Amity Shlaes and David Pietrusza: Calvin Coolidge Persisted, in Deed If Not in Word

Roundup: Talking About History

Amity Shlaes, a Bloomberg View columnist, is the author of the forthcoming “Coolidge”; David Pietrusza is the author of “Silent Cal’s Almanack.” The opinions expressed are their own.

The White House messed up its history. That’s the contention of critics who pointed to references recently appended to the biography pages of past presidents on the White House website.

Scholars of Calvin Coolidge, the president who is our focus, found an error. The Coolidge “Did You Know?” item says that “On Feb. 22, 1924, Calvin Coolidge became the first president to make a public radio address to the American people.”

Alas, Coolidge was not the first, as a retired archivist with the National Archives and Records Administration, Jerry L. Wallace, noted in an e-mail to us. The first chief executive to deliver a radio address was Warren G. Harding, whose dedication of the Lincoln Memorial was carried over the airwaves on May 30, 1922....

The real story here is not the specific Coolidge error or whether you like the new White House comments. It is that accurate history is becoming much harder to deliver than it used to be. The Internet and databases have raised the bar for all writing on history. Your authors, both students of Coolidge, discovered this firsthand in researching an iconic quote long attributed to Silent Cal....

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