Calvin Coolidge’s Letters to His Father

Please read the four letters below from Calvin Coolidge. These letters were written by Calvin Coolidge at various stages in his life and addressed to his father, John Coolidge. This year’s Calvin Prize for Vermont Youth asks you to reflect upon these letters in addressing the contest’s prompt.



1891: April 14, St. Johnsbury

DEAR FATHER, Probably you received my card this morning. I am very much pleased with the school here and think I shall get along all right.

I went to see Putney about as soon as I got here, he told me to come here to board, I looked about some with a fellow who has been here a spell that I used to know at Ludlow but found no more satisfactory place. I pay $4,25 a week and get everything the same as though I was at home, shirts, collars, cuffs are sent to the laundry for me, if I had a roommate it would be $4 00, there is a fellow coming here and if he wants a roommate he will room with me, the fellow I used to know pays $3,50 but he says wood lights and washing make it cost him over $4,00. There is a good bath room here and my room is heated by a hot air furnace, if I had not come here I should have to have gone to the hotel and that would (have) about made up the extra 25 cents a week even if I could l have found a cheaper place and I do not think I could have done much of any better.

Two Clayton boys are here and they board at the same place too they have a little better room and I think pay a little more accordingly.

My cold is much better but not quite well yet.

The fare up here from the Junction was $1,83

I have met a number of the boys they all seem very pleasant, and I think I shall have a pleasant and profitable term.

They have a free delivery system here so when you write me put on 4 Main Street.

Putney has my Latin and Greek and Hardy my Mathematics, Hardy is a classmate of Sherman, and a very pleasant man.



1895: February 3, Amherst

MY DEAR FATHER: It has been rather cold here for some time now but the sleighing is fine. Dr. Johnson of Chicago spoke at the college church this morning. I did not like him so well as some others but think he speaks the truth.

My landlord wants some pay for board; I owe him about $20. And in connection with my fraternity I shall have to pay about $50, soon for initiation, term fee and pin. There will be another term fee due next spring but they are small, just how much I believe it is not said outside the members but something like $5,00; then there will be some extras in the same connection that will probably make up the cost at the end of the year to around $75, as I wrote you before. But as I was going to write I must pay some board right away and the other bill may be paid at any time but should like the pin soon. College men are always proud to wear a society, greek letter pin and are very seldom seen without it.

I should like it very much if my expenses were less but as far as I can judge I do not pay out except where the return is of more value to me than the money but were my circumstances different I of course should act on another basis. I am simply trying to get the most out of my opportunities whether I consider them as a chance to improve by hard study or to improve in some other lines by a judicious use of the money that my circumstances affords me. I have paid out about $5,00 of the money you have sent me before for current expenses so I have some by me though I have lent some which will be returned in a day or so I expect. There! That is my currency bill and I hope you will give it more approval than Congress gives Cleveland’s ideas of currency.

My work is keeping me pretty busy most of the time so I do not have so much time as I should like to write my essays and orations. About all I have done so far is to read up on some of my subjects. At present I am writing a history essay on Daniel Webster. I should like very much to read all his great speeches and other works but cannot do so now. If I could read and digest the principle works of Burke, Hamilton, and Webster, I should get a very strong hold on legal and political ideas, and then if I could add to it some actual experience of my own I should have a wisdom that at least would insure me a living if it did not give me power to direct great measures for the welfare of communities and states.

But I am only trying to get some discipline now. I never earned any money and I do not know as I ever made any happiness but I hope these may come later.

I am almost ready to think of coming home again though there are a number of hours of work for me to do before the term is done.

I hope I may hear from you often.




1899: January 13, Northampton

MY DEAR FATHER: — Since Tuesday I have not been very well. Almost every one is sick around here. It is impossible to get a nurse anywhere. I have been out all the time but I feel rather weak.

My first year is almost done. I think the business I have taken in will amount to just about $1200. Of which I have received some less than $600. My personal expenses are just about $175. And the expenses of running an office amount to a good deal in the course of the year.

I am short of money again and think I shall have to have about $40. before the first of February. A number of bills fall due this month. I am in three bankruptcy cases which will probably pay me $200. when they are settled, but to carry on two of them I shall have to go to Boston and get admitted to the U.S. Circuit Court which will cost me about $20. It takes considerable capital to do what little business I take in. I may get in some money, I never can tell. I will write you again when I know what I must have.

I hope this will find you all as comfortable as you can make yourselves.

Yours affectionately, CALVIN COOLIDGE

P.S.  I do not want any of those stockings.



1899: March 29, Northampton

MY DEAR FATHER: – To you I send a little birthday present. I hope you will not lay it away to keep and I hope you will take it and spend it foolishly as soon as you can.

May there be many and more happy returns of the day

Very affectionately, CALVIN COOLIDGE