The Strike That Made A President

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Had it not been for the Boston police strike of September, 1919, Calvin Coolidge probably would have become just another in the succession of Republican governors of Massachusetts, his name no more remembered than that of his predecessor, Samuel McCall, or his successor, Channing Cox. But the curious and chance circumstances of that event suddenly made him known all over America. To the rest of the country Coolidge became a courageous Yankee figure of the minuteman stamp who had defied and defeated the violence that had threatened the seventh city of the United States.

For two days the central core of Boston with its more than 700,000 inhabitants was without police protection, and the mob ruled the streets. Ordinary Bostonians were as shocked by this savagery as they were dismayed to find how thin was the veneer of legal restraint by which they had ordered their lives. Conservatives like Henry Cabot Lodge saw the strike as a first step toward sovietizing the country. The striking policemen, most of whom were Irish and Catholic by descent, would have been astonished at any such notion. They were ordinary Americans with an immediate grievance so engrossing that they gave little thought to the consequences of their protest.

In the larger analysis the strike was part of the general pattern of industrial unrest that accompanied the dislocations of the postwar period; 1919 was a year of strikes—the great steel strike, the Seattle general strike, railways and transit strikes, a coal strike, longshoremen’s strikes, strikes of actors in New York, even a buyers’ strike. Their immediate common cause was inflation and the failure of wages to keep up with the high cost of living. The underlying cause was, however, that anti-climactic restlessness that runs through every society following the artificial unity of a war.

As for the policemen’s grievances, they were real enough. In spite of a slight raise their minimum pay was $1,100 a year—less than half what many a war worker had been earning—and out of this they had to buy their uniforms. Beyond the question of pay was an even larger grievance: a two-platoon system that kept the men on twelve-hour shifts. Station houses were old, crowded, and dirty. To the ordinary Boston patrolman a union seemed the answer. Not only had the Boston firemen formed one without causing any comment or protest, but police in thirty-seven other American cities already had unions.

The Boston police strike was not unique. Many other police strikes before and since have been passed over and forgotten. In Boston, though, there was no one to replace the police when they struck. That the city was left without protection was the fault of Police Commissioner Edwin U. Curtis. Indirectly Mayor Andrew J. Peters and Governor Coolidge also shared the responsibility. Ironically enough, Coolidge, who did the least, received the final credit for doing everything.

Twenty-four years before becoming police commissioner, Curtis had been at the age of thirty-four the youngest mayor the city of Boston had ever had. He came from an established and wealthy family, and he felt that in taking public office again he was doing his duty to the community and to his country. His position as commissioner was anomalous. A generation before, when he was mayor, the old-line Bostonians who had governed the city since the Revolution still controlled the city they considered theirs by inheritance. But even then they were being pushed by the Irish offspring of the famine years. When it became obvious that Irish Democrats would take over Boston politically, the Republican state legislature engineered a law to place the appointment of the Boston police commissioner in the hands of the governor. Thus, while the Jim Curleys might possess City Hall, they would not be able to get their fingers on the police department.

Curtis in his middle age had become an autocratic Puritan with supercilious eyes and a puffy, disdainful face. His attitude toward the police was that of a general toward his troops. They were “his” men, and in the hierarchy of command his orders were to be obeyed cheerfully and without question. At the core of Curtis’ unbending personality was a sense of insecurity occasioned by the social changes on the Boston scene. He despised and feared the newly emerging Irish, with their alien religion and their eye for political plunder. In his heart he was convinced that Boston would never again be a decent city until the ephemeral Honey Fitzes and Jim Curleys and Dan Coakleys had been replaced by Curtises. That was why in the period of Boston’s political decline he had accepted the office of police commissioner from Governor McCall.

During the early summer months of 1919 the policemen began organizing themselves into an unofficial union, the Boston Social Club. Curtis countered with a general order slating that for a police officer union membership was inconsistent with the performance of his sworn duty. In spite of this warning the Boston Social Club applied for a charter from the American Federation of Labor.

Curtis at once announced an addition to his departmental rules and regulations. From then on, stated Section 19, Rule 35: “No members of the force shall join or belong to any organization, club or body outside the department.”

