Careers

The Love Affair That Began and Ended With a Shave

Calvin and Grace Coolidge Shaving with Hat on Marriage Love

Grace was watering flowers one morning when she saw the most extraordinary thing. The young schoolteacher was just a couple of years into her teaching assignment at the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. She began each day by tending to the flowers by the front door. By chance, she looked across the street to Robert N. Weir’s boardinghouse, and what she saw caused her to burst out in laughter.

The sight that caused her so much amusement was plainly visible through an open window. There, she saw a man shaving. It wasn’t the act of shaving that was so unusual, however. It was the way the man was dressed. As he studiously scraped the whiskers off his face, he was wearing his long underwear — and a derby hat.

As she continued to laugh at the ridiculous scene, the man turned his head and made eye contact with her. There could be no question but that he was the object of her merriment. Rather than be angry or embarrassed, however, he came to an immediate conclusion: “I like her.”

The two could not have been more dissimilar, however. Grace was outgoing and jovial, but he was famously taciturn. His brevity was so remarkable that it earned him a nickname: “Silent Cal.”

Little did Grace realize that the odd man who shaved with his hat on would rise to the highest elected office in the country and that she would not only take his last name, Coolidge, but she would ultimately receive a title: First Lady of the United States.

It did not take long after that first encounter for Calvin to make up his mind to ask Grace to marry him. He would first need to ask for her father’s blessing. On a spring day in 1905, Calvin arrived announced at her father’s home. He found the man sitting in his living room, reading a magazine.

“Hello Calvin, what are you doing in Burlington? Got some business here?” asked the older man.

Grace and Calvin Coolidge

“No,” said Coolidge. “Came up to marry Grace.”

Somewhat surprised by this revelation, Grace’s father asked, “Why, have you spoken to her yet?”

To this, the future president replied, “No. I can wait a few days if it’s any convenience to you.”

Their marriage was a happy one. It lasted from 1905 until Calvin’s death in 1933. Calvin continued to wear a hat while he shaved. He explained that it was the only way to keep his unruly hair out of the way as he tended to his face. Every time Grace saw him do this, she remembered the first time she saw him, and she smiled.

It was also the way she saw him for the last time. Calvin collapsed from a massive heart attack. Grace was the one who found him, lying on the bathroom floor, midway through shaving his face.


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