Presidential Blackberry

November 7th, 2008

John McCain supporters upset by critics who scoffed at the presidential candidate’s lack of technical skills, consider this: Calvin Coolidge had a Blackberry.

Blackberry was one of a multitude of pets kept by Calvin and first lady Grace Coolidge at the White House from 1923 to 1929. The Coolidges acquired the black chow during a trip to the Black Hills, their summer home in the presidential years and the place where Calvin received horseback riding lessons from cowboy “Dakota” Clyde Jones.

In addition to Blackberry, white collies Prudence Prim and Rob Roy were also members of the White House family. Prudence was so well behaved that she was allowed to attend tea parties, where she often wore a straw bonnet trimmed in ribbons and wild flowers.

Over the years, other members of the Coolidge entourage included the terrier Peter Pan; the Airedale Paul Pry; the sheltie Calamity Jane; another chow named Tiny Tim, Ruby Rough, a brown collie; the bulldog Boston Beans; the police dog King Kole; Bessie, a yellow collie, and Palo Alto, a bird dog.

The Coolidges’ non-canine pets included canaries Nip, Tuck and Snowflake; Old Bill the thrush; Enoch the goose; house cats Tiger and Blacky; as well as raccoons Rebecca and Horace; Ebenezer, the donkey, and Kit, a mare given to Coolidge on his 55th birthday, July 4, 1927, in South Dakota.

Rebecca was reportedly sent to the White House as a contribution for Thanksgiving dinner, but was rescued from her fate by Grace Coolidge, who walked the raccoon around the White House on a leash and later acquired Horace as a companion.

Born the son of a farmer and store owner in Plymouth Notch, VT, Calvin Coolidge worked his way up the political ladder as a city councilman, mayor, state assemblyman, and Republican governor of Massachusetts. In 1920, he became vice president under Warren G. Harding and took the presidential reins in 1923, when Harding died in office. In 1924, he was elected president with Charles G. Dawes as vice president.

Famously reticent with words, Coolidge once explained to financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch why he often sat silently through interviews. “Many time times I say only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to people and even that is too much,” he said. “It just winds them up for twenty minutes more.”

Coolidge surprised the nation in l927, when he announced, “I do not choose to run for president in l928.” While some historians suggest he took himself out of the nomination process because he foresaw the stock market crash of 1929, Coolidge had, in fact, lost much of his enthusiasm for life following the death of his 16-year-old son, Calvin Jr., who died in 1927 from blood poisoning caused by a blister that came from playing tennis on the White House lawn.

“When he went, the power and glory of the presidency went with him,” Coolidge wrote. “I don’t know why such a price was exacted for occupying the White House.”

In 1928, the Coolidges retired to Northampton, MA, where Calvin died unexpectedly on January 5, l933.

For more about White House pets, click here.