Calvin Coolidge
Painting: by Edmund Charles Tarbell, 1925

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1919-1921

Calvin Coolidge rose from a ward volunteer and local official in one of the least populated parts of Massachusetts, to become Senate President, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, Vice President and President of the United States. Yet, he is popularly recalled as the monochrome "Silent Cal," a Yankee loner of few words or actions. How then can this man who history recalls as cold and inactive have risen to political power in a state characterized by ethnic competition and economic conflict?

Coolidge was in fact active. He was industrious worker who invested himself in his party. He ran for office nineteen times winning, seventeen races. He served as a grassroots ward volunteer in Northampton and held various city posts leading to Mayor. He was conscientious in serving on party committees, as well as knocking on doors in the immigrant districts of his city. When running for statewide office, the supposedly Silent Cal was known to make as many as fifteen speeches in a single day. He also reached out to labor leaders and democratic colleagues, which served him well as labor issues came to dominate state politics.

Calvin Coolidge was also more progressive than is often recalled. In the Massachusetts Senate he fought for labor's right to strike and limitations on judicial injunctions on labor actions. He sought to curb the power of monopolies, supported the six-day work week, the minimum wage, pensions for firefighters, and a state income tax. As Governor he advanced the 48-hour work week, teacher salary increases, medical care for the indigent, and limiting rent increases by landlords.

The Massachusetts Constitutional convention of 1917-1918 required the consolidation of hundreds of state boards and commissions in to twenty or fewer state departments. Coolidge eliminated many positions held by favored members of his own party, as well as opponents. Having the reputation for integrity and forthrightness enabled Coolidge to reassemble administrative agencies and their leadership, gaining unanimous approval from the Governor's Council and wide public approval for his decisions.

Ironically, Coolidge came to believe that the Boston Police Strike of 1919 would end his political career. Instead his resolute telegraph message to Samuel Gompers in which he stated, "there is no right to strike against the public safety by any body, any time, any where" thrust him on to the national stage. Coolidge supported the cause of the officers, through not their method. A year later Coolidge would be nominated to be Vice President of the United States. Two years later, after the sudden death of President Warren G. Harding, Coolidge became President in 1923.