Home Massachusetts Calvin Coolidge – Silent Cal or Cheap Cal?

Calvin Coolidge – Silent Cal or Cheap Cal?

by
14 comments

Calvin Coolidge — Vermont native, Massachusetts governor, president of the United States — may have been misnamed. He was known as a stoic man of few words. Silent Cal, they called him. A better name might have been Frugal Cal.

Calvin Coolidge meeting with labor activist Mother Jones

Calvin Coolidge meeting with labor activist Mother Jones

Son of a farm and store-keeping family, Coolidge grew up working hard for every dollar he had. So maybe that’s why he didn’t like to waste money – whether it was his own or the people’s.

Cross described Coolidge as a man “who never let loose a nickel unless he had to.” And on this point, he was indisputably correct. He cut taxes four times as president.

As lieutenant governor in Massachusetts, he stayed at a one-room, dollar-a-day rooming house in Boston, ignoring the Statehouse crowd that urged him to loosen his purse strings.

As president, he had protracted battles with the White House housekeeper over the costs of dinners. Once he famously insisted that six hams for 60 guests were too many. And even pennies were important to the president.

Official White House portrait of Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge, Lousy Tipper

In her book, My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House, White House maid and seamstress Lillian Parks Rogers recalled how Coolidge dispatched a servant to pick up newspapers. He then expected his change on the servant’s return.

“If they thought it was a tip, they would soon find out differently, because the President would go around saying, ‘Somebody owes me seven cents.’ And he meant it.”

No one ever defeated Calvin Coolidge in an election. Perhaps this was part of the reason.

For more quotes from and about Calvin Coolidge, click here. This story was updated in 2022. 

14 comments

John B. Nute
John B. Nute June 8, 2014 - 8:59 pm

Think of how things might be now if we had someone like coolidge at the reins

Jack May 16, 2018 - 10:20 pm

Both parties would LOATHE this man.

John B. Nute
John B. Nute June 8, 2014 - 8:59 pm

Think of how things might be now if we had someone like coolidge at the reins

Carolyn D
Carolyn D'Annolfo June 8, 2014 - 9:08 pm

@ John – bet we wouldn’t hv the debt!

Carolyn D
Carolyn D'Annolfo June 8, 2014 - 9:08 pm

@ John – bet we wouldn’t hv the debt!

Sindy Scott Pierce
Sindy Scott Pierce June 8, 2014 - 11:57 pm

We need another “penny pincher”, in the White House…ASAP!

Sue Saykaly-Rozmus
Sue Saykaly-Rozmus June 9, 2014 - 4:23 am

We could use his thinking now.

Janice Delaney Stearns
Janice Delaney Stearns June 9, 2014 - 11:52 am

in congress!!

Ida May Fuller Gets the First Social Security Check - New England Historical Society January 31, 2015 - 5:34 pm

[…] Ida May Fuller attended the Black River Academy in Rutland, Vt., where she was three years behind Calvin Coolidge. She worked for a while as a schoolteacher and in 1905 became a legal […]

The Mordant Humor of Calvin Coolidge - New England Historical Society August 10, 2015 - 8:45 am

[…] Calvin Coolidge personified Yankee virtues to the nation in a time of frightening change. He was thrifty, puritanical, moralistic and reassuringly old-fashioned. He was also funny, in a peculiar, biting […]

Nigel Tate February 27, 2017 - 12:30 am

Coolidge’s noted cigar habit was even a “victim” of his frugality, with many of his cigars having been “gifted” to him, and not bought by Coolidge himself.

http://www.cigaraficionado.com/webfeatures/show/id/6103/p/2

STUNNER: Look wow much Melania Is spending as first lady compared to Michelle - Politically Off Target July 31, 2017 - 4:55 pm

[…] According to the New England Historical Society: […]

Just In: Melania Trump’s amount of money spent vs. Michelle’s — Patriots United July 31, 2017 - 7:58 pm

[…] According to the New England Historical Society: […]

STUNNER: Look HOW MUCH MELANIA IS SPENDING As FIRST LADY Compared to MOOCHELLE ... WOW August 1, 2017 - 4:25 pm

[…] According to the New England Historical Society: […]

Comments are closed.