On August 11 the American Federation of Labor granted a charter to the Social Club as Boston Police Union, No. 16,807. Curtis proceeded to charge the eight leaders and officers of the new union with insubordination and ordered them placed on departmental trial. The union countered by warning him that if these men were disciplined the police would strike. The union also maintained that Curtis’s regulation was “invalid, unreasonable and contrary to the express law of Massachusetts.” Curtis found the men guilty but postponed sentence. On August 29 he found eleven more leaders guilty but again suspended sentence—to give the men a chance to withdraw from the Federation, he later claimed. He then announced that he would pass sentence on September 4. This was the impasse at the end of August.

No one was more distressed at the prospect of a police strike than the mayor of Boston, Andrew J. Peters. By nature Peters was a more conciliatory type than the Commissioner. In addition, he belonged to the same political party as the policemen. He was that rarity, a Yankee Democrat. Here and there they were to be found in Massachusetts, of colonial descent, of inherited wealth, Harvard-educated, and yet by some twist of family allegiance standing outside the old Bay State Federalist tradition. President emeritus Charles W. Eliot of Harvard was such a Democrat, as were the Russells of Cambridge; Winslow Warren, the President of the Society of the Cincinnati and a descendant of the Bunker Hill general; and ex-Governor Eugene Noble Foss.

Peters was an interim mayor between the first and second administrations ot the flamboyant James Michael Curley. He had been elected with the help of the Good Government Association—Goo-goos to Jim Curley—while Curley and Congressman James Gallivan were at each other’s political throats.

 

To the more optimistic old Bostonians Peters had seemed a sign of the city’s redemption. The new mayor was in the Social Register, he was wealthy enough to be personally honest, and he was conciliatory, as befitted a Democrat. Unfortunately he was also ineffectual. In Woodrow Wilson’s first administration he had served casually as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. In Boston he was lost. While he sat in the mayor’s office, bagmen did business in the anterooms, and greenbacks were passed routinely in the corridors. Under the rule of John F. “Honey” Fitzgerald, mayor in 1906–7 and 1910–14, contractors had a habit of charging the city for each side of a granite paving block; under Peters they sold the foundations of City Hall.

Peters resembled an aberrant Scot more than a Yankee. He had a high forehead fringed by rufous hair that gave him the spurious look of a thinker, and curiously tufted, almost Mephistophelian eyebrows. He spoke in a high voice with a precise, exaggerated Harvard accent.

Politics was an avocation rather than a vocation with him: he preferred golf and yachting to long hours at his desk. Somehow he was able to shut both his mind and his eyes to the corruption of his administration. He gave the impression of an easy, superficial man, inclined to bore.

With dazed impotence, Mayor Peters watched the August days recede. The threat of the coming strike was too much for him, and like other weak men in a crisis he looked for some means of shifting responsibility. The safest and easiest way was, as always, to appoint a committee. So in the last week of the month the Mayor named a Citizens’ Committee of Thirty-Four to investigate and advise on the situation in the police department. The group was made up of old Bostonians, with a lacing of wealthy Irish and Jewish merchants. It was headed by James J. Storrow of the brokerage firm of Lee, Higginson & Company.

At the outset the committee opposed the police affiliation with the American Federation of Labor. Except for this, they felt a compromise could be worked out if Curtis did not force the issue. From August 29 to September 2 they met daily with the president and leaders of the Police Union. But the chief obstacle to any settlement was the Commissioner, whose adamant stand only stiffened the intransigence of the police.

On Wednesday, September 3, he refused Storrow’s request lor a few days’ delay in passing sentence on the leaders of the Police Union, but when Peters made the request formal, Curtis finally agreed to put off his decision until the following Monday.

Meanwhile Governor Coolidge sat aloof in his Statehouse office two hundred yards from City Hall. At this point, as Claude M. Fuess in his definitive life of Coolidge admits, “A single word from him [Coolidge] would probably have led to a compromise, but that word he would not utter.”

William Allen White in A Puritan in Babylon tells the story of Calvin Coolidge as a student at Black River Academy. Calvin was in bed one evening in the dormitory while several other boys of more prankish disposition pitched an old stove downstairs. He remained in bed. When one of the masters asked him next day if he had heard the noise, he said that he had. When the master asked further why he had not done anything, Calvin replied, “It wa’n’t my stove.” The looming police strike “wa’n’t” his strike: the Commissioner and the Mayor should resolve it as best they could. Since he had not appointed Curtis, he felt no responsibility for him. If a strike should occur it was up to them to safeguard the city. The attempts of the Committee of Thirty--Four to get Coolidge to intervene were in vain. As events moved to their climax over that first weekend in September, the Governor left for the western part of the state. No one in Boston knew where he was. He made sure of that.

