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HomeNL-2017-03 Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge Canoeing
1872-1933
by John Rich

 

Calvin Coolidge was born in 1872, and grew up to become a lawyer in Vermont, before entering politics in Massachusetts.  He became governor of Massachusetts, and in 1920 became Vice President for Warren Harding. When Harding died of heart disease in 1923, Coolidge became the 30th President of the United States.  In 1924 he was elected to continue to serve as President.



Calvin was not known for his outdoor abilities, but he did love to fish from boats, and he had several "Summer White House's" to which he would escape for this recreation.  One was in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where he engaged in horseback riding and fly fishing, and another was Cedar Island Lodge near Superior, Wisconsin, where he would fish for trout on the Brule River by canoe. 

In the photo on the left, below, you see the view from Cedar Island Lodge, with two canoes in the dock. Notice the comfortable chair in the front of he canoe, where Coolidge would sit to fish, while a guide paddled from the rear.

And in the image on the right, below, President Coolidge is heading out to fish. His Indian guide is John Larock, who was paid $2 per day for this guide services.  The fluffy white thing behind him is his dog, a collie named "Rob Roy", which you can see more clearly in the video that follows the photos. The canoe is named "Beaver Dick". Hey, he's the President, and he can name his canoe any darned thing he wants!


(Click to enlarge)

But, before assuming that the name of his boat is meant as something intentionally vulgar, perhaps there's another explanation?  And indeed there is.  The canoe is probably named after legendary mountain man Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh, a British expatriate and fur trapper who lived in the Tetons and Yellowstone area with his Shoshone wife and six children in the 1860's. Beaver Dick had earlier worked for the Hudson Bay Fur Company, and fought in the Mexican War. So now the question becomes, how did Richard Leigh get the nickname "Beaver Dick"? Whatever the reason, with an adventurous life like that, it's a name to wear proudly on a canoe in his honor. Undoubtedly, Calvin Coolidge knew the legend too.

And here's a rare thing for the 1920's: a short video of Coolidge fly fishing from his comfy chair in Beaver Dick. Click the image below to see the video: 

Calvin Coolidge canoe fishing

Coolidge clearly reveled in fishing the Brule, and he did so as often as possible. Some voiced concern that he was ignoring his Presidential duties, infrequently venturing to his office in Superior. Paddling a canoe up the Brule river is more interesting to President Coolidge than the Democratic national convention which opened at Houston today,” reported the Duluth Herald after Coolidge mostly ignored the event.  The article continued, “Attention to business routine and recreation are again on the schedule today, with the president more anxious to master the paddling of a canoe against the Brule rapids than in learning what is going on at the … convention.


There is an old joke… 


The President and Mrs. Coolidge were being shown, separately, around an experimental government farm. When Mrs. Coolidge came to the chicken yard she noticed that a rooster was mating very frequently. She asked the attendant how often that happened and was told, "Dozens of times each day." Mrs. Coolidge said, "Tell that to the President when he comes by." Upon being told, the President asked, "Same hen every time?" The reply was, "Oh, no, Mr. President, a different hen every time." President: "Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge."

After Coolidge announced that he would not seek re-election, he spent the last summer of his presidency canoe fishing in Wisconsin.  This prompted the following editorial cartoon: "Choosin' to run isn't as restful as this."



Calvin Coolidge retired in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he was often seen in his runabout boat on the Connecticut River.  He died of a heart attack at age 60. 



The author, John  Rich