Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum

Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum at Forbes Library, the public library for the city of Northampton, Massachusetts.

The White House Historical Association

The White House Historical Association

On July 7, 1924, tragedy struck the White House. Calvin Coolidge, Jr., the sixteen-year-old son of President Calvin Coolidge, died of blood poisoning after a week of fighting for his life in the hospital.

The tragedy began with a simple blister. Calvin Jr. had been playing tennis on the court on the White House lawn with his older brother John and developed a blister on his toe. Instead of healing easily, the blister became infected, and the infection spread to young Calvin’s bloodstream. He developed a fever and was soon hospitalized.

President Coolidge ensured that his son had access to the best medical care possible. At Walter Reed Hospital, numerous doctors worked around the clock to save the life of the president’s youngest son, but there was little they could do. Today, such an infection could be readily treated with antibiotics. In 1924, with the discovery of penicillin still a few years away, doctors had to rely primarily on “the natural strength of a boy of 16” to save Calvin Jr. He held out longer than expected, but in the end, septicemia took his life.

News coverage of Calvin’s funeral emphasized the simplicity of the arrangements and the stoicism of the heartbroken president and first lady. They buried their son at the family plot in Plymouth Notch Cemetery in Vermont, avoiding the official pomp of a White House ceremony. “Unflinchingly, with heads erect, the President and Mrs. Coolidge stood before the rose-covered coffin at the grave” while prayers were read, according to the Washington Post. In the president’s hometown, factories suspended work and flags flew at half-staff. They were comforted by family and old friends at home before returning to Washington. White House staff and local residents mourned alongside the first family.

In this photograph, taken only a week before his death, Calvin Jr. (far left) poses with his parents, his older brother John, and one of their dogs, Rob Roy.

Credit: Library of Congress

Calvin and Grace Coolidge were marched down Main Street Northampton today by Forbes Library staff and friends in the Nor...

Calvin and Grace Coolidge were marched down Main Street Northampton today by Forbes Library staff and friends in the Northampton Pride Parade. Also carried were Charles Cutter (the 1st Librarian), a library card signed by Calvin Coolidge and Paco the library fish.

Happy Pride, Northampton!

The White House Historical Association

The White House Historical Association

The date May 1st has been used for many holiday observances over the years, from traditional springtime May Day festivals to International Workers’ Day. From 1924 to 1960, it was also Child Health Day.

This holiday, created by the American Child Health Association (ACHA) in 1924, aimed to become, “like the Maypole, a central rallying point for all the diverse activities concerned with the welfare of children.” The ACHA envisioned it as an occasion to celebrate recent successes in advancing children’s health and plan for the year ahead. ACHA publications urged local governments to prioritize safe water supplies, access to medical treatment, and effective health education. Parents were educated about the newly available vaccine for diphtheria, a disease that had previously been responsible for half of deaths between infancy and school age.

Future President Herbert Hoover, who had previously worked with children’s relief organizations in Europe after World War I, was an early leader of the ACHA. He helped promote Child Health Day across the country. “Our democracy will have finally proved itself when it recognizes the rights of the child equally with the rights of the adult citizen,” he wrote in 1928. His efforts paid off. Although the process was begun under President Calvin Coolidge, it was President Hoover who proclaimed Child Health Day a national holiday in 1929.

While the holiday addresses serious health issues, it also combined celebration with education and services. Local governments and organizations hosted outdoor games, swim meets, and other athletic activities to encourage exercise. In Washington, D.C., government agencies convened open houses to distribute literature and resources for parents and children. Doctors and dentists donated their services to give free exams for the day. Local YMCAs, parent-teacher associations, and universities held demonstrations and offered activities.

At the White House, local children often presented the first lady with a basket of flowers in honor of the day, combining existing springtime celebrations with the new emphasis on children’s health. Child Health Day moved to October in 1960, and today it is considered a federal observance holiday.

In this 1927 photograph, First Lady Grace Coolidge accepts a basket of flowers from Nan Norton, Elizabeth Ann Taylor, and Margaret Le Clere Conley on the morning of May 1 to celebrate Child Health Day. She received her young visitors on the steps of the Patterson Mansion in Dupont Circle, where the Coolidges were staying during renovations to the White House.

Credit: Library of Congress

Forbes Library Coolidge Museum Video

Take a virtual tour of the Coolidge Museum!

Welcome to the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum at Forbes Library. Forbes is the public library for the City of Northampton, Massachusetts and...

Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum's cover photo

Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum's cover photo

Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum

Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum


20 West St
Northampton, MA

PVTA to Academy of Music, walk north on Main St and left onto West St

Opening Hours

Monday 09:00 - 17:00
Tuesday 10:00 - 17:00
Wednesday 16:00 - 19:00
Thursday 10:00 - 17:00


(413) 587-1014


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