Calvin Coolidge's Obituary
page 1 of The New York Times, January 6, 1933]
[With grateful thanks to Ted
Diamond for transcription!]
FORMER PRESIDENT COOLIDGE DIES
Northampton, Mass--Jan. 5-Calvin
Coolidge, 30th President of the United States and the only living
former President, died about noon today of
a sudden heart attack in his dressing room in his modest estate, "The
Beeches." He was 60 years old.
Mrs. Grace Goodhue Coolidge, who had just returned from shopping, found the
body when she went upstairs to call Mr. Coolidge for luncheon.
He was lying on his back, with a calm
expression on his face as if he had died without pain or suffering.
He was in his shirt sleeves.
Coolidge had been complaining for several days of what he regarded as slight
attacks of indigestion, but it was not known that he was suffering from heart
disease. He underwent a periodic
physical examination recently and no organic trouble was found.
SON ARRIVES FROM NEW HAVEN
Coolidge bore up bravely under the shock of the unexpected tragedy.
She was alone when she found the body, but
immediately summoned Harry Ross, the former President's secretary, who was in
the house at the time. Mr. Ross took
charge of the arrangements. He
telephoned to John Coolidge, the ex-President's son, at his office in New
Coolidge motored here this afternoon with his wife, the former Florence
Trumbull, daughter of the former Governor Trumbull of Connecticut.
with the simplicity of Mr. Coolidge's nature and his life, Mrs. Coolidge
decided that her husband would have preferred, if had been able to express his
opinion, funeral services of the utmost simplicity.
Such will be their nature.
having the body taken to Washington
or to Boston, to lie in state in
places where he exercised the power of government as President of the United
States and previously as Governor of the Commonwealth
of Massachusetts, Mrs. Coolidge
ordered that her husband's body remain in his home in this city, where he lived
before and after his Presidential career.
President slept in his own bedroom tonight with a light in the room and no one
present in the house except members of the family and the household
services will be held at 10:30 o'clock
Saturday morning in the Edwards Congregational Church on Main
Street, this city.
It is a historic edifice named after Jonathan Edwards, who lived here.
is that which the Coolidge family attends.
There the former President worshipped last Sunday.
PASTOR WILL PREACH SERMON
Although it is understood here that
many distinguished persons from New York,
Boston and elsewhere will be here
for the funeral, and that President Hoover will attend, the presence of these
dignitaries will not affect the plans for services of
the most unostentatious
character. The funeral sermon will be
preached by the Rev. Albert J. Penner, the pastor,
and there will be an organist and a choir.
The names of the honorary
pallbearers will be announced tomorrow.
Following the funeral services, the
body will be taken by automobile to Mr. Coolidge's birthplace, Plymouth,
Vt., where the former President will be
buried in the old cemetery where lies his father, who administered the
Presidential oath of office to him in the family home at Plymouth
when President Harding died. There also,
the former President will rest with his son, Calvin, who died in the Walter
in Washington, and with his
ancestors for generations back.
Meanwhile, expressions of the grief
of the nation and of the world flowed into this city tonight by telegraph and
telephone as the news of the former President's death spread.
Hundreds of telegrams of condolence reached
the Coolidge home.
President and Mrs. Hoover, Chief
Justice Hughes and Alfred E. Smith were among the first to send messages.
Later, the messages came in such numbers that members of the household were
unable to find time to open them and put off this task until the morrow.
This charming college community was
plunged into the deepest mourning. On
the public buildings, the Smith College
building and some of the private homes and business places flags were at half
staff. Over Mr. Coolidge's picture in
the lobby of the Northampton Hotel, centre of the city's social life, black
crepe was hung.
A meeting at the City Hall, at
which the Mayor was to have read an official report upon the state of the
municipal government, was canceled, an in its place was held an impromptu
memorial meeting, at which the Mayor voiced the city's deep feeling of loss at
the passing of its most distinguished citizen and former Mayor, together with
its sincere affection and admiration for his sturdy New England character
Mr. Coolidge was formerly Mayor of
Northampton, and the present Mayor, Homer C. Bliss, in his address, said that
Mr. Coolidge had the respect of every citizen of this city, as the fourteenth
Mayor of Northampton and the thirtieth President of the United
PEOPLE GATHER IN THE STREETS
people gathered in groups at corners in the centre of the city and discussed
Mr. Coolidge's death in hushed tones. He
had been such a familiar figure in Northampton
for years, and had continued to go about his daily manner right up to this
morning, the very day of his death, that the city received and discussed the
news with an air of unreality, as if it could not be true.
The circumstances of Mr. Coolidge's
death were related tonight by his secretary, Mr. Ross, in the law offices of
Coolidge and Hemenway, in the Masonic block, at 25
Main Street, where the former President spent this
"Mr. Coolidge got up about the
usual time, 7 o'clock," said Mr. Ross
"After he had breakfast his chauffeur,
Joseph Bulkosky, drove him down here to the
office. He arrived as usual about
8:30 o'clock, and I met him here.
"He seemed to be all right during
the morning, and did not complain of anything at all today, although for some
days past he had been complaining of slight attacks of indigestion.
