The Coolidge Family Pets
Why did the Coolidge Family have so many pets?
Calvin Coolidge was the 30th president of the United States. He was the first president to use the radio to communicate with Americans. First Lady Grace Goodhue Coolidge was known for supporting charity(generosity towards people in need). She helped raise money for the American Red Cross. The Coolidges were originally from Vermont. They moved to several different states. Eventually, they moved to Washington D.C. after Calvin Coolidge became president. The Coolidges were also animal lovers. The family brought many family pets with them to the White House. They had dogs, cats, birds, and horses. In the 1920s, many Americans kept pets. They enjoyed seeing the president surrounded by animals. The family collie Rob Roy even sat for Grace Coolidge’s presidential portrait(a painting showing the likeness of a person).
The Coolidge family also had many unusual(odd, weird, or out of the ordinary) pets. One Thanksgiving the family was given a raccoon for their dinner. Instead of eating it, the Coolidges adopted(chosen in place of or in preference to an original) the racoon as a pet. They named her Rebecca. Rebecca became very well-known by many newspapers. She would often meet with guests at the White House. The Coolidges also had a hippo, bears, a wallaby, and even lion cubs. The Coolidges treated all the animals in their menagerie(a collection of live animals that people display or keep as pets) well. But many of them were not animals that should be pets. Some of them were illegal(against the law or breaking the rules) to have in Washington D.C. The Coolidge family rehomed several animals, including Rebecca, at the National Zoo. They still liked to visit their old pets whenever they could.
The Coolidge family enjoyed having many different pets around them. The pets were a sensation(a widespread reaction of interest and excitement) with the newspapers. Lots of reporters wrote about what the pets did when the Coolidges had guests at the White House. People read about Rebecca the racoon’s adventures, and how the family dogs met with visitors. Many Americans also have pets. They found the Coolidges more relatable(to be able to connect to something) because they liked animals. The Coolidge pets became well-known figures throughout Calvin Coolidge’s time in office.
Thinking About History
Historians ask questions to think deeply about history.
Do you have any pets at home? If so, how would you describe your pet?
The Coolidge family kept several wild animals as pets. Some of which were illegal. Do you think they should have been allowed to have lions, bears, and other rare animals in their home? Why or why not?
Many Americans enjoyed seeing the Coolidge family with their pets. Why do you think the Coolidge family pets became 1920s newspaper sensations?
Follow the links below to explore related topics.
Read more about President Calvin Coolidge
Learn more about Rebecca the Raccoon
Learn more about the different animals the Coolidges kept as pets through the Presidential Pet Museum
View Grace Goodhue Coolidge’s Presidential Portrait with Rob Roy the Collie
Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.
Vermont Historical Society. "The Coolidge Family Pets." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed October 1, 2023. https://vermonthistoryexplorer.org/the-coolidge-family-pets