Calvin Coolidge was the product of the Republican escalator system that worked for decades in Massachusetts with great smoothness until the Depression years destroyed its mechanism. Up the escalator went the more astute and adaptable local politicians under the benevolent surveillance of Boss Murray Crane and the general staff of the Republican state committee. Typically, Coolidge rose from mayor of Northampton to become, successively, state representative, state senator, president of the Senate, lieutenant governor, and then governor. Though patricians like Henry Cabot Lodge might be scornful of his bucolicisms, his nasal Vermont accent, and his two-family house on Massasoit Street in Northampton, Coolidge meshed into the machine. After two one-year terms as governor he would be eligible for a sinecure: a directorship in some life insurance company or the peace of the First National Bank.

Storrow and the members of the Citizens’ Committee spent a baffling weekend trying to locate the Governor. They themselves wanted no open break with the police. Their compromise plan, approved by Mayor Peters, would have allowed an unaffiliated union. If the men would call off their strike there would be no disciplinary action taken against the leaders, and the various other grievances would be submitted to an impartial board. The counsel for the union urged the membership to accept. If the Governor and the Commissioner had agreed, they would undoubtedly have done so. But Curtis declined to accept any solution “that might be construed as a pardon of the men on trial.” On Monday morning he suspended the nineteen police leaders.

Peters, as fluttery and ineffectual as ever, scurried about trying to find some last-minute solution, although by now he was convinced that the strike was unavoidable. As mayor he had the right in an emergency to call out the units of the State Guard within the Boston area. Characteristically, he was not aware of this.

Coolidge returned suddenly to his office on Monday afternoon in a testy mood; at about the same time the police were voting, 1,134 to 2, to strike on the following day at five o’clock. Monday evening Coolidge had dinner with Storrow, Peters, and several members of the Citizens’ Committee in a private room of the Union Club. Before the dinner Storrow and Peters begged the Governor to sponsor the compromise plan as the last hope of averting the strike. He refused. Finally they asked him to mobilize three or four thousand troops of the State Guard. He maintained that the situation could be left safely in Curtis’ hands. In spite of the overwhelming vote to strike, Curtis still felt that the majority of the police would remain loyal to him.

Meanwhile, after a series of calls from Peters, the adjutant general, Jesse Stevens, decided that a certain amount of preparation might be wise after all and sent out verbal orders for the State Guard’s only mounted squadron to assemble at the Commonwealth Armory. Coolidge learned of this minor mobilization several hours after the Union Club dinner. Knowing by politician’s instinct that to call out the militia prematurely is political suicide, he telephoned Curtis and angrily started for the Armory.

With a pale and silent Curtis just behind him, Coolidge strode through the Armory arch. A hundred or so troopers were standing about on the lower floor and stared in surprise at their irate Governor, who quacked at the commanding officer, Major Dana Gallup, “Who told you people to come here? Go home!” With that he stalked petulantly up the stairs to the orderly room, followed by Gallup and Curtis.

Then occurred one of the most dramatic, if hitherto unrecorded, minor episodes of the strike. Peters, repulsed and desperate, had set out in frantic pursuit of Coolidge. Ten minutes after the Governor arrived, the rumpled and excited Mayor burst through the Armory door demanding to see him. At that very moment Coolidge was coming down the stairs. The two men faced each other, Peters stammering accusations until Coolidge cut him short with a waspish, “You have no business here.”

At that Peters made a rush for him, swinging his arms wildly and somehow landing a punch square on the Governor’s left eye. Coolidge did not attempt to strike back, nor did he make any move to retreat, but merely stood there with his hand to his face. Troopers at once seized the gesticulating Mayor. It was fortunate for the Governor that he was not called on to make many public appearances that week, for those who saw him could not fail to notice his obvious shiner.

Peters, Curtis, and Coolidge were all at their desks on Tuesday morning. At one o’clock in the afternoon the Mayor called the Commissioner, who assured him he had ample means to protect the city. Four hours later—just as the policemen were ready to walk out— the three key figures held a last acid conference. To Peters’ renewed plea to call out the State Guard, Coolidge ironically replied that the mayor had the power to summon local units. But Curtis still insisted he did not need the State Guard.