He did not call his physician for these
attacks, but treated himself with household remedies.
"The only thing that I observed
this morning at all unusual was that he seemed a little restless because there
was not much with which to take up his time.
He had been feeling this way for a few weeks.
"He followed his usual routine this
morning. He went over the morning
correspondence, signed his outgoing mail and read the morning newspaper.
10 o'clock he said to me, 'Well, I guess we'll go up to
LAST WORDS WITH HIS WIFE
"We drove out to The Beeches, and
went into his study on the ground floor.
Mrs. Coolidge was getting ready to go downtown for her regular morning
shopping. She came into the study and
chatted with us awhile. As she got up to
go out the door without calling the car, Mr. Coolidge said: 'Don't you want the
"'No,' she replied,
'It's such a nice day, I'd rather walk than ride.'
These were their last words together.
"We both liked to talk about the
place at Plymouth, and that was
what we talked about this morning. The
life there in the home of his ancestors was very close to Mr. Coolidge's heart.
"'I think,' he said this morning,
'that I shall spend as much time up there every year now as I did last year.'
"You know, he went to Plymouth
before or about the first of July last Summer, and did
not come back until Nov. 3. The
reconstruction of the house has been complete, and he was looking forward, as
he said, to spending four or five months there every year hereafter.
"We also reminisced about the
partridge shooting we had had up there.
Mr. Coolidge was a good shot, you know, and he liked partridge shooting.
APPEARED IN BEST OF HEALTH
"There was also some talk about his
hay fever, which he always gets in the Summer, and
which bothered him quite a bit last Summer.
A bad cold in July also knocked him out for a week of ten days, but he
had completely recovered, and I would have said that he was in the best health
"He also spoke of a jig-saw puzzle
which had been sent to him as a New Year's gift from Springfield
and which the family had just worked out.
I don't think he solved it himself, for he never was much interested in
that sort of thing, but he told me about it.
It was a picture of George Washington, and his own name, Calvin
Coolidge, was cut into the background.
He took me to look at it yesterday, and again today.
"During our talk in the study,
which lasted for an hour to an hour and a half, Mr. Coolidge got up perhaps a
dozen times, walked out of the room and came back.
He was always like that--restless and liking
to putter around. He did not seem to
like sitting still for any length of time.
WENT TO CELLAR NEAR NOON
11:30 o'clock he got up and went upstairs.
I did not see or hear from him again.
and 12 o'clock, however, he went down
to the cellar, and the chauffeur and the gardener, Robert S. Smith, saw him
there. He stopped and talked for a
moment with Smith, who was stoking the furnace and who fixes the time at 10
minutes to 12.
"I usually leave the house at
12 o'clock and drive downtown with the chauffeur
for lunch, but Mr. Coolidge had not said he was through with me, so I waited in
the study, while the chauffeur waited downstairs.
"Mrs. Coolidge returned home from
her shopping at about 12:25 o'clock.
She went right upstairs without taking off
her hat or coat. She was going to call
Mr. Coolidge for luncheon. First she
looked in his bedroom, and then, across a little corridor, in his combination
dressing room and bathroom.
"There she saw him lying on the
floor. She immediately ran downstairs
and called me from the study, and I ran upstairs with her.
"Mr. Coolidge was lying on his back
on the floor, with his arms outstretched and with a calm look upon his
face. I sensed at once that he was
dead. There was no sign that he had
suffered any pain. His death must have
come immediately and painlessly, judging by his appearance.
"He was in his shirtsleeves, having
taken off his coat and vest, and we believe that he was preparing to shave
"He often came to the office in the
morning without shaving, and then shaved before luncheon.
CALLS FAMILY PHYSICIAN
"I told Mrs. Coolidge that I had
better call Dr. Brown (Dr. Edward W. Brown, the Coolidge family physician, who
is also the medical examiner here) and ran downstairs to do so.
Dr Brown came in a few minutes, and
pronounced Mr. Coolidge dead about fifteen minutes before his body had been
discovered, as closely as one could judge under the circumstances."
Mr. Ross then telephoned to John
Coolidge and to some close friends of the family, and a little later notified
local newspaper men.
The body remained for a while upon
the floor of the dressing room, but soon was placed in the bed in the former
Dr. Brown made the following
"There is no doubt that Mr.
Coolidge died as the result of a sudden heart attack.
The technical name for his fatal attack as it
will appear upon the death certificate is coronary thrombosis--the bursting of
the large artery entering the heart."
He said that an autopsy had been
discussed, but that Mrs. Coolidge was opposed to it, and that it would not be
WATCHED STOKING THE FURNACE
Smith, the gardener, who was the
last person to talk with the former President, said:
"I was down in the cellar just
before noon stoking up the furnace
when Mr. Coolidge strolled by. There was
nothing unusual in that. Mr. Coolidge
used to walk all around the place, so when I saw him watching me as I threw
some coal on the fire, I just said good morning."
"He said something; I don't
remember what. Something about the fine
weather, I think, and then he walked off."
Dr. Brown also said that he had
examined Mr. Coolidge about a month ago and had found nothing wrong with him
organically at that time.
