- Historic Sites
The Man Of A Thousand Faces
February/March 1978 | Volume 29, Issue 2
The rest of the President’s career is pretty well known in these parts, since nothing has ever happened here to match the event which took place by lamplight at 2:47 A.M. of August 3, 1923, when the Colonel, who is a notary public and was wearing a nightshirt, swore in his son, who was in shirtsleeves, as President of the United States. The change in the President’s personality is laid to gregarious Mrs. Coolidge, to the effects of “sophisticated” life in Northampton and then Boston, and to the influence of his political mentor, Frank Waterman Stearns, the Boston dry-goods merchant who helped Mr. Coolidge win the governorship of the Bay State. It is said that Mr. Stearns plays Bute to his George III, or, in more modern terms, Mark Hanna to his William McKinley.
It is rumored locally that Mr. Stearns, an Amherst graduate like the President, is motivated by a desire to offset Harvard influence in Boston and Washington by getting more Amherst men into public life. He and Mr. Coolidge spend a good deal of time together, apparently in comfortable silence, but the mentor sometimes gives counsel in written notes, one of which we have been shown.
“When you meet people,” wrote Mr. Stearns to his younger friend, “and especially when they are invited to meet you, if you would give them a pleasant smile, even without speaking, it would make the trick complete.…”
The photographs reproduced here, all taken this year, impress Plymouth, Vermont, as evidence that city life and its riotous living have overtaken the thirtieth president. Has he taken Mr. Stearns’ advice too seriously? One lady, who would not give her name but stated that she had been several times all the way to Rutland and had seen the advertisements in front of that city’s motion-picture theater, studied the photographs and referred disdainfully to Mr. Coolidge “making all those faces.” He reminded her, she said, of Lon Chaney, the “Man of a Thousand Faces.” If “Smiling CaI,” as he often now is called in his birthplace, runs again in 1928, he may have trouble holding all twelve of the local electors in the Republican column.