Calvin Coolidge's New England reticence hid a sharp wit, neither of which sat well with the society mavens of Washington, D.C. When a lady seated beside him at dinner announced she had made a bet that she could get the famously taciturn Vice-President to say more than two words during the meal, he replied, "You lose," and completed his meal in silence.
Will Rogers and Calvin Coolidge both, in their own way, poked fun at those who took too much pride in their ancestry.
While Vice-President, Coolidge traveled to Plymouth Rock and commented on the fact that the Pilgrims had escaped an oppressive monarchy. In their new home they formed a society in which people distinguished themselves by their deeds, not by their ancestors, "yet men trace to them their lineage as to a royal house."
Will Rogers, being a quarter Cherokee, liked to point out that his family didn't come over on the Mayflower. They met the boat.
After President Warren G. Harding offered to share his plug of tobacco with the inventor on their first meeting, Thomas Edison declared, "Harding's alright. Any man who chews tobacco is alright."
It wouldn't be the conclusion I would have reached, but then I'm not a genius inventor and it isn't 1920. The guy who gave us all the lightbulb can measure people by any standard he chooses.
Will Rogers said of meeting Warren G. Harding, "I asked him if he wanted to hear the latest political jokes. He said, "I know them. I appointed most of them." Rogers declared he knew right then that he couldn't match humor with the new President.
You think the coverage of Robin Williams' death is immense? Will Rogers died on August 15 in 1935. His 2-seater plane crashed on take-off near the Arctic Circle. He was 55 years old. The New York Times devoted 20 pages to his death and to all his achievements during his life.
Among my favorite of his aphorisms:
Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.
Congress tells a joke and it becomes law. Congress passes laws and they're jokes.
Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.
If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.
If stupidity got us in this mess, why can't it get us out?
Thanksgiving Day! In the days of our founders, they were willing to give thanks for mighty little, for mighty little was all they expected. ... Those old boys in the Fall of the year, if they could gather a few pumpkins, potatoes and some corn for the Winter, they was in a thanking mood. But if we can't gather in a new car, a new radio, a new tuxedo and some Government relief, we feel like the world is agin' us.
"I do not like an income tax, it taxes the land and the crops at the same time, it is too expensive to collect ... no man's income is permanent enough to admit of taxation, it will easily be a source of corruption."
Coolidge, by Amity Shlaes, pg 46.
"Harvesters" in collection of Allen Memorial Art Museum.
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.
Some more melodiously than others, admittedly ...