A Moment in History
(Notary Guide in PDF format)
Col. John C. Coolidge, father of President Calvin Coolidge, was for many years a Vermont Notary Public, as well as a storekeeper, selectman, deputy sheriff, state representative, state senator and a member of the military staff of the Governor of Vermont.
On the night of August 2, 1923, Col. Coolidge first brought word to his son that President Harding had passed away. This news was followed by a telegram from Attorney General Harry Daugherty, urging Coolidge to take the oath of office as President immediately. The son quickly consulted the Constitution and asked his father to administer the oath of office in his capacity as a Notary Public. The Colonel administered the oath at 2:47 a.m., across a marble-topped table, by the light of oil lamps, using his late wife's Bible. Then the new President returned to bed, to await the morning.
On reaching Washington, Calvin Coolidge was administered a second oath by a Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Colombia, on the advice of Attorney General Daugherty. The Attorney General had questioned the validity of the original oath, explaining that a Vermont Notary was empowered to swear in only officers of the State.
The memory and the charm of that ceremony in a small Vermont town lives on so forcefully today, however, that the second oath-taking no longer seems important.
This page was last updated on: 2012-06-13.