge did work to help deaf people.  During World War II, she was active with the Red Cross, civil defense, and scrap drives.  She died on July 8, 1957 at the age of 78, and she is buried next to President Coolidge in Plymouth, Vermont.


  1. Very nice blog today!
    Looks like the Cooliges liked alliterations. We do too.

    --Zest, superstar in training

  2. Alliterations are good, and we like rhymes, too. Mom is always making up goofy rhyming names for us, like she calls me Piper Sniper, and she calls Barry her little black canary. Which is stupid because canaries are always yellow, not black!

    Your friend, Piper Griper

  3. All I can say is I like the Coolige family!! I like the statement Pres. Coolige made about people who don't like dogs, shouldn't be in the White House!! In fact, I think that should be a requirement when electing a president; if they aren't an animal lover....they simply can't run for the office.

    By the way, it's good to be back and I'm glad I'm NOT kicked out of the "Follow the Piper" club/blog. I apologize for getting the name wrong regarding Carson...I referred to him as Kit.
    Love, AP

  4. Me again, I've been reading some pasts blogs and learned that you have Cushing Disease. I wasn't sure what that is, so I just did a search on the internet and found out what it is. NOW I understand why you are losing hair. Oh... you and I have something in common; we both take prednisone. The past few weeks, I was on LOTS of prednisone, but now I'm down to a low dosage. By the way, does your face get bloated when you take prednisone? Mine does! I'm going to go read the blog about how "Carson" came to live at the Allen house! I also think it's very nice of you to be Carson's protector!
    Love, AP

  5. Dear Aunt Patty,
    I am so glad you are back to writing comments in my blog again. I don't like it when you are sick! Prednisone does not make my face bloated, but the Cushing's Disease gave me a pot belly, so Mom keeps calling me a fatty, which I don't really appreciate.

    It's okay if you call Carson "Kit," but he probably won't answer to it. Actually, he doesn't answer to any name right now, but I think he is starting to figure out that the microwave buzzer means his milk is warm and ready for him.

    The Coolidges were very nice people, even if they were Republicans. Hahahaha! Mom says you can forgive a president for quite a few things if he or she likes dogs -- at least sometimes!

    Love, Piper

  6. Calvin Coolidge is awesome!

  7. My great grand father, Wesley Fuller in Wisconsin was a dog trainer for some rich man. The man gave Rob Roy to Mrs Coolidge. They crated him up and put him on the train. The dog got out of its crate somewhere below Beloit Wisconsin and eventually found it`s way back to my grandfather. That was somewhere around 150 miles! They resent the dog. My mother and aunt passed the story on to me. Somewhere I might have a copy of the famous picture of Mrs Coolidge and Rob Roy. My gr grandfather lived at Auroaville Wisconsin at that time. I recall my mother showing me the picture and telling me the story when I was a boy. Merril Werch

    1. This is a wonderful story! I'm so glad it has been passed down through your family. Thanks for sharing it here.