Of the 1,544 men in the Boston police department, 1,117 went out on strike. There was no authority on hand to replace them. Although a force of citizen volunteers had been enrolling in the preceding weeks, the Commissioner did not use them. Years later, Coolidge wrote in his autobiography that he felt afterward he should have called out the State Guard as soon as the police left their posts. “The Commissioner,” he added as an apologia, “did not feel that this was necessary.” Peters, faced with a sudden decision, could not bring himself to muster local guard units. The strike was left to follow its own pattern unimpeded.

As the police left the station houses, still in uniform but minus their badges, they were cheered by some, and a few furtive adolescents crept up to throw mud against the station doors. At first nothing more happened. Then in the twilight little groups began to start dice games all over Boston Common. From the top of Beacon Hill they looked like mushrooms springing up on the slope by the Frog Pond as they formed circles to shoot craps under the shadow of the Statehouse. It was harmless enough at first, a naïve gesture against authority. But with the darkness crowds began to gather on the other side of Beacon Hill in the vicinity of Scollay Square with its honky-tonks and flophouses. For some time they milled about restlessly, as yet uncertain, waiting only for that unifying act of violence that would turn them into a mob. Then it happened. As with all such events no one could be quite sure afterward how it started—a store window was broken, a truck overturned, a woman screamed, and the mob was off.

The Boston mob that first night was truculent but aimless. Around Scollay Square plate-glass windows were smashed and stores looted. Pedestrians had their hats knocked off, there were scattered hold-ups in open view, and later in the evening several women were dragged into doorways and assaulted. Some of the streetcar lines were blocked with mattresses and railroad ties. In the Celtic matrix of South Boston the unfocussed rowdyism confined itself to such japes as stoning the empty police stations and pulling the trolleys off the wires. But there was a sinister air about the carnival in those milling streets.

Tuesday night Peters vanished as effectively as Coolidge had over the weekend. Then late Wednesday morning he finally called out the State Guard in Boston, and before the end of the afternoon the guardsmen were patrolling the streets. Peters soon after issued a statement to the press remarking plaintively that in this crisis he had “received no co-operation from the Police Commissioner and no help or practical suggestions from the Governor.” Now, with the authority he claimed to have found under an old statute, he removed Curtis and began calling up citizen volunteers.

To those businessmen who received badge and revolver from the downtown police stations the strike was an adventure. For once again, if briefly, the old Bostonians had achieved physical control of their city. As one leafs through the old newspaper files one sees them in faded rotogravure, smiling, self-assured faces, the younger men dressed in trench coats copied from those of wartime British officers. Here and there one finds a sterner note: some Beacon Hill relic of the Civil War days patrolling the financial district with golf cap and night stick. Ex-Harvard athletes-turnedbroker are abundant.

During the day the city remained quiet, but Wednesday evening the mob gathered again, a harder and more menacing mob than the night before. Many of its members were armed, and the ranks were reinforced by professional criminals who had been heading toward Boston all the afternoon. Striking policemen moved through the crowd, encouraging the more violent. Behind the closed doors of the banks and the larger stores, blocked off now by barbed wire, employees stood ready with pistols and rifles. In Scollay Square, at the center of the disorders, steel-helmeted guardsmen advancing across the cobbles with fixed bayonets were showered with bricks, stones, and bottles. Not far from the site of the Boston Massacre, they finally opened fire on their assailants, killing three. Near Cornhill four Harvard undergraduates, acting as volunteer policemen, were almost lynched. On the other side of Beacon Hill several guard companies cleared the unruly Common in a flanking movement, rounding up the surly groups still gathered there. Somehow a sailor was killed in the scuffle. Two other men were killed in South Boston. After that the mob melted away.

The Citizens’ Committee reported that “by Thursday morning order had generally been restored in the city.” The strike was broken. Coolidge had been consulting with Murray Crane and the Republican elders, all of whom felt it was now time to take a stand. So, nettled by the Mayor’s statement and by the removal of the Police Commissioner, Coolidge belatedly acted. By executive order he called out the entire State Guard and assumed full control over the Boston police department, instructing Curtis to resume his post at once.