In the house at
the time of Mr. Coolidge's death, besides Mrs. Coolidge, Mr.
Ross, the chauffeur and the gardener, were
Miss Lillian Nelligan, the maid, and Mrs. Bessie L.
Bryson, the cook
None of them heard Mr. Coolidge
fall or any other sound from the second floor that would have alarmed them
Among the first to call at the
Coolidge house to offer condolences in person this afternoon was Mrs. Arthur R.
B. Hills of Yadenville, near here.
She is a close friend of Mrs. Coolidge.
WHITING AND STEARNS ARRIVE
William Whiting of Holyoke,
an old friend of Mr. Coolidge, who served in his Cabinet as Secretary of
Commerce toward the end of the Coolidge administration, also visited the
house. Frank Stearns, long associated
with Mr. Coolidge as a friend and in politics, arrived here this evening.
Mr. Coolidge was to have gone to New
York next Tuesday for the regular monthly meeting of
the board of directors of the New York Life Insurance Company next Wednesday
Train reservations for the trip had been made by Mr. Ross.
Mr. Ross said that Mr. Coolidge's
only activities recently outside of the Northampton
law office had been in connection with his position as director of the life
insurance company and his chairmanship of the National Transportation
Committee, which also took him to New York
on occasional visits.
TOOK A NAP EVERY AFTERNOON
It was Mr. Coolidge's practice to
visit his law office twice a day, morning and afternoon.
After lunch, Mr. Ross said, the former
President would take a nap every afternoon.
Depending on the length of the nap, he would return to the law office,
sometimes as early as one o'clock,
and sometimes not until 4 P.M. In the
latter case, he would stay only fifteen minutes before returning home.
Mr. Coolidge spent his days
quietly, with his correspondence and his newspaper reading, and had not been
doing any writing of late according to his secretary.
A few days ago he and Mrs. Coolidge
celebrated her birthday quietly at home.
The next day newspaper men asked the secretary if there had been any
special birthday ceremony, and Mr. Coolidge told him there had not.
Mr. Ross said that Mrs. Coolidge
was bearing up bravely tonight and that she had shown fine fortitude under the
JAMES LUCEY HEART BROKEN
the aged Northampton cobbler to whom President Coolidge once wrote a letter
saying that if it had not been fro the shoemaker the President would not then
be in the White House, was heart broken.
The old man stood in his shop, pipe in hand, arm resting on the counter,
and recalled the days when he and Calvin Coolidge used to exchange their views
I'm sorry. He was the best friend I ever
had," said the cobbler of the former President.
"I've known him ever since November of the first year he went to Amherst
My sympathy goes out to Mrs. Coolidge and
their son, John."
Since Mr. Coolidge returned to Northampton,
after President Hoover succeeded him on March
4, 1929, his day-to-day program varied little, except when he had
some newspaper or magazine writing to do.
He was rarely ill and was believed by every one here to be in the best
of health. Few knew of his recent attack
of indigestion, if that was the nature of the attacks.
Upon his return from Washington
he moved beck to the half of a small frame double house which he had rented and
in which he had lived when he practiced law in Northampton
and married Grace Goodhue, the school teacher, twenty seven years ago.
Some time later, however, he bought
the small estate, "The Beeches," with a rambling two story frame house of
fourteen rooms and he and Mrs. Coolidge have lived there since.
REFRAINED FROM POLITICS
He refrained from any active
participation in political affairs, even in his home State.
Only a few days ago an effort to get an
expression of his views toward the selection of a Republican State Chairman in
Massachusetts brought a reply from his secretary that he was not well enough
informed to make any suggestion.
He was very much interested,
however, in the railroad situation, as brought out by the testimony before the
National Transportation Committee, and was hopeful that a constructive solution
of the problem would result from these meetings over which he presided.
After he had been President a few
weeks, and had passed through the trying time of the funeral of his late chief,
and then was dealing with a threatened suspension of work in the anthracite
coal fields, a friend said to him:
"Mr. President, you appear to be
standing the strain well."
"Haven't been under any strain yet,"
The former President was quiet and
determined, and not given to display or parade; a man who did not create
situations, but rather met with them as they arose.
He was wont to make his own decision after
careful analysis and study, but he never failed to avail himself of the views
and advice of his friends and advisers.
READING HIS RECREATION
Mr. Coolidge was a great reader and
devoted much of his spare time to works of law, government and history.
In fact, reading was his chief
recreation. If it could be said that he
had a hobby, it was constitutional law.
He was a profound student of the Constitution.
At a time before he became President, when
changes in the fundamental law seemed to be regarded as the only cure for most
of the existing ills, he declared that it was
not a change that is needed in
our Constitution and law so much as there is need of living in accordance with
The former President never had
shown any aptitude for athletics, even during his earliest school days.
The growing national passion for golf left
him untouched. After he assumed the
Presidency he sought recreation and exercise occasionally at horseback riding,
but generally contended himself with brisk early morning walks as a means of
keeping fit for the arduous tasks of his office, which had broken the health of
more than one President before him.
Upon leaving the White House he
prided himself on the fact that he was in better physical condition than when
he entered it, and better physically than most of his predecessors when they
retired from the office.