After the rioting the strike had overshadowed all other news, capturing the headlines and alarming newspaper readers throughout the country. By the time it had made its full impact Coolidge had taken over. At once this Yankee governor with the dour expression became a national figure. His pictures papered the land. Even President Wilson sent him a letter of congratulation. And when the Governor replied to President Samuel Gompers of the A. F. of L., who had asked reinstatement of the strikers, he proclaimed: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” Whatever Peters and the members of the committee might think, Coolidge became, in the words of the Boston Herald , “the pilot who weathered the storm.”

On Friday the striking policemen, dismayed by the reaction against them, voted almost unanimously to return to work on the same basis as before the strike. They had counted on organized labor to back them up, but the two days’ rioting had made public opinion too hostile. Commissioner Curtis would have nothing to do with them. He issued an order that none of the striking policemen would ever be taken back—and none ever were. Instead he raised the minimum wage to $1,400 a year and began recruiting a new force.

Meanwhile the volunteers were sent home, and all Boston police duties were carried on by the State Guard. At the time, the Guard was still largely the temporary organization of overage and underage men who had joined when the regular Massachusetts National Guard—the Yankee Division—had been called to active service in 1917. The guardsmen’s aspect was ludicrously unmilitary. They scarcely knew the manual of arms, and they still wore the laced leggings and felt campaign hats of the Mexican Border Campaign of 1916 that had been replaced in the A.E.F. by spiral puttees and overseas caps.

By the end of the year Commissioner Curtis had recruited his new police force, and the olive-drab uniforms of the State Guard disappeared from the city’s streets. Before the strike the police of Boston still wore dome-shaped gray helmets like those of the English bobbies and high-necked frock coats above which protruded the ends of a wing collar. With their leather outer belts and long wooden night sticks they resembled the old Keystone Cops. The new police had different uniforms. The long coats and wing collars were discarded. Caps replaced the helmets. It was the close of an era, the end of the patrolman walking his beat under the gas lamps past the corner saloon, the beginning of prowl cars and bootleg gin.

For Calvin Coolidge it was a new beginning, too. In the 1918 election he had defeated the Democratic candidate, Richard H. Long, by less than 17,000 votes. Two months after the police strike the Governor overwhelmed Long, who had attacked his handling of it, by more than 125,000, the final tally being 317,794 to 192,673. There were whisperings of Coolidge as a dark-horse presidential candidate in 1920. “Jack the Giant Killer,” William Allen White called him.

To entrenched party elders like Henry Cabot Lodge, who were under no illusions about the actual role Coolidge had played in the police strike, the notion of their escalator governor as the Republican candidate for President was an absurdity. “Nominate a man who lives in a two-family house!” Senator Lodge exploded with Brahmin hauteur. “Never! Massachusetts is not for him!”

There was one man in Boston, however, who long before the strike had envisioned Coolidge in the White House, and to enliven that vision he was willing to devote his time, his energies, and his considerable fortune. Frank W. Stearns, the friendly, fussy little merchant who had inherited the very proper Bostonian department store of R. H. Stearns, first met Coolidge when the latter was merely president of the Massachusetts Senate. Stearns had at once been struck by qualities apparent to few others. Over the years he made himself laughable by announcing to all hearers that Coolidge was a second Abraham Lincoln who would end up as President of the United States. The editor of the Herald finally accused Stearns of trying to create a character out of Coolidge the way Dickens had of Martin Chuzzlewit. Stearns was impervious to witticisms. To him Calvin Coolidge was the greatest man in public life in Massachusetts, perhaps in America.

Some months before the police strike Stearns had completed financial arrangements with Houghton Mifflin to publish a book of twenty or so speeches made by Coolidge as lieutenant governor, to be called Bay State Orations. They were at best pithy platitudes, for if Coolidge had no great originality of mind, his style was at least brief and to the point. A Houghton Mifflin editor cleverly conceived of taking a phrase from a speech to give the book the arresting title of Have Faith in Massachusetts. It appeared, like a reinforcement, shortly after the police strike. Several thousand copies were sold, and Stearns gave away over 65,000 more. With the June Republican National Convention in mind, he saw to it that an autographed copy went to every G.O.P. delegate and alternate in the country.

If the Republican presidential nomination of 1920 had been awarded by popular vote it would have gone to General Leonard Wood, by far the outstanding candidate. But it was obvious before the Chicago convention that Wood, although he controlled the largest single bloc of delegates, would obtain no early majority. His chief opponent was Frank Lowden, another able man, with a distinguished record in Congress and as Governor of Illinois. The politicians-behind-the-scenes were convinced that neither Wood nor Lowden could win, that in the end they would cancel each other out.

Cautious Coolidge stayed away from Chicago and refused to announce his candidacy, even though most of the Massachusetts delegates were pledged to him. Just before the convention, Stearns opened and presided over a modest headquarters at Chicago’s Congress Hotel. He presented each arriving delegate with a small pamphlet of sixty pages containing excerpts from Coolidge’s speeches. Bound in imitation black leather, it was entitled Law and Order.

The convention opened in the barnlike, reverberating Chicago Coliseum on Tuesday, June 8. Four hundred and ninety-three votes were necessary to win the nomination, out of a total of 984. On the first ballot, taken on Friday, June 11, Wood received 287 1/2 votes, Lowden 211 1/2, and Coolidge, in seventh place, 34. By the fourth ballot Wood had reached 314 votes, with Lowden fixed at 289. The expected deadlock had arrived. To the surprise and anger of the delegates, and amid a rising chorus of boos, Chairman Henry Cabot Lodge adjourned the convention. That night, in the legendary “smoke-filled room” at the Blackstone Hotel, the party bosses tapped the shoulder of Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio, and late the following afternoon, on the tenth ballot, he was nominated.

There was, of course, still the minor matter of the vice presidential candidate to consider. During the roll call for the tenth ballot, the senatorial hierarchs huddled in a small alcove concealed under the speakers’ stand and decided on Irvine Lenroot of Wisconsin. Besides being a trusted senator, Lenroot would add a mildly liberal balance to Harding’s machine conservatism. It was arranged that Senator Medill McCormick of Illinois would make the nominating speech, to be seconded by H. L. Remmel, an old-line politician from Arkansas. The word was passed along to the delegates, some of whom were already drifting out of the darkening hall.

Senator McCormick duly mounted the platform and in a perfunctory two-minute speech nominated Lenroot. The florid old pro Remmel seconded the nomination. With contemptuous indifference Senator Lodge turned over the gavel to ex-Governor Frank Willis of Ohio, and he and McCormick left the platform. The vast Coliseum echoed with the loud tramp and shuffle of feet, the clatter of chairs as more and more of the delegates and onlookers in the galleries made their way toward the exits.

Scarcely anyone could catch what the speakers were saying, nor did it seem to matter. Suddenly on the far side of the hall a stocky, red-faced man climbed on a chair and bellowed for recognition. Affably, the substitute chairman recognized Wallace McCamant of Oregon, assuming that his was merely one more seconding voice for Lenroot.

There is a moment when the whip cracks and the animal, instead of jumping, turns on the ringmaster. Chairman Willis did not recognize that moment until it was too late. The voice from the floor was no casual approval of an accomplished fact. McCamant had talked the matter over angrily with his delegation and decided to have none of Lenroot. In the last year he had been sent three complimentary copies of Have Faith in Massachusetts. Coolidge was the man he thought of now, “Law and Order” Coolidge.

McCamant’s voice rumbled on in undistinguishable phrases, then broke clear with: “I name for the exalted office of Vice President, Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts.” The murmuring hall suddenly resounded with a thunder of uncontrived, spontaneous applause. For the first and last time in his life Calvin Coolidge had become a symbol of revolt. The weeklong frustrations of the delegates, their sense of impotence as the whip cracked, their rage at being forced through the hoops, suddenly spilled over at the mention of Coolidge’s name. Quickly the nomination was seconded by the delegations of Michigan, Maryland, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Connecticut—all supposedly under senatorial control. Remmel, the old professional, knew a bandwagon when he saw one. As soon as he could get the attention of the chair, he announced that he was withdrawing his seconding of Lenroot in order to second the nomination of Coolidge. The vote was Coolidge 674 1/2, Lenroot 146 1/2.

On hearing the news Senator McCormick dashed back to the platform, but events had sped past him. As in Boston the previous September, an unforeseen combination of circumstances had dramatically advanced Calvin Coolidge’s career, and before long another accident equally unforeseen would take him even farther. In a few confused moments in the Chicago Coliseum, in the bellowing insistence of an unknown Oregon delegate, a President